December 4, 2023

Williams Refrigeration: Freezing the food wastage

Key techniques to reduce food waste and save money

Keeping food waste down to a minimum is a key consideration for most foodservice oriented businesses. Not only does it help to reduce costs but reducing waste is a good way of improving the sustainability and environmental credentials of your business.

The pandemic has accelerated many of the issues facing the industry, with staff shortages and the need for increased hygiene spurring operators to look again at how they work. Many are choosing to invest in new equipment to handle these problems, harnessing new technology to streamline their procedures and make their workflow more efficient. The latest refrigeration and freezer systems from companies like Williams Refrigeration play a key role in this process. Quality refrigerators and freezers can help to extend food’s shelf life, make it easier to cater for different dietary restrictions as well as helping to reduce waste to drive down costs.

Williams’ stackable Chef’s Drawer (Source: Williams Refrigeration)

Food waste in landfill accounts for about 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, producing methane as it rots. While the majority of this is plate waste, having to dispose of ingredients or meals before they get used can be a significant issue for businesses. Alongside the environmental impact the financial cost of buying products that have to be thrown away represents a significant expense.

Good refrigeration can help to reduce waste at every step of food production, but sometimes the importance of freezers to commercial kitchens can be overlooked. It’s a common misperception that frozen food is less healthy than fresh food. This is untrue, as research has shown that well frozen food can retain its nutrients for many months.

Williams offers a comprehensive range of products that allows for the creation of a food storage solution in kitchens of any size. Cabinets and counters come in a range of sizes, from one and two door cabinets, and one, two and three door counters including compact and slimline models.

Another flexible choice is Williams’ chef’s drawers. These are compact single draw units that can be sited underneath standard worktops or stacked, helping to maximize available space and create a flexible storage system where it’s needed. They are also available in variable temperature models, working either as freezers or refrigerators. By being able to adapt to changing needs this makes changing the menu simple, as well as reducing the need for further investment in equipment.

While everyday refrigeration is vital for reducing food waste, the implementation of techniques like blast chilling and blast freezing can help to introduce new methods of food preparation. Using cook-chill systems to prepare food in advance helps businesses meet production targets with fewer staff, while ensuring batches of food are kept in peak condition until required.

Blast chilling works by reducing the temperature of a 50mm layer of food from +70°C to between 0°C and +3°C within 90 minutes, and then holding it until it’s required. A well-maintained system can keep food at this temperature for up to 5 days before regeneration with no loss of quality. Blast freezing works in a similar way, except the hot food is reduced from +90°C down to -18°C in 240 minutes and the food can be stored for much longer. Other benefits include being able to store frozen food for longer, reducing the frequency of food deliveries required on a day to day basis.

Standard fridges and freezers are unsuitable for reducing food temperature this way. The heat radiated by food increases the chilling time and raises the temperature of the refrigerator, which can degrade any other food stored in there. The key to blast chilling and freezing is to get the food through the danger zone between 63°C and 5°C, where bacteria grows most aggressively, as quickly as possible. Williams blast chillers carefully control airflow and air temperature to ensure perfect results, and can be programmed to handle a range of foods.  For example, the Williams soft chill function is designed for food like fish, that require a more gentle process to maintain quality. Hard chill is ideal for denser foods like meat, that require colder temperatures.

Williams blast chillers are capable of starting the chilling process with food at 90°C, compared to 70°C for conventional models. This has the advantage of reducing downtime between cooking and chilling, helping to keep the food fresh, saving staff time and reducing contamination risks.

Blast chilling and freezing has often been considered something only larger operations can make use of, but Williams offers compact reach in blast chillers and freezer models capable of processing as little as 10kg, allowing smaller kitchens to reap the benefits from these techniques.

Williams blast chiller range includes compact models, up to roll-in units capable of handling up to 320kg of product at once. This includes the WTBC70, which can accept trolleys designed to work with the latest combi ovens, which can help to reduce food wastage during cooking. When used in combination with a blast chiller, operators can be sure that as much of the original food product as possible can be served.

As well as reducing waste these systems help operators to prepare in advance and cope with fluctuations in demand by allowing them to prepare food at quieter times without compromising on the quality.

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