Looking for a simple way to serve up an amazing experience for your customers?
Mouth-watering recipes and delightful new cooking ideas can be an incredible way to expand the possibilities of your commercial kitchen. However, if you want to stay ahead of the competition, and continue to run at peak condition for as long as possible, it all starts with some simple cleaning and maintenance.
Scrubbing an oven might not be the most exciting part of running your own catering business – but that doesn’t make it any less crucial. Cleaning and maintaining your equipment is the best way to minimise the frequency with which you end up calling in a professional to handle your commercial catering equipment repairs.
Just like any other piece of mechanical equipment, the only way you can get the most beneficial and fault-free service out of your catering equipment is to perform regular maintenance. Everything from buffing away grime, to keeping your ovens clear can be enough to ensure you have the commercial cooking power you need.
So, the question is, “where do you get started?” Keep reading and you’ll find out!
There’s so much to do, from the floors to the fryers and grills, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
The good news is that this handy-dandy cleaning and maintenance guide for your commercial catering equipment will help you to breeze through the experience as quickly and effectively as possible.
As with any cleaning and maintenance strategy, it’s important to remember that safety comes first – particularly in a commercial setting. Make sure that you switch off any grills, fryers, and other electrical equipment BEFORE you start cleaning. The chaos of a commercial kitchen can make it easy for dials and buttons to be knocked accidentally, and a mistake like that can lead to serious injuries during a cleaning procedure! Switch your equipment off at the mains before you end up flambéed!
- Keen to Clean: The Strategic Schedule for Cleaning your Equipment
- Top Tips for Your Crucial Equipment
- Things to Try Before You Call for Repairs
Keen to Clean: The Strategic Schedule for Cleaning your Equipment
As with most things in life, cleaning your commercial catering equipment is often easier if you have a plan of action in mind. While it’s tempting to simply clean things whenever you notice they’re starting to look a little grimy, or that they’re struggling to perform at their best, it’s important to remember that some equipment needs a little more TLC than others.
Here, we’ll look at the catering items you need to cook during each shift, what to clean every day, and which items you can clean once a month or year.
Catering Equipment to Clean During and After your Shift
In the catering world, it’s not enough for food to be delightful and delicious, you also need to ensure that the food you make is safe too. This means avoiding problems like cross contamination. Remember to:
- Switch cutting boards between vegetables, meat, and poultry
- Change cleaning rags and sanitising water after each spill
- Don’t allow trash bags to build up
- Brush grill between cooking poultry, meat, and fish
- Keep the line and prep areas clean
Additionally, there are certain tasks that need to be completed after each shift. Most catering companies provide food for meals throughout the day, and you’ll need to re-clean after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This means:
- Washing the fryers
- Brushing the grill
- Putting cleaning rags in the laundry
- Emptying sanitising buckets
- Putting aprons etc in the laundry
- Sanitising and washing surfaces (including line and prep tables, cutting boards, etc)
- Empty and clean steam table
- Wash knives and slicing equipment
- Wash floor mats and kitchen floor
- Sweep out the walk-in refrigerator
Daily Cleaning List
While smaller tasks can be completed “on the go” during your catering routine, other larger jobs will need to be managed at the end of the day, before a new shift begins in the morning. Usually, daily cleaning jobs should include:
- Running filters through the dishwasher
- Washing utensils
- Changing foil linings for flat-tops, grills, range, etc
- Cleaning grease traps
Weekly Cleaning List
While it might be nice to clean everything in your catering kitchen at the end of each day, it’s fair to say that most organisations simply won’t have the time. The key to success is prioritizing the tasks that lay ahead so that you know exactly what you need to do to keep your space as hygienic as possible. The following duties can be rotated out among staff throughout the week so that everyone plays a part in keeping catering equipment clean and maintained:
- Empty and sanitise reach-in coolers
- Use drain cleaners
- De-lime faucets and sinks
- Oil cast-iron cooking utensils
- Clean coffee machines
- Sharpen and clean knives (sharpening will maintain the quality of your utensils)
- Clean the ovens following the instructions of the manufacturer.
