SAFE AND SIMPLE: Cleaning kitchen equipment
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Cleaning kitchen equipment thoroughly and safely can and should be simple, but isn’t always. Too often, it’s the simple stuff that gets over-looked. That’s why well-trained, certified mgrs. and manufacturers alike are working hard to make cleaning equipment as foolproof as possible.
Turn it off: First, some simple advice is in order. “The No. 1 priority for cleaning most equipment, obviously, is to make sure the (unit) is turned off,” says Chris Linzey, exec. chef for Delaware North’s SportService div. at the five-year-old Fleet Center in Boston, MA, “especially slicers. The same is true with a dishwasher, where there’s hot water in the bottom before you get it drained and stick your arm in. Make sure any electric equipment is turned off.”
Simpler still is reading the manual supplied by the manufacturer. “You need to pay attention to whatever the people who made it tell you to do,” says Linzey. Manuals, however, tend to get lost, “which is why the supervisor needs to know what’s in the manual.”
Another common mistake is hosing down equipment not designed to be hosed down. “You need to check with the manufacturer prior to doing that,” says John Evans, product line mgr. for the food machine div. of Hobart Corp in Troy, OH. “Often there is sophisticated electronics in the equipment that simply should not get wet.”
Hobart includes a video and training manual with all of its food machines that cover cleaning procedures. With turnover as high as it is, says Evans, “we think it’s very, very important that (operators) have an easy means of training their people.”
Too technical: How can a mgr. get far-less-trained employees to understand and concern themselves with the technical points with which he is familiar? Says Linzey: “The trick is that you have to make it simple for them.”
A staff of 60 reports to Linzey, who oversees the Fleet Center’s restaurants and catering. A second unit handles concessions. At one time or another during the year, each of his people will be called upon to clean equipment. Training begins during initial orientation, when memos and other materials are distributed. The rest comes on-the-job.
“They have to understand why they’re cleaning and what they have to accomplish, and it’s not just the removal of dirt. It’s sanitation, too,” he notes. “They can’t just scrape off the dried tomato seeds, for instance, from a stainless steel work bench. They have to understand why they need to do more than that, like using the sanitizing solution. And they need to know how to make the sanitizing solution.”
In fact, mgrs. should avoid transmitting technical information staff members almost invariably don’t even need. “For me to show them how to put soap and water in a bucket, how to scrub a table, and how to wipe it down with a sanitizing solution doesn’t involve them needing to know the hardness of the water, or the basics of chemicals,” Linzey points out.
Another part of the orientation for new SportService employees includes going through the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) book to give them the basic introduction. “That’s an important thing when you’re doing any kind of cleaning,” he insists, “that people understand what kind of chemicals you’re working with.” Among the things every employee should know, for instance, is never to mix ammonia with bleach. Linzey expands that into a general rule of never combining any chemicals.
Linzey is currently working with Creative Food Consultants, a division of The Food Group in New York, to revamp training manuals. “A lot of their stuff is based on (the NRA’s) ServSafe. All of the chefs here are going back for recertification soon.”
Warewash 101: The key to cleaning warewashers is sticking to basics. “The first thing is, after each meal period, to turn the machine off, drain it, pull the scrap screens and buckets out of it and hose it down inside,” says Alan Bowers, Hobart’s product mgr., ware-washing equipment systems. “Clean the wash arms if required; reassemble the machine. That’s Warewash 101.”
Where do operators go wrong? “They don’t break the unit down after the meal period,” he says. It’s not that the process is difficult. It usually takes no more than 10 mins. on any given machine.” The problem is human nature. “The typical operator will not always do what he’s supposed to do. It takes effort.”
Rinsing off dishes and other ware before placing them into the machine can help avoid what Bowers terms a “fouled-up machine. If you fill it up with garbage, you’re going to get garbage coming out the other end. If you do a little bit of pre-wash, you’ll end up with a much better result.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Equipment makers continue to refine equipment design with an eye toward safety.
The single hardest piece of equipment to clean well, says Chris Linzey of SportService, is the slicer. Because of the danger, he explains, employees tend not to get close enough to clean well. Or, they “get in a rush and they put themselves in danger.”
Operators are requesting slicer blade safety devices more and more, such as Hobart’s inter-locking design, which automatically covers slicer blades when the machine is dismantled. Such features have been available for a few years, but are only now “really starting to catch on in popularity,” says Hobart’s John Evans.
Two of Linzey’s slicers at the Fleet Center have safety guards, “which keeps people from hacking their fingers off.” However, the guards also make it harder to clean in and around the blade. The result is a mixed blessing. “I have a safety benefit in that I don’t have people cutting themselves, but I also have a safety hazard in the fact that it’s much harder to clean and sanitize the machine.” His third slicer is “easier to clean, but you also have to be careful.”
Bowl guards: Planetary mixers, which are used to prepare things like salad dressings and pizzadoughs, now routinely come with bowl guards. This safety device also prevents machines from running–the agitators won’t move–while dismantled for cleaning.
Another safety feature to look for is a so-called no-volt release, which prevents electrical equipment from being accidentally turned on while another employee is cleaning it.
Equipment of all kinds is now being manufactured with fewer bolts, since threads so easily trap dirt and grime and defy easy cleaning. Other design shifts follow suit. Says Evans: “You want the corners to be rounded and smooth so there is nowhere for food product to lodge.”
Safety features in warewashers are still under deliberation. Alan Bowers of Hobart identifies at least one idea: Units that would be self-draining or self-cleaning, as well as ways to rinse out the inside of the machine at a specific cycle. “I don’t know if any of that is possible, but that’s the type of thing that you might want to look at.”