Contrary to popular belief, steam is invisible. It is not the misty, foggy substance that escapes from a steamer cabinet when the door is opened. That is actually a liquid, though it is “floating.” Since it is super-heated gaseous water, steam contains more heat energy than regular hot air and produces a higher quality food product.
Countertop steamers are ideal for kitchens with limited space or those that are just introducing steamed food to their menu. These compact models may not be able to produce as much as their full-size counterparts, but they can do everything else the larger models can, and they don’t require much space at all to install and operate. When deciding which model of countertop steamer is best for your establishment, be sure to consider how it generates steam and whether you would prefer a connectionless model or one with a direct water line. Countertop steamers can generate steam using either gas or electric burners that heat up the water reservoir or boiler. Gas units have a gas inlet point that requires special piping and attachments to connect it to the supply line. Check the diameter of the hookup and make sure it is compatible. For electric models, you will want to consider the actual voltages that are available to see if you have to run a special line or if it can be connected into a regular outlet. Establishments that want to keep their unit mobile or do not want to run a separate water line to the countertop can opt for a connectionless countertop steamer. Also, connectionless models can potentially save money on the water bill, but employees have to continually fill up the water reservoir to keep the steam flowing.
Whichever type you decide upon, be sure to also check the overall dimensions and pan capacity. The exterior dimensions will let you know how much countertop space the machine will actually take up which can be an especially important consideration in especially tight kitchens where the steamer will need to compete for space with other pieces of equipment. The pan capacity will indicate how many full-size hotel pans (2 inches deep) the unit will accommodate, giving you a good idea of how much food you can cook at one time. Typically, three-pan steamers are best for small establishments with fewer than 50 seats, or those that are new to steaming food and don’t have very many menu items that need to be steamed. Steamers that can hold five pans or more give you more production but are still only intended for restaurants with fewer than 100 seats.