It’s all in the mix

14/11/2013 - 10:16
Preparation is everything, so it is said, but how do you ensure you have the right tools for all the different prep tasks that underpin your menu? Kathy Bowry investigates.

From mixing dough to slicing potatoes, a mixer with the right attachments makes short work of many otherwise manually intensive operations in the kitchen.

Kris Brearley, sales director at distributor and kitchen solutions provider RH Hall, says: “Good-quality equipment is an investment and careful selection can maximise workspace areas as well as optimise kitchen efficiency. There is a wide range of mixers and blenders available, and the choice made will depend upon the style of food an operation offers, and the type and format of raw ingredients bought in.”

According to Brearley, RH Hall stocks a large range of mixers and blenders (stick, jug and planetary) from leading brands such as Robot Coupe, Sammic, Metcalfe, Kitchen Aid, Electrolux, Blue Seal and Hamilton Beach.

Paul Easterbrook, director of sales at RobotCoupe, is aware of the danger inherent in multipurpose mixers that use blades on frontally attached veg prep attachments. “Most reputable manufacturers have discontinued this practice because of the risk of injury,” he says. “Make sure to look for units that will not let operators get their hands anywhere near a blade. it may be that an operator does not need a combi machine at all, but would be better off investing in a straight veg prep machine.”

He goes on to warn that buying over the internet is not a good idea as you will not get the advice and service back-up that is essential. “Robot Coupe is available through reputable distributors, but don’t forget they can look after 10-20,000 disparate product lines from refrigeration ranges to light equipment, so it is essential to get a specialist manufacturer’s input in the choice.”

Neil Richards, managing director of British manufacturer Metcalfe, warns operators to on no account consider purchasing a domestic or semi-commercial machine. “These simply won’t be up to the job. After that it really depends on what the kitchen is producing. Items of a more liquid consistency are best suited to an immersion (also know as a stick) blender that allows best control over where the mixer goes, and how fast or with what frequency it mixes. For occasional light to medium-duty mixing, a countertop mixer will work just fine.”

Richards also believes that operators should be wary of some foreign imports: “There are plenty of planetary mixers on the market and some very cheap imports from the Far East that contain substandard components, such as nylon gears and inferior motors. Many of these mixers and blenders will have CE stickers on them, but are not supported by the correct documentation and will not have all the required safety features or interlocks on them required to be compliant with the CE standard. When it comes to mixers, it is true that you really do get what you pay for.”

Mark Hogan, marketing and sales manager at Foodservice Equipment Marketing, says: “Planetary mixers are essential in a large catering operations because they can process bread, roll dough – including thick pizza dough – mash potatoes, mix cake batter, and whisk meringue and cream, as well as mincing and grinding.”

FEM supplies Vollrath’s new 10L countertop planetary mixer, the MIX1010. This compact machine is the smallest in the Vollrath range, yet has a powerful five-speed transmission and 1/3 HP motor. FEM also supplies the heavy-duty Vortex 750 stick blender with a built-in cooling system, which helps prevent the motor from overheating. The Vortex 750 is powered by a 750W high-efficiency motor that drives the blades at 14,000rpm. Its 450mm shaft, which can be removed for thorough cleaning, makes it suitable for deep pans.

Heather Beattie, Nisbets’ brand manager for Waring, Buffalo and KitchenAid, explains: “For particularly high-volume catering, a floor-standing model can be preferable. The heavy-duty Buffalo Planetary Mixer (CD606) has three speed settings, a 20L capacity and is supplied with a whisk, dough hooks, beater attachments and a bowl – making it handy for a wide range of menus.”

For mixers, she says, the KitchenAid heavy-duty mixer is both quiet and powerful. It comes with a huge capacity 6.9L stainless steel bowl, with a special J-handle that assists with the lifting of heavy loads. In addition, it has a stainless steel whisk, nylon-coated flat beater and dough hook, making it the ideal piece of equipment to assist busy caterers with a wide range of menu choices.

“In terms of functionality, it’s also incredibly important to think about the volumes of product you will be dealing with, as many mixers are built to serve different quantities,” says Mitchell & Cooper managing director Guy Cooper. “Kisag blenders from Bonzer are available in 20, 150 and 200L capacities so the difference between a small and large size can be quite vast. Opting for a smaller-capacity blender to mix large volumes will eventually burn out the motor in a shorter period of time.

“Kisag blenders all have a high performance motor suitable for continuous operation, with two selectable speeds of 14,000 and 17,000rpm, which is incredibly powerful,” he concludes.

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