Monthly Cleaning List
Some jobs don’t necessarily need to be done every week, but they should be scheduled so that they’re completed monthly to keep your catering kitchen running in optimum condition. Remember, it’s crucial to turn equipment like ovens off before you clean them, so some of these tasks may need to be completed before the daily cooking schedule can begin, or after the day’s orders have been completed.
- Wash behind fryers, ovens, and stoves to remove grease and prevent the risk of fire
- Update material data sheets which outline how to use chemicals in the restaurant as safely as possible
- Restock first aid kits
- Clean fridges and freezers
- Empty and clean the ice machine
- Change and clean any pest traps
- Calibrate ovens and thermometers
- Wipe down the area for dry storage
- Sharpen the knives, meat, and cheese slicers
- Wash ceilings and walls
Yearly Cleaning List
Finally, there are a few important things that your entire team needs to do at least once a year. Though these tasks don’t necessarily need to be completed as frequently as some of the others we’ve mentioned above, that doesn’t make them any less important when it comes to maintaining your catering equipment and keeping your kitchen as clean and hygienic as possible.
In some cases, you might need to turn to the help of a professional to manage some of the tasks that you need to complete on a yearly basis, as they require expert knowledge. Ideally, you should schedule these jobs during the slowest seasons of the year, so that you won’t lose too much business if a problem occurs.
- Clean the pilot lights on gas equipment in your kitchen
- Clean the hoods on your ovens at least twice a year. You might need a professional team for this.
- Check the fire extinguishers and make sure that they’re in date. You will likely need to do this with the help of a professional, at least twice each year.
- Check the fire system, including alarms.
Remember, cleaning and maintaining your catering equipment isn’t just about keeping your investments in peak condition for as long as possible. As a catering expert, it’s also up to you to make sure that your kitchen is clean, hygienic, and safe for your customers and your employees.
Top Tips for Your Crucial Equipment
In the catering world, experts generally use a wide range of different equipment solutions to help them make the most out of their kitchen. Of course, each piece of machinery and every unique tool comes with its own selection of unique instructions that need to be followed when it comes to getting the most out of cleaning and maintenance.
Ideally, the first place you should look when you’re looking for precise and accurate maintenance procedures for specific pieces of equipment is within the owner’s manual. With a little luck, your manual should have come with the equipment itself, and it can provide unique guidance on what kind of cleaning solutions to use to get the best results, and which parts of your machinery you should check regularly to keep the equipment in excellent shape.
Before you dive down into the specifics of your most crucial equipment, keep these general tips in mind:
1. Cooking Equipment Should be Cleaned Every Day
Ultimately, one of the best ways to make sure that you keep your equipment in perfect condition for as long as possible is to immediately wipe up and remove spills the moment they happen to avoid any burning (particularly around and on your cooker). Of course, cleaning equipment instantly isn’t always possible – especially when you’re in the middle of preparing a meal.
With that in mind, it’s important to clean your cooking equipment at the end of each day before you start a new shift, using a gentle solution to break down any splatters and debris. Over time, failing to clean your cooking tools regularly can lead to problems with bacteria, as well as equipment corrosion.
2. Keep it Gentle
When stains and debris start to get burned onto surfaces, it’s tempting to break out the steel wool and scouring pads to attack tougher marks. However, these substances can often cause serious problems with your commercial range and may break down your equipment even faster than the dirt and grime you’re trying to remove. Stick to a non-abrasive option like a soft sponge.
At the same time, remember that the cleaning solutions you use should be gentle, but effective too. Caustic and abrasive cleaners can lead to serious problems with your equipment by scratching and corroding the metallic surface. Caustic solutions might include options like lye, while alkaline options include ammonia and borate.
3. Keep the Grease Tray Clean
The little pan beneath the cooktop is called the grease, or crumb tray, and it needs to be cleaned out daily. This stops debris from building up over time. After all, eventually, the substances caught by the grease tray can cause the unit to smoke and even set on fire. When you’re sure that your range is cool and safe to touch, you can pull out the tray and simply empty the crumbs or grease into a trash can that’s completely heat proof. Carefully clean the tray over in the sink and wash it carefully using a gentle solution.
