The goal of any prep table is to keep ingredients as fresh as possible, which is important for food safety as well as reducing waste and cost in your restaurant.
There are two forms of refrigeration available in the market: cold wall and forced air. Knowing the difference and having the right prep table in your pizza restaurant is one sure way to help you keep your cool.
To understand the benefits of each type of prep table, let’s first discuss the process of refrigeration. Any type of refrigeration works by removing heat, not by applying cold. This is an important detail to know when talking about the mechanics of restaurant equipment like prep tables.
Cold wall prep tables utilize direct conduction to the product to remove heat. The pans sit in a refrigerated rail and, because of this, are able to maintain more consistent cold temperatures, despite being in the hot environment of a pizza kitchen.
A forced air prep table works by blowing cold air over the pans instead of transferring heat through direct conduction like its cold wall counterpart. The result is the same—a cooled product—but the mechanics of the fan setup is such that the temperature isn’t as consistent as it is in a cold wall unit.
Fan cooling also has disadvantages when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. The fan is moving kitchen air containing dust, dirt, and gases over refrigeration coils. Not only are the coils themselves hard to clean, but the harsh environment created by the fan means that the coils corrode and break down over time. The fan itself is also bearing the burden of working in this dirty environment, which means extra maintenance there, too.
Cold wall prep tables are mechanically simpler than forced air models because they have no moving parts, making them more reliable and less likely to need repair. This type of unit is also easier to maintain day-to-day, as they are easy to clean. Many models, like Randell prep tables, also come equipped with a drain, making daily cleanup a cinch.
However, there is a trade-off. The main advantage of a forced air prep table is that they are less expensive to manufacture and are generally priced lower than cold wall units upfront.
Make sure to discuss all your options with a professional before making the final decision for your restaurant.