Managing a school kitchen can be demanding, especially if you don’t know where to start.
This article will go over some of the most important kitchen assets your school needs, ranging from flatware to safety equipment.
It will also provide you with tips on the equipment and its management.
If you’re interested in understanding what you need to invest in to have a successful school kitchen, keep reading!
In this article...
Food processors are vital for any school kitchen.
Most schools with kitchens use food processors to speed up the preparation and save time on manual work.
They are bigger than regular food processors you might have at home for chopping, stirring, or shredding.
Industrial food processors do the same thing on a large scale, allowing the worker to bring down manual preparation activities to a minimum.
Of course, you can choose among many different types—like blixers (blender and mixer in one), bowl mixers, or vegetable prep models—depending on your needs.
When choosing one for your school, ensure that the one you are getting is the right size and that you won’t overwork it to get the necessary quantities.
Pushing equipment to its capacity can reduce its lifespan, which is the opposite of what you want.
If possible, buy processors with safety features to minimize the risk of injury.
No matter what features you choose, food processors are a must in a school kitchen.
Scales will come in handy in your school kitchen.
After all, when you cook for so many people, you need to ensure uniformity in portions, and there’s no better way than using scales.
You don’t want to waste food by making too much. On the other hand, you also don’t want to run out of food or offer students portions with unequal sizes.
Therefore, scales are the best option for schools when it comes to measuring food.
When purchasing scales, you should opt for commercial ones.
However, the best option for a school kitchen is the electronic portion control scale because the results are accurate, fast, and easy to read.
A great benefit of such scales is that you can buy them in the preferred units, so you don’t have to calculate in kilograms if you don’t want to.
Scales are a must-have in your school kitchen since they help you control food portions.
Knives and Cutting Boards
Knives and cutting boards are a necessity in school kitchens.
While food processors can handle many chopping, slicing, and cutting activities, some still have to be done manually.
Because of this, your team needs to have the right tools to do so, including knives and cutting boards.
Knives need to be used for their original purpose if you want them to function well and last as long as they can.
Purchase enough knives for your school kitchen staff so they can use the knives for their intended purpose—for example, a meat cutting knife for cutting meat.
When selecting cutting boards, make sure you choose plastic ones. That way, fewer bacteria will make their way into the material, helping you avoid cross-contamination.
What is more, plastic is a dishwasher-safe material, meaning you won’t have to wash your cutting boards manually after every use.
Ensure that your school kitchen staff has enough knives and plastic cutting boards.
When serving food in the school cafeteria, utility carts are a must-have.
Of course, utility carts are necessary if you need to transfer meals from one place to another. However, with so many of them available for purchase, how do you pick the best one?
The first thing you need to pay attention to is the weight limit of the cart.
If you’re bringing your food out on heavy trays, consider that when selecting utility carts.
Also, you can pay attention to the handles to ensure the safety and comfort of your workers who push the carts around.
When deciding between metal and plastic carts, consider that the plastic ones are cheaper than metal ones but perform just as well.
Metal carts are long-lasting, but they will show signs of wear-and-tear faster in terms of scratches and dents.
Plastic carts can be just as durable and a lot lighter than metal ones.
Whichever material you choose, utility carts help you save time and energy on serving the food to students.
You need to have a serving station in self-service school kitchens.
The cafeteria serving line is the first step of your students’ dining experience, which is why you should invest in it. It is also where your staff serves the food to the students.
The serving stations should have see-through wells, allowing students to see the food and choose their meals.
See-through stations are more appealing to students than metal dividers blocking their view of the food, making their choice more difficult.
Some serving stations have different temperature options for each well, which means you can offer a hot and a cold meal at the same serving station.
This also allows you to use the same equipment for multiple purposes.
If possible, you should have the serving stations custom-made to ensure that they fit right into your cafeteria and make the whole process more enjoyable for the workers and the students.
Food Containers and Dispensers
Food containers and dispensers are indispensable in your school kitchen.
Food containers help you preserve food until you need it next, which is vital if you want to cut costs as much as possible. They often don’t cost much, so they’re a wise investment.
Dispensers, on the other hand, not only preserve food but help you portion it fairly.