4. Remember that Discoloration is Normal
It’s tempting to assume that if you just scrub hard enough, you might be able to get every piece of equipment in your catering kitchen looking shiny and new again. Unfortunately, while it’s important to clean up after yourself in a catering environment, it’s also worth noting that some discoloration is natural and you’re going to have to accept that from time to time. For instance, you’re likely to notice that the backsplash on your cooking equipment begins to darken over time. Though you can lessen this discoloration with some careful scrubbing, you’ll eventually have to deal with the fact that your equipment can’t look perfect forever.
5. Annually Re-season cast iron grates
Finally, remember that the cast iron grates on your commercial range will need to be re-seasoned at least once a year if they’re going to perform at their best. If you notice that the carbon seasoning on your grate starts to flake or rust, then you’ll need to jump into action as quickly as possible. You can scrub the outer layer off to give yourself a nice clean space to start with, then coat the grate with cooking oil and set the burners at a low temperature. Eventually, this will create a non-stick and hard surface that will last for a while (or at least until you need to season again).
Now that you know the basics of cleaning your commercial catering equipment, keep the following tips in mind for some of your more specialised equipment.
Cleaning your Catering Fryers
Fryers are a common part of many catering kitchens, and they can sometimes be a nightmare to clean! Unfortunately, leaving your fryers in less-than-perfect condition for too long can mean that bacteria begins to build up, causing problems with hygiene.
Before you start cleaning your fryers, make sure that you shut the equipment down completely before you can drain and filter the grease. Ideally, you should switch the equipment off at the mains to make sure that there won’t be any fire hazards to worry about if you accidentally knock any dials or buttons during your work. Once the equipment range is safe, you can:
- Skim out any floating particles and sediment
- Make sure that the shortening has time to cool. There are some automatic filtering systems that allow filtering to occur while the oil is still hot
- Clean and rinse your fryer baskets in the closest sink
- Filter and drain the shortening through mechanical paper to keep deposits from building up.
- Brush and scrub the tubes and sides of the frying pot, and remove carbon build-up
- Wash down the sides and front of the fryer with a damp cloth and buff with steel cleaner.
Cleaning your Catering Steamers:
Steamers are another common and important piece of equipment in your catering range and something that you’ll need to clean at least occasionally to reduce the risk of bacteria build-up. Importantly, because steamers make use of moisture, if they’re not cleaned regularly, the result can be problems with bacteria that can lead to health and safety concerns.
Open the door on the steamer and allow the cavity to cool after you’ve switched the equipment off before you begin cleaning. Then:
- Wipe and scrape away any food residue
- Use a cloth, sponge, or plastic brush to clean the inside thoroughly
- Clear drain holes of any obvious debris
- Cleanse the sides and front of the steamer with a damp cloth
- De-lime the steamer according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer booklet.
On average, you’ll need to de-lime your steamer at least twice a year to keep it running at it’s best for as long as possible.
Cleaning Your Catering Oven
Cleaning a commercial oven can seem like a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to involve too much physical effort if you have the right tools handy. Once you notice your oven starting to smoke, this could be an indication that it needs a thorough cleaning. The right cleaning products will help to break down some of the stains within your oven.
Remember, you should always turn your oven off and let it cool before you start cleaning. Remove any oven racks and deal with spillovers using a cloth to ensure that the dirt isn’t allowed to carbonise, but stay away from caustic substances. You can open a window or turn on the extractor fan to make sure that you have plenty of good ventilation when you’re cleaning. Additionally, it can be helpful to cover the floor beneath the oven with paper towels to stop grime and solutions from dripping onto the floor.
Once you’re ready, you can:
- Soak shelves and racks in warm water with washing up liquid so that you can clean them manually.
- Loosen any residue within the oven with a blunt implement
- Apply chemical cleaning formulas and allow them to settle according to the cleaning instructions
- Wipe away any dirty gradually, you might find it easier to use an old toothbrush or brush to apply the cleaning solution into the corners of the oven.
- If you notice dirt on the fan blades, you should carefully remove it using a damp cloth.
- Clean down the front and sides of the oven with a stainless-steel cleaner.
