School Catering Equipment - FAQs

Our development chef and sales team often visit schools to provide demonstrations and advice on getting the most out of the equipment. Here you'll find a few of the most common questions asked during these events:

What's the best way to cook cabbage?

It is not uncommon to visit a school kitchen and find the combi sitting idle and a pot of cabbage boiling on the range. Often the caterer will start it cooking an hour and a half before lunch is served, providing a pungent aroma that fills the kitchen and often other areas of the school! However, you can cook cabbage in a combi in only 4 minutes using a deep perforated 1/1 gastronorm tray. Perfect results, freshly cooked, no smell and much more efficient. Peas, carrots, sprouts, potatoes or indeed any other vegetables can all be steamed faster and more efficiently in a combi. Another benefit of steaming vegetables in a combi is that it is ideal for batch cooking, meaning that regardless of how long service goes on for, the first and last diner will receive the same standard of food.

Frying doesn't have to be unhealthy if done properly.

The fryer doesn't work properly - the fish keep sticking to the fryplate at the bottom of the fryer.

The cause of the problem in almost every case is not the equipment. There are so many variables when it comes to frying - oil temperature, oil quality, batter thickness and temperature, user technique to name just a few. Please view our chef's dos and don'ts of frying for some helpful advice. In this actual case, the issues were caused by the premix batter being too thick and the fish was being dropped completely into the oil before the proteins in the batter had an opportunity to congeal on entry to the hot oil, causing the fish to sink to the bottom of the pan.

My sponge keeps cracking when baked in a fan-assisted oven.

The caterer in question recently took delivery of a new range with a fan-assisted oven and found that it wasn't cooking spongecake properly. When trying to identify reasons for failure, if something used to work and now doesn't, ask yourself what has changed? In this case, the caterer had recently replaced her general purpose oven with a fan-assisted oven but hadn't altered the temperature or time settings. By lowering the temperature and a little steam injection soon sorted this problem.

What's the best way to cook rice?

Many school cooks still cook rice in a big pot on a range but, if you have a combi in your kitchen, this is a much more convenient method. On the hob, it can often be necessary to take the lid off the pot and stir the rice, but in a combi you simply put the rice into a gastronorm tray, add water/stock (good rule of thumb is 1.75 / 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice), then set the combi to 99ºC and 100% humidity. The time this will take is dependent upon variables such as the quantity of rice being cooked and the temperature of the water/stock. There's no need to stir the rice and it will be perfect at the end of the cooking cycle.