For example, you can use them for popular condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise, cereal if you serve breakfast, and even croutons if you’re serving soup.
Either way, they’re used for food that people may or may not want to add to their meals.
To save food and reduce costs, opt for dispensers that let you store food safely while giving students the option to take a serving for themselves.
Your school kitchen will become even more functional with food containers and dispensers.
Ovens are a must-have for any school kitchen.
They help you cook meals for the students without a lot of manual work.
Of course, you will prepare some meals on the stove, but school cooks usually find a way to incorporate oven-prepared foods.
Why? Such meals are simple and don’t require a lot of work. The staff prepare a meal and put it in the oven after setting the timer.
In the meantime, they are free to work with other meal components.
You can choose between regular and convection ovens, but the latter is a better choice for schools.
That’s because convection ovens are faster than traditional ones, which means they save you time, energy, and money.
Such ovens have glass doors, allowing you to check on the food throughout the process if necessary, and you can also clean them easily.
They are long-lasting and eliminate the need to open the oven to turn the product around, risking uneven finish and heating.
If you want to cook quick and tasty meals for your students, invest in a reliable oven.
Dishwashers are an essential part of school kitchen equipment.
They save your workers time and energy and ensure an appropriate level of hygiene.
High-temperature commercial dishwashers effectively sanitize dishes, by washing them at 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and rinsing at 180.
Because they are so powerful and rinse off any and all food remains, they contribute to the overall food safety in your kitchen.
Since dishwashers are so fast, using them means you’re saving energy and therefore money.
Instead of relying on a household dishwasher that can fit a fraction of the dishes that a commercial one can take or washing the dishes manually, your workers can use a more powerful solution.
They simply need to place the dishes into the dishwasher and turn it on.
The only downside to such equipment is a higher initial cost.
Not only is the equipment more expensive than a standard, low-temperature dishwasher, but you also have to invest in a condensate—or type II—hood because of the higher temperatures.
However, they pay off quickly by being able to wash larger amounts and being faster and more sanitary than regular ones.
Commercial dishwashers in your school kitchens help you save time and energy.
In a school kitchen, you have to store provisions in a cool place in order to preserve them.
Otherwise, large amounts of food can go bad, and you’ll have to throw it away, which quickly racks up costs.
When choosing a refrigerator, durability and reliability should be of the utmost concern.
While these are essential traits of all your equipment, they’re vital for refrigerators.
After all, they store so much produce your team relies on to make meals according to schedule.
If the refrigerator breaks down and no one notices it on time, all the food will go to waste.
In that case, not only would you be wasting money on the products, but you’d risk leaving your students with either nothing to eat or you’d have to offer a completely different meal than planned, with many vital ingredients missing.
Even with a reliable machine, you need to ensure that everything is properly stored, labeled, and organized.
Otherwise, a product may go bad inside the fridge, and contaminate other products, causing you to throw away a lot more than you planned.
Reliable and durable refrigerators are vital for storing and preserving foods in your school kitchen.
Paper, Plastic and Foam Disposables
Even though they are single-use items, disposables remain quite useful.
The COVID pandemic has impelled schools to pay close attention to safe distancing practices and hygiene.
Eliminating the risk of the food getting contaminated or the students getting infected with the virus constitutes a part of it.
Because of the new safety regulations, many schools offer lunches in disposable plates or containers.
That way, the students can get their meal and eat it outside the cafeteria, preferably at a six feet distance.
Also, you eliminate the risk of the virus spreading over utensils and dishes if you safely get rid of them after use.
However, since disposables are not environmentally friendly, opt for ones that you can recycle to reduce waste and pollution.
Disposable dishes and utensils are a school kitchen staple in the COVID era.
Flatware is a necessity for every school kitchen and cafeteria.
People have to use utensils to eat most of the foods prepared in schools, so it’s your job to purchase it and ensure it’s durable.
If you don’t have to use disposable flatware due to current rules and regulations, opt for long-lasting assets worth the investment.
It’s in your best interest to make the switch from disposables to long-lasting flatware as soon as possible.