In some cases, you’ll need to leave the oven cleaner you choose to work on the machinery overnight before it can begin to fully break down any dirt and leftover residue.
Cleaning your Floors
Cleaning the floors in your kitchen might not seem as important as cleaning ovens and fryers. However, too much dirt on your floors can present a bad impression to visitors, lead to unpleasant odours, and even prompt health and safety risks. Remember to:
- Clean the gaps between appliances using a mop. You can use a smaller cloth to get the tricky spaces in corners and smaller gaps.
- Concentrate on cleaning the less grimy areas first, before moving into the dirtier spaces. This will help to control the spread of germs.
Cleaning your Catering Sinks
Finally, remember that your catering sink can quickly become the home to countless germs because it’s frequently exposed to waste and kitchen-based dirt. With that in mind, it’s important to clean your sink as often as possible. Try using the following tips for success:
- Scrub the sink with a dual-purpose disinfectant and cleaner
- Scrub away oil and grease deposits using a heavy-duty cleaner and sponge
- Try to avoid build-up in your sink by cleaning the equipment regularly at the end of each day. This will help to stop the build-up of bacteria.
- Clean out the drains in the sink with specialised substances to keep odours and other bacteria to a minimum.
Things to Try Before You Call for Repairs
If you’ve thoroughly cleaned the equipment in your catering kitchen and you still feel as though the machinery isn’t working at its best, then this could be a sign that something simply isn’t working properly. A catering environment can suffer drastically when pieces of equipment malfunction, so it’s important to address any possible breakdowns as quickly as possible.
Although a repairman can sometimes be the fastest way to get your kitchen back on track, there are a few things that you can try yourself before you call for help. For instance.
- Check the Drains and Valves
Since commercial machines are placed under a significant amount of stress each day, it’s important to remember that they can be prone to blockages. Unhook the valve connections in your water-based equipment and look for any debris. If you can find a blockage, you can clear it and try running the machine again.
- Check the Power Source
It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how often repair experts turn up to a commercial kitchen to fix a piece of equipment, only to discover that the appliance was never turned on at the wall. Sometimes, problems with electricity aren’t that obvious. For instance, a surge in power can be enough to throw your machine off. However, if you can unplug the equipment, wait, and then plug it back in again, this might reboot your system and get you back in action. If turning your equipment off and on again doesn’t work, then you can always examine the breaker box. Power surges and overloads can quickly result in blow fuses.
- Look at the Settings
Often, an employee will attempt to help out at work by changing the settings on a piece of equipment. Unfortunately, this can mean that the next time someone tries to use the system, it doesn’t work entirely as expected. Machine settings can be a simple check to perform before you call a repair service to your door. If you open a convection oven and notice that the fan has been switched off, this might just mean that you need to flip the system back on.
- Try “Resetting” the Equipment
Things can get pretty chaotic in a professional catering environment. In some cases, certain pieces of equipment will automatically turn themselves off when the motor overheats, and in those circumstances, you may need to hit a reset button to get things started again. If your machine suddenly shuts off, give it a little while to cool down, then hit the button and start again.
- Clean Everything!
As this whole guide has hopefully gone to show, cleaning your equipment is crucial if you want to make sure that you avoid shelling cash out to service companies associated with your catering business. Make sure that you take the time to clean everything from the hoses on your dryers, to the coils on your refrigerators and more. Even the slightest build-up of grime and dirt can be enough to stop your machines from working.
Keeping your Catering Company Clean
Ultimately, keeping your catering systems clean and well-maintained can be the key to success in any professional environment. While some cleaning procedures won’t need to be completed as often as others, it’s important to make sure that you have a schedule in place to keep on top of all the tasks that could help your system to run at its best.
Remember, whenever you clean your equipment, make sure that you take the time to carefully inspect any electrical parts, moving parts, gas and water connections, and so on for signs of wear and tear. You can even set up a contract with local agents to have them inspect your equipment for you.
Keep in mind that no matter how well you clean, there will be times that your parts may simply need to be replaced. If something seems worn out and past its best, it’s generally better to replace the worn-out part before it causes some serious catering downtime.