commercial rethermalizer
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Understanding and using commercial food warmers and rethermalizers properly is an important skill to efficiently operating a restaurant. Although they appear to do the same thing, each have unique benefits.

Have you ever seen an experienced chef or restaurant manager make operating a restaurant look easy? If so, you’ve likely seen a passionate, skilled individual who also uses the best-suited equipment for a given task. And it’s very possible they are using a rethermalizer.

Hospitality Rethermalizer
Rethermalizers save you time and money while making hot foods easily accessible to your customers.

What is a Rethermalizer?

Rethermalizers can also be used as food warmers, however standard food warmers cannot be used as rethermalizers. The reason for this is because a rethermalizer is specifically designed to bring food through what’s called the “Danger Zone.”

The Danger Zone represents the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. Bacteria populations found within food above 40° and below 140° can double in just 20 minutes. Rethermalizers ensures your food crosses the danger zone quickly, reaching 165°F to kill off bacteria before holding food to be served above 140°.

Danger Zone Update Standtime
Rethermalizers heat food through the Danger Zone. Image provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Rethermalizer Uses

If you offer soup at your venue, you may want to prepare and cook your soup the day before. (Or days before if you plan on cooking in bulk and freezing it.)

When you’re ready to serve, simply place a portion of your frozen soup in a rethermalizer for about 90 minutes and serve! The soup is hot and ready to serve, and your cooking equipment is free for other things.

rethermalizer used for soup
Soup is easily thawed and served hot using a commercial rethermalizer.

Types of Rethermalizers

Rethermalizers come in a couple different types:

  1. Induction
  2. Water-filled
  3. Food Pan Compatible
  4. Retherm Ovens

Induction Rethermalizers

Rethermalizers using induction technology transfer heat directly to the inset containing your food. One of the many benefits of induction is that you never need to worry about the water levels within your rethermalizer. Induction also allows you to avoid scaling caused by hard water.

Induction Rethermalizer
Induction rethermalizers do not use water and require less maintenance.

Bain Marie or Water-filled Rethermalizers

Bain Marie style rethermalizers use a water well to reheat food quickly and gently. Although this type is sometimes preferred as a more economic option, there are a few disadvantages:

  1. Water-filled rethermalizers need about 15 min to preheat before adding product.
  2. It’s necessary to check your water levels about every 2 hours.
  3. Water bath rethermalizers can be damaged if water drops below operating levels. This also can cause food to burn.

Still, when operated correctly, these rethermalizers work very well and will hold up to commercial use.

water filled rethermalizer
Bain Marie rethermalizers are both economic and reliable.

Food Pan Compatible Rethermalizers

Some rethermalizers closely resemble typical food warmers. They can house various sized food pans, and are great for reheating and then immediately serving foods. you can serve directly from the rethermalizer or move the pans to your food bar.

food pan rethermalizer
Place previously prepared foods directly into this rethermalizer that is compatible with food pans.

These are great for mobile food operators and catering events. Or you can use them to reheat foods for your breakfast or food bar, and then transfer the pans to be served while rethermalizing another batch.

Rethermalizing Ovens

Last, there are rethermalizing ovens. A retherm oven is different than a standard holding cabinet although they look similar. Rethermalizing ovens can take precooked, cold food and heat it through the danger zone temperatures quickly. Many retherm ovens use convection style heat to evenly reheat and hold food at serving temperatures.

retherm oven
Rethermalizing ovens are great for reheating and finishing previously prepared foods.

A retherm oven can second as a convection oven for foods that don’t require more than 350 degrees. They can offer finishing and browning for a wide range of foods.

Warmer or Rethermalizer

Whether you need a warmer or a rethermalizer boils down to this – do you need to keep hot food hot, or do you need to bring chilled or frozen food up to serving temperatures?

If you simply want to keep food hot, then a warmer will work for you. If you want the versatility of being able to gently and quickly reheat and serve food, then a rethermalizer would suit your needs best.

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