Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Cold Room Units - Which Type Is Right For Your Food Business?

Cold room units are an essential piece of equipment especially in the food industry. Whether it is food preparation, storage or you run a restaurant or hotel, cold room units provide a safe, hygienic and efficient solution for keeping your food fresh, safe and easily accessible. They provide stability of temperature and help minimize wastage. In the catering industry there are many different types and sizes of business and each will have a different cold room unit requirement. Some smaller food based businesses, such as cafes, would not require larger cold room units, but for those with volumes sufficient to be clearly beyond the cabinet option they are an excellent choice.

Here we will show you which type of cold room unit is best suited to each type of food business and suggest solutions for their cold room unit requirements. 

Space available:

The first thing you need to consider when purchasing cold room units is how much space you have available.

Modular cold room units are often the most popular choice for commercial needs. These come in flat packs for assembly on the premises and are often available in a vast array of sizes. They comprise of standard sized panels that interlock easily to construct the floor, walls and ceiling of the cold room unit. You can build any size of modular cold room unit you like using these panels, to fit in with your business. Modular cold room units offer the most convenient option for most food businesses, as they are cost effective and quick and easy to install. Most restaurants or food packaging companies would choose this option especially if they had a reasonable amount of space in which to locate the cold room unit.

If space or money is not an issue then you could commission a made to measure cold room unit to be built for you. This bespoke option is more expensive than a modular flat packed cold room unit but does offer a better variety of sizes for businesses where the space available may be an unusual shape or awkward to fit a standard cold room unit into. These would be ideal in older hotels where rooms are not a standard size or shape.

If space is short but you have a mixture of foods to keep at different temperatures, for example some chilled and some frozen, then a Combi cold room unit would be for you. Combi units are split into two sections. The first is the chiller area for keeping stock cold. This then leads into a freezer area. The different rooms have their own refrigeration units and temperature controls but as they are joined they take up less space than two separate cold room units.
For large scale catering operations an industrial cold room unit would be ideal. These are often vast warehouses purpose built for the refrigeration of foodstuffs. They can store large quantities of stock and have easy access for forklift trucks. Their internal features will have been especially designed for the businesses needs often with storage on racks for pallets and wide doors to assist with stock flow in and out of the cold room unit.

Required temperature:

The temperature you need to store food stocks at is vital for health and safety and the freshness of your products. Wasting stock by keeping it at the incorrect temperature is costly and inefficient. Choosing the correct cold room unit to maximise your stock turn around and storage of goods is vital.

Different foods need to be kept at different temperatures. Pre-prepared meals, dairy items and fresh vegetables can all be stored at +6C.  Meat and fish need to be kept at between 2C and 5C and frozen goods of any kind can be stored at -20C.

Catering businesses often need to store their stock at different temperatures. If you have the space and need a lot of storage then separate cold room units for chilled and frozen goods would suit your needs. A combination cold room unit will do the same but take up less room.
Modular cold room units are primarily used just for the storage of chilled food but they can also be used for freezing your food stock too.

Type of food processing:

The type of food processing your business does will also determine which type of cold room unit would be best for you.

If you prepare and cook food on your premises, which needs to be chilled down ready for long term storage in freezers, a blast chiller and freezer cold room unit is exactly what you need.  A blast chiller brings the temperature of the cooked food down quickly to a safe level avoiding any multiplication of bacteria. Once the food has reached a chilled state it can then be frozen for use later. This is perfect for companies that supply pre-prepared meals for hotels, restaurants or supermarkets.

In restaurants and hotels where meals are cooked on the premises ready to serve, a modular or combi cold room unit would be your best choice. Both of these can store a variety of raw ingredients or cooked foods such as meat, fish or dairy. Combi cold room units have the ability to hold pre-frozen food such as ice cream, or freeze previously chilled stock.

If your business is processing or distributing food on a commercial scale then an industrial cold room unit that people can work inside, is what you need.  Businesses that might benefit from this type of cold room units are retailers, wholesalers, hotels, restaurants and suppliers for hospitals, large canteens and cruise ships.

