When a customer sets out to compare commercial food steamers and their differences, I tend to receive a lot of questions. So, I thought I would use this blog post to summarize all the different steamer features to help guide them through the decision-making process.
First, every commercial foodservice steamer is designed to cook or re-thermalize food. The main differences concern the technology used to produce the steam that prepares the food.
The three basic styles of steamers on the market today include boiler-based steamers, generator-based steamers and boilerless steamers. In a nutshell, all the steamers mentioned above can produce a high-quality food product using the exact same energy source, which is steam.
Steamers are typically used to cook vegetables and starches (pastas, rice and the like) and re-thermalize previously cooked food. With the exception of pressure steamers (that’s another blog altogether), these three kinds of steamers produce similar yields based on steam production. Cooking times also generally fall within the same ballpark (as long as you make sure to compare equivalent kW and BTU units).
There are two main performance attributes – recovery time (the amount of time it takes a steamer to reset and cook a new batch of food) and cost of ownership – that separate these steamers.
Boiler-based steamers: Recover the fastest (due to readily available steam) and are on the high-end for cost of ownership.
Generator-based steamers: Are the second fastest to recover (typically due to the smaller volume of water in the generator) and fall within a median cost of ownership.
Boilerless steamers: Are the slowest to recover and represent the lowest cost of ownership.
When considering steamers for length of recovery time, it is helpful to remember the difference is only a few seconds (a minute at most) in variation.
When comparing boilerless vs. boiler or generator-based units, the differences can amount to thousands of dollars in savings or thousands of dollars in expense. Whenever possible, I always recommend a boilerless steamer due to its lower cost of ownership. It’s the newest and most reliable of the steamer technologies available. However, in some applications, the other technologies serve the user’s needs more appropriately.
I recommend consulting a foodservice equipment professional for advice when you are trying to decide which application is best for your specific situation.
Having the right information in hand is always a good idea before buying or recommending a steamer because it helps you make a more educated decision on a major purchase that can have a lasting effect on a food service operation.
Electrolux Professional Group Corporate Chef