In some parts of the country, soaring summer temperatures can give even the hardest-working air conditioners a run for their money. And when it comes to outdoor events, keeping cool is an even bigger challenge. Here, operators share their trusted tactics for keeping staff comfortable this summer—in and out of the kitchen.
1. Balance your hood system
Having hood systems that are properly balanced for the equipment below is crucial for keeping a kitchen cool, says Rene Rodriguez, director of food service at University of Texas at Austin. “If you’re changing out equipment and not taking into consideration the hood, if it’s not drawing up enough [air], it’s going to generate heat in your kitchen,” he says. One common mistake Rodriguez has seen is switching an electric flat top with a charbroiler—which have two different CFM requirements—and keeping the same hood. “Your kitchen will never get cold.”
2. Pick cooking styles wisely
With the wide-ranging weather in the Pacific Northwest, outdoor tailgate events at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., from August through December can range from 100 degrees down to 0, says David McKay, director of dining services. Though grilling burgers or brats is the quintessential warm-weather tailgate choice, it’s nearly impossible to avoid overheating with the equipment in use.
“Cooking over a hamburger grill with hot gas or charcoal, somebody’s going to get pretty hot, whether you’re doing a couple hundred or 1,000 [items],” McKay says. Instead, operators should look to smoked meats at a carving station. “You’re giving [your diners] the outdoor experience, yet you don’t have your staff working over the hot charcoal,” he says.
3. Cut down compressor heat
Equipment that keeps the food in your kitchen cold can actually be responsible for making the whole space hotter, Rodriguez says. During his department’s last renovation, the team decided to convert to a central refrigeration rack system, eliminating the need for individual compressors on freezers and fridges. Cumulatively, those compressors do give off heat and raise the overall temperature of the space. “We [noticed] a huge difference in the temperature that we’re able to maintain in our kitchen because we weren’t getting heat from those areas,” he says.