Requirement for trolley access:

Trolleys or cages are often used in the catering and food preparation industry for carrying trays of food before and after cooking. Rather than loading and unloading these trays individually, it is more efficient if they can be left in the trolleys and the trolleys taken in and out of chillers and cold rooms.

Although an insulated floor in a cold room unit gives you better energy efficiency, which in turn leads to lower fuel bills, having a floor creates a step in the doorway that can be troublesome when it comes to moving trolleys in and out. A floorless cold room unit will grant easy access for trolleys to enter and exit.

However a floor in a cold room unit doesn’t mean you cannot use trolleys at all. Installing a ramp at the entrance to allow access for trolleys can surmount the problem.

Ambient temperatures and frequency of access:

Two other important factors when choosing cold room units are the ambient temperature and the amount your staff will need to go in and out of the unit.

The ambient temperature is the temperature outside the cold room. The higher the ambient temperature (e.g. in warmer climates, during the summer or if located close to cooking areas) the more warmth will enter the cold room whenever the door is opened, and the harder the cold room has to work to maintain required temperatures. This affects the energy efficiency of your cold room unit and may eventually compromise the temperature within the cold room.

If ambient temperature is high and the frequency of access by staff is also high, then your cold room unit may need additional insulation by having a thicker wall, or even an insulated floor. This will add to the installation costs, but should be offset by energy savings over the longer term.
Insulated floors are often required in chiller and freezer cold room units to maintain the correct temperatures. For medium  cold room units, insulated floors are not necessary. Remember, an insulated floor does impede trolley access so you have to weigh up the pros and cons for your particular food business.

If you have a business where staff need to enter the cold room unit several times in the course of a working day then a walk in cold room is a good solution. Walk in cold rooms mean personnel can walk directly into the cold room unit and shut the door behind them whilst they unload a delivery or select food stocks for cooking, chilling, freezing or defrosting. Unlike a chiller cabinet, where stock is stacked on top of each other or behind other items, walk in cold room units hold the products on shelving. This makes all your stock easy to see and easy to get to.  This means goods are not forgotten and left at the back of the cold room unit and stock rotation is easier to manage, resulting in less waste.

It is important to select the right type of cold room unit as its volume, temperature range and other features will determine and limit the type of operation that a food business can support. It is important to find a manufacturer who can help you determine your requirements and give you the type of cold room unit your business really needs.

About Porrka

Porkka are experts in creating and making commercial refrigeration products such as cold room units. Our refrigeration units, cold rooms, chillers and freezers are used worldwide in commercial kitchens, restaurants, and hotels and throughout the catering industry.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cold Room Storage - 5 Signs That Your Business Needs More Than Just a Fridge

Deciding if you need cold room storage is something any business involved in the preparing or processing of food needs to think about. Large business organisations such as hotels and restaurants need chilling facilities for foodstuffs and cold room storage is often the answer when a cabinet fridge or freezer can no longer satisfy their needs.

The beauty of cold room storage is that it provides walk in facilities that can house large quantities of food and perishables making them easy to view. Cold room storage will also keep food at steady temperatures for either chilling or freezing.

There are a variety of cold room storage options available each with their own unique features and benefits. Modular cold rooms are made so they can often fit into tight spaces and are quick and easy to assemble. This makes them a good solution for medium sized businesses when a commercial fridge or freezer can no longer deal with the volume of produce they store. Combi- cold rooms have both a chiller and freezer compartment, which is perfect when you need to hold a very large quantity of products at different temperatures.

Industrial cold rooms are custom made to suit the individual requirements of the business but are often vast, some even the size of a warehouse and used in major commercial situations.

If your business is involved in food preparation then you will almost certainly have a variety of commercial refrigerators and freezers - and for some types of small business this may be perfectly adequate. But when does a cabinet fridge or freezer stop being a suitable solution and a cold room become necessary? Here we look at 5 signs that it could be time to move over to cold room storage.

Large overall volume
Cold room storage has the advantage over fridge or freezer cabinets due to its sheer size. Cold rooms of all types can hold a bigger volume of produce making it useful for kitchens in large hotels and restaurants, schools, hospitals and industrial food processing. Cold rooms have a storage capacity far bigger than a standard commercial refrigerator and can cope with huge quantities of foodstuffs without compromising the temperature in the room and ultimately the temperature of the products inside. This regularity of temperature maintains the overall condition and lifespan of the produce kept in cold room storage.

However you do need to consider both the chill volume and freezer volume of the foods you wish to store and any movement between the two. Frozen food will need to be thawed out safely and food that has been cooked will need to be chilled and then perhaps frozen at the correct temperatures.  

A Combi cold room gives you both chiller and freezer compartments, the ratio of space allocated to each part can be altered to suit your needs. If required the chiller unit can be substituted for medium temperature units. They come with shelving to assist storage and stock control. Chiller sections can be supplied with either flooring or without to enable trolleys to be loaded inside.

Large items

If you increasingly find yourself running out of space due to the storage of large items in your commercial refrigerator then this is a sign you need to switch to cold room storage. Some pieces of meat, such as large joints or whole sides of an animal would not fit in a traditional fridge or freezer cabinet. Other goods are sometimes delivered boxed and have to be unpacked into cabinets, which can compromise the temperature of the unit. Boxed items like fish, fruit or vegetables can be unloaded in a cold room or kept in the box and just placed on a shelf directly. Cold room storage is also ideal to put large cooking containers onto shelves to chill down their contents quickly and efficiently.

For really large items, industrial cold rooms can store entire pallets of food products. This cold room storage is sometimes used for plants, flowers, and crops and companies that process meat and fish where a large area is needed not only for storage but for food preparation too.

Ease of access

One of the main advantages of cold room storage, whatever its size, is the ease of access for staff. Having a walk in facility makes it so much easier to see what is in the cold room. In fridge or freezer cabinets items of stock can be hidden behind each other but with the shelving in a cold room products can be placed individually. This aids good stock control and rotation for your company  and means staff can easily access what they need without having to open and close multiple cabinets, which affects temperature regulation.

If space is tight it’s also good to choose cold room storage where the doors can be hung to open and close either to the left hand or the right hand as this will also make access easier.

Taking deliveries is easier with cold room storage too as boxed items can just be put straight on to shelves and stored in their packaging rather than unloaded into cabinets.

Need for temperature stability

Whether chilling or freezing for commercial purposes the need for a constant temperature is paramount. With cabinet refrigerators and freezers warm air flows into the unit every time the door is opened, threatening temperature stability. This can be critical for some foods such as ice cream as it will affect the quality of the produce but it can also compromise food safety when dealing with foods such as fish or meat. If the temperature varies and is not kept under control then this could lead to you losing expensive produce and affect your stock levels. If cold storage is being used for medical supplies then the consistency of the temperature is vital to maintain the chemical structure of the medicines or samples.

With cold room storage it is possible to close the door while you go inside, to review stock, unload deliveries, discuss menus and check off orders without compromising the temperature of the cold room. Of course with staff members inside a cold room safety is very important to avoid being trapped inside. You need to choose a model with strong hinges on the doors and handles that will lock to keep stock secure but has an easy emergency release mechanism to allow personnel to leave.

As produce is kept against the actual walls of a cold room, rather than stacked on top or behind each other, any warmth they give off whilst chilling is extracted over the door of the room. This means the temperature is affected to the absolute minimum.

Need for trolley access

Some large cold room storage can accommodate trolleys and these are ideal for big commercial food processing companies where food is cooked in trays, stored on a trolley but then can be taken straight into a cold room without having to be unloaded.

For trolleys to be wheeled in and out, the cold room you choose needs to be floorless so there is no difference in level between the cold room and the floor of your premises.

An insulating floor is required for freezer and medium temperature rooms so if you do wish to use trolleys then the problem can be surmounted in two ways. The original floor level can be raised for the portion of the floor where the freezer room will be located or a ramp can be placed at the entrance to allow trolleys to be moved in and out.

About Porkka

Porkka specialises in cold room storage including cold rooms, cabinet refrigerators and freezer units for industrial and commercial use.

We can use our knowledge to advise you on the correct cold room for your business and advise you on all the points mentioned above such as temperature control, volume, capacity and access. Porkka have a range of over 300 modular cold rooms, in a variety of storage volumes and sizes.