Category Archives: DIY & How-To’s

Help My Food Truck (or Trailer) Equipment Isn’t Working! – A Guide to Propane Tanks, BTU’s and Your Food Truck

Is your food truck equipment not operating properly?  Do you have low gas pressure, yellow flames, a large amount of black soot deposits, and no blue flame?   Your propane tank setup is probably to blame.

We recently had a customer who had a food truck built by someone else and they installed two 30 lb horizontal propane tanks in a lower storage compartment.  These small tanks may work great for an RV, but a food truck and commercial cooking equipment is a different beast.

After working on our customers truck, we wanted to share some very important information about your propane system and specifically your propane tank size.

The size of your propane tank(s) DOES MATTER!  It is VERY important.  It is important for the following reason:  The larger the tank the higher the VAPORIZATION rate of the liquid propane.

The liquid propane uses the temperature difference between it’s boiling point (-44 degree F) and the outside temperature to create vaporization.  When the tank is initially filled with liquid propane (80%-85% maximum) some of the liquid vaporizes into propane gas until an equilibrium is reached.  The gas is withdrawn from the tank, the pressure is lowered below that of equilibrium, lowering the boiling point of the liquid.  This causes more vaporization of the liquid into gas.

 

 

Here are some things to find out when making sure you are setup properly.

#1   What is the MAXIMUM BTU’s my cooking equipment uses per hour?

Food Truck Cook Line

Every piece of commercial gas cooking equipment is rated at so many BTU’s per hour.  When you have all your burners turned up high, and are running full bore, what is the maximum demand of your equipment?

For example, a common food truck may include:
40lb Fryer – 102,000 BTU’s
24″ Broiler or griddle – 80,000 BTU’s
4 Burner Hotplate – 100,000 BTU’s
2 Well Steam Table – 7,000 BTU’s

In this example your total MAXIMUM BTU load is: 289,000 BTU’s per hour.  You will need add other items that run on propane, like a propane generator.

#2   What size propane tank do I need to operate my equipment?

We understand you may never operate all of your equipment at MAX BTU’s all at the same time, but the MAX BTU will help size your propane tanks.  There are a few factors that will determine the size of your tanks:

  1. Where will the tanks be installed on the trailer or truck?  This may determine the maximum size tank you can install.
  2. How often do you want to have the tanks filled?  If can install larger tanks or even multiple tanks this will extend the time between fill ups.
  3. What is the vaporization rate of the tank?  Vaporization rate is the rate at which the propane liquid is boiled off to propane gas.  The small the tank and the colder the temperature the lower the vaporization rate.  Vaporization rate is the MOST IMPORTANT of these factors.

 

So in our example food truck we have 289,000 MAX BTU’s per hour.

Other things are factors too, such as ambient air temperature, and how full the tank is.  The higher the temperature, the higher the pressure in the tank is, which translates to higher BTU output.  Same goes for how full the tank is.  Below is a good chart showing you BTU/hour based on size and outside temperatures.

100 lb vaprate

As you can see, with a smaller propane tank, the max draw of BTU per hour goes down considerably.    If you run two tanks in series, your BTU numbers will double to your equipment.  For two 100lb propane tanks at 40 Degrees, you’ll achieve 428,000 BTU/hr.   Next, lets look at total BTU capacity, which will show you how long you can run on your tanks before needing a fill up.

propane tank sizes

btu capacity

If you are running all your equipment for 8 hours a day at 289,000 BTU/hr, each day you’ll consume 2,312,000 in one day.  That is a worst case scenario, most trucks don’t have everything running all the time, so lets say you are running at 50% max all day, your lunch rush, and dinner (if you are open for dinner).   That is 1,156,000 in a day.

Two 100lb Tanks:  4,321,018  BTU Max / 1,156,000= 3.73 days before running out.

So on two 100lb tanks, you should be filling up every 3 days based on 50% of max BTU/hr consumption in order to maintain proper pressure and BTU’s needed to use your equipment correctly.

#3  What an Incorrect Setup will Do to Your Cook Line

If you are running say, one 40lb propane tank, on your best day (fill up day) you are getting 131,000 BTU/hr when it’s 60 degrees outside.  If it’s winter/spring in the morning you are only getting 105,000 BTU/hr.

Equipment Needs: 289,000 BTU/Hour
Equipment Receives: 105,000 BTU/Hour
Propane Deficiency: -184,000 BTU/Hour

Your equipment may light, and may function, but you’ll experience a problem we like to call yellow flame.  Yellow flame is caused by an improper air/fuel mixture resulting in yellow flame that is not as hot as the proper blue flame, and causes excessive soot and blackening of your pots and pans, and exhaust hood system.

Other side-affects of poor gas flow is increased cook times, due to your equipment trying to cook with one hand tied behind it’s back.  Less BTU’s = less heat, so your equipment is operating in-efficiently.

Cooking Equipment Flame

Here is a excerpt from another blogger who addresses the issue of yellow flame.  This is written assuming that your gas pressure isn’t the issue, and that it’s just your air/fuel mixture that needs adjusting:

Problem #3: Commercial Gas Broiler has a Yellow Flame or Weak Blue Flame

Commercial gas broilers should always have a strong and straight blue flame. If you notice that your broiler’s flame is flickering or has changed to a yellow color, then you need to adjust the air shutters to increase or decrease the amount of oxygen flowing to the flame.

A yellow flame on your broiler is a sign that the flame is not as hot as it needs to be. The lower-temperature flame is a problem with cooking temperatures, but it is also a problem because it causes soot to form from unburned gas. This soot will build up on your broiler’s internal parts and cause a multitude of problems.

(http://bigheadedbbq.com/2015/03/30/food-truck-owners-guide-to-common-commercial-gas-broiler-problems-and-their-solutions/)

Bottom line, it’s very important that you have proper gas flow, to make sure your equipment runs correctly.    Whether you are buying a used truck, having one built, or already own one and aren’t getting the performance from your food truck equipment that you would like, this will fix your issue caused by a lack of BTU’s to your cooking equipment.

Thinking of having a food truck built in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State?  We are a general contractor and would love to meet with you and give you a price on a food truck or trailer! 

Western Equipment Sales
1620 E 7th Ave
Kennewick, WA 99337
http://www.westernequipmentsales.com

Open Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm PST.
866-585-6978

 

 

 

Beware of the Off-Brand Fryer: A Cheap Fryer Buyer’s Guide

Alright people, listen up.  We have been getting a lot of requests for help converting some “off-brand” fryers out there, and I wanted to warn those of you who are thinking about buying one and converting them.   These “throw away” fryers are saturating the market due to their incredibly low prices, and big box food equipment site offerings, which give it a lot of visibility.

Is there anything wrong with an inexpensive piece of food service equipment?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  But if it comes at the expense of no parts support, and little to no product support, then YES.  Here is a list of what we feel are acceptable good buy fryers at a great price, that have solid manufacturer support behind them when you need help.

Good Quality Fryers with Manufacturer Parts Support

1. logo-main

American Range makes a great entry level Fryer in their AF-35/40 or (AF-40).  It’s a two tube burner fryer with a 40lb. capacity.  You can buy this unit for around $799-$950 most places, depends on shipping costs (on our website too.  American Range AF-40 Deep Fryer)  They have great parts support, and you can buy this brand with confidence.

2. 

Pitco / Friolator is by far the leader in commercial frying equipment, and rightly so.  Their parts support, diagrams, and expert technical advice make it very easy to convert from NAT to LP, and the other way around.  You can find a decent 3 burner Pitco used for around $500.

3. 

Vulcan is another big name in the industry that has a great part support behind it.  Definitely a safe buy, whether it’s new or used.

4. 

Frymaster is a fryer giant in the industry,  they have superior part support as well for any issues that may arise.  And yes, they have conversion kits for their fryers, among other parts.

Words to the Wise

A good rule of thumb is if it’s not a well known brand, there probably won’t be good part support, which usually equals no ability to convert the fryer.

If you need help with your fryer, or would like to buy a good quality fryer at a great price, give us a call at Western Equipment Sales.  We would love to come along side and partner with you and your food service establishment.

Western Equipment Sales Contact Info

 

How to Convert Your Fryer from Natural Gas to Propane

We recently made this video as an educational how-to on converting your deep fryer for propane.  Why convert your equipment?  Great question!   With the food industry leaning towards mobilizing like food trucks and concession trailers, making your equipment compatible with propane gives you the flexibility to run it virtually anywhere.   Enjoy the video and if you have questions contact us!

College Kitchen Survival Check List

College BoundWe know the start of a new school year is knocking at the door, and with millions of students heading to college for the first time, and many returning to a less than equipped kitchen, we thought we would write a short article outlining the necessities every college student needs to have a powerhouse kitchen on a budget.

Why buy from a Restaurant Supply Store?

Simply put, when you go out to eat that gourmet meal, do you think the cook used a $300 brass frying pan from William Sonoma, or a commercial quality NSF approved pan that cost $30?  When it comes to stocking your kitchen with the right supplies, you don’t need as much as you think, and you don’t have to spend as much as you expect.

The List

Now that we have made our case for buying from a supply store, here is your check list of basic elements you should have in your college kitchen.  If you’re in a dorm, we have a few extra things to make sure you can cook like a pro in that co-inhabited 5×5 room.

College-Survival-BundleWe’ve made it easy to buy most of these items together on our site.  You can add the single burner and blender as options.  Buy the College Kitchen Survival Bundle for only $125 on Western Equipment Sales, which includes:

1.  One Medium Mixing Bowl  – Cost $3.20

You only need one mixing bowl, and lets face it,
the chance of it being dropped is probable, which is why we
recommend your basic stainless bowl.  Easy to clean, light weight,
And durable. Oh and did we mention cheap?

2.  10″ Nonstick Frying Pan – Cost $28.90

With limited sink/cleaning space, a non-stick pan is a must.  10″ is big
enough for you to cook for up to 2 people, and it’s big enough for those protein packed omelets you’ll want to eat before test day.

3.  8″ Chef’s Knife – Cost $12.70

You only really need two knives in college, a paring and chef’s knife.  This bad boy will stay sharp for you just like it does for the pros.  And it’s NSF approved so you know it’s going to be a sanitary knife in your college kitchen.

4.  Digital Thermometer – Cost $9.40

The worst thing to have in college is food poisoning, or a reputation for horrible cooking.  This cheap little tool will save you from experiencing either of those two in your college years.  Cooking meat to the right temp is crucial for producing perfect steak or chicken.

5.  9″ Utility Tongs – Cost $1.20

These tongs may be cheap, but they will get you places.  With tongs you can toss a salad, flip that steak or chicken, and turn those pieces of bacon.

6.  Plastic Serving/Stirring Spoon – Cost $1.00

You need this basic tool for the majority of your cooking, including stirring that Mac n’ Cheese.

7.  Plastic Slotted Serving/Stirring Spoon – Cost $1.00

This is great to have if you are cooking vegetables, or need a spoon for straining food out of a broth or soup.  Trust us you’ll use it.

8.  Nylon Spatula – Cost $1.00

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Need I say more?

9.  Paring Knife – Cost $4.80

This comes in handy for skinning or peeling fruit, quartering an apple, or slicing banana’s over your lucky charms.

10.  4″ Pizza Cutter – Cost $5.60

You and I both know that you’ll eat your share of pizza in college.  While most of it might be take out, you’ll cook up a pizza or two in your 4 years.  And if you are in a house or apartment, you definitely need this tool.

11.  Single Burner Range – Cost $90

Without this piece of equipment, you can’t cook in your dorm.  If you aren’t in a dorm, this might not be necessary.  But if you want to impress your first college boy or girlfriend and cook them dinner, this is a must have.

12.  Bar Blender – Cost $68.80

I know what you’re thinking.  Why would I want a blender at college?  Let me list off a few uses:  Margaritas, smoothies (for those quick breakfasts), salsas, and did we mention margaritas?  You’ll want this inexpensive piece of equipment in your dorm or college apartment.  Your roommates will thank you.

13.  Cutting Board – Cost $8.90

How are you going to show off your chef knife skills without a cutting board?  Oh and using a plastic NSF certified board will make sure there is no bacteria hiding away in your cutting board.

14.  Medium Sauce Pan – Cost $15.00

This is what you’ll use to make your pasta, mac n’ cheese, and delicious dorm room fondue.  One medium sauce pan is all you need in your dorm room area.  With commercial cookware, you can always expand your arsenal later; and it all matches!  If you are worried about burning your hands, pick up a $7 Cool Handle.  And you’ll need a $4.80 sauce pan lid.

15.  Measuring Cups and Spoons – Cost $7.00

We rolled these two items together even though you can buy them separately.  You’ll need these to measure out everything from herbs and spices, to ingredients in your Mac n’ Cheese.  (I keep mentioning Mac n’ cheese because I ate that for lunch.)

16.  Can Opener – Cost $8.80

Without this small tool, you couldn’t eat half of college’s wonderful food, like spagettio’s, ravioli, and green beans!  Oh yeah and soups.

17.  Vegetable Peeler – Cost $1.40

You’ll love using this to shave your legs when you run out of razors before a date.  Just kidding please don’t do that.  Use this for all your carrots, apples, and other great foods you hate the skin on.

18.  Mini Bottle Opener – Cost $1.20

I put this in because lets face it, you’re going to need a cold one when you’re studying or watching the football games with your friends.

19.  Colander – Cost $6.40

You’ll need this to finish off your pastas, rinse salads and clean vegetables.

Other Equipment You’ll Need but can Buy Cheap Anywhere

A Microwave – We figured you can get one for $60 at Wal-Mart, or $30 off of Craigslist.
Mini Fridge – Again, you can find these for really cheap at Wal-Mart, or Costco.

We hope that this list of items all packaged together for one price and shipped straight to your address will save you time and money on your hunt for the equipment needed to make your college experience the best one possible!

Your friends,
Western Equipment Sales Team

You can find all of these products individually on our site by clicking on the images or links.  But we recommend buying them all together for increased savings.

Exhaust Fan Grease Containment, Do You Really Need It? Answer: Yes

Example of a exhaust fan grease catcher that isn't maintained.
Example of a exhaust fan grease catcher that isn’t maintained.

Simply put most restaurant owners forget about the roof top equipment until it causes a problem. Sometimes those problems are simple like a broken or loose exhaust fan drive belt.  However sometimes those problems can cost a bunch of money like a HVAC system compressor or a new roof.

That’s right I said a new roof.   Or at least some serious cleaning and repairs due to the  grease that has overflowed the grease drip pan on your exhaust fan.   The standard drip pan is not that big and it does not have any media to absorb grease. The result is often an overflowing pan that is leaking onto the roof, I see it ALL the time.

Example of a good  hydrophobic grease catcher.
Example of a good hydrophobic grease catcher.

The answer is to invest in a roof top grease containment system. There are several choices but the good choices include a system with hydrophobic grease absorbing media.   Hydrophobic means that the media does not absorb water, so when it rains the media does not get waterlogged. However the media is designed to absorb grease and hold onto it even when it rains.   The result is that the grease from the exhaust fan is contained and allowed to run onto the roof causing damage.

There is a second part to the answer that can not be overlooked. A routine trip to the roof to inspect and replace the hydrophobic media.  Even though the media can hold more grease than the standard grease pan it still has a limit to its capability.  If you don’t maintain the system it will fail.

So spend a few bucks now and a few minutes every few months and save your roof and your wallet.  If you don’t want to take the time to climb your roof every couple of months and do the inspection yourself, or if you don’t know what you’re looking for, give Western Equipment Sales in Kennewick, WA a call.  They will give you a quick estimate, and send someone out to look at it for you, and if needed, provide some great suggestions on ways to take preventative steps against roof damage and proper grease containment.

WES-ContractingIf you are in the Columbia Basin Area of Washington State and are interested in a grease catching system or inspection estimate, Call 1-866-585-6978 and press 3 for general contracting.  Monday – Friday 7am – 4pm PST.

Here are some examples of other grease catchers that are either home made, or custom fitted that don’t necessarily work properly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Learn about the Foodservice Industry with Vollrath University

Being fairly new to the restaurant and food service industry myself, I have quickly found that the best way to learn is to self-educate.  There are not very many resources out there aside of good old fashioned catalog reading and product self-educating.  Where does one start on their food service education journey? 

catalogsvollrath catalogWhile browsing through my wall of catalogs, I stumbled upon the Vollrath catalog.  Vollrath has built a brand reputable for having the highest quality goods and equipment in the industry.  But they don’t just offer great products, they have shown they care about the knowledge level of industry professionals by creating VollrathUniversity, a online educational website geared to teach both professionals and newbies like myself the ways of the industry.  Do they get to plug their equipment?  Of course.  But is that such a bad thing when their products are widely used across the world in commercial kitchens?

Vollrath University

What Vollrath has done is taken something like education and used it as a very effective marketing vessel.  I didn’t major in marketing, but I’m sure there is a term for this type of marketing, and it definitely is effective.  