Two schools saved $3,000 in the first year after the switch and could anticipate $23,00 savings over three years of use.
When it comes to materials, stainless steel tends to be the best choice for schools.
The steel cutlery is long-lasting, cost-effective, and doesn’t show signs of wear and tear or require careful maintenance.
When buying utensils, keep in mind the grades of stainless steel, which stands for the chromium and nickel used to make the utensil.
Avoid the 18/0 ones since they don’t contain nickel, making them prone to corrosion. 18/10 is the best choice, according to experts.
Opt for durable, reusable flatware for your school kitchen.
Trays provide a flat, sturdy surface that lets you carry food around. It is not only used by the staff but by the students in the cafeteria.
When purchasing trays for your students, select the canteen type, whose design ensures that they won’t bend easily.
That way, you don’t have to worry about food or drinks spilling or the tray breaking while someone is carrying it.
Some schools opt for compartment food trays which serve as a tray and a plate in one, which helps cut costs.
The school kitchen staff has to ensure that the meals are healthy and that the vegetable, protein, and dairy ratio is standard.
Compartment food trays will help your team with this task since, as the name suggests, compartments for each component already exist.
Trays help your staff and students carry their food around the cafeteria safely.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential part of a school kitchen.
PPE promotes the safety of your workers and anyone who eats the food prepared in your kitchens.
Face covers were obligatory, especially during the pandemic, for anyone who comes in contact with others. This also applies to schools.
In school kitchens, PPE also includes gloves, aprons, hats, and hairnets, among other things.
As an employer, you want to ensure the safety of your employees, so you should promote the use of PPE.
You must purchase and hand out PPE, as well as encourage workers to use it constantly.
When it comes to face masks, this applies to your students as well. If someone doesn’t have a mask, you should provide one to ensure safety.
Of course, even before the pandemic hit, the kitchen staff had to wear protective equipment and follow specific hygiene standards, such as sanitizing their work areas and washing their hands with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Protective equipment helps your workers and students stay safe.
Of course, there is no school kitchen without food supplies.
After all, your goal is to provide nutritious meals for your students.
Since schools have to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), you must ensure that no more than 30% of calories come from fats, and 10% or less are saturated fat.
Food supplies help you prepare a schedule and keep up with it without the fear of running out of stock.
When stocking up on food, don’t rely only on fresh produce or produce that can go bad quickly.
Instead, you should stock up on non-perishables. That way, you’ll only have to purchase perishables daily or weekly.
You need to properly store your supplies, meaning that you have to consider the temperature and the conditions.
For instance, certain products can’t be stored in warm or humid areas.
If you ignore the storing instructions, you’re risking serving spoiled food to students or having to throw away food that you could have used.
Dry food needs to be in containers or sealed packages, stored away from the wall or the ground.
Raw and cooked meat should never be kept near each other because of the risk of cross-contamination.
Stick to best practices when storing food supplies.
How to Manage All This Equipment
Managing your school kitchen equipment doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you’re too busy to keep track of everything, you can invest in asset management software that does the work for you.
It is easy to use and lets you create a database of each asset you own, from appliances to food supplies.
This is essential when you have too much equipment to count, especially if some of it is rather expensive.
If you add a limited budget to the mix, you need to know what you are working with to use the assets you have.
Asset management software will notify you of maintenance dates and serve as an equipment database so you can avoid buying assets you already own.
Such software lets you track the upkeep of your assets, no matter which maintenance strategy you choose. You need to regularly inspect and repair bigger pieces of equipment.
After all, you can’t skimp on the maintenance of your convection oven and have it break down in the middle of the day, leaving your cooks with no way to prepare the food.
Manage your school kitchen equipment effectively to save yourself time and money.
An adequate school kitchen needs to have food processors, ovens, and dishwashers to avoid manual activities. You also need knives and cutting boards for the manual work.
On top of that, industrial scales and refrigerators are necessary to measure and preserve food.
Moreover, you’ll need assets like utility carts, serving stations, disposable and durable utensils and containers, and trays to serve the food.
Of course, you have to stock up on food to create your supplies, have safety equipment, and promote its use.
Most importantly, you have to manage your equipment to get the most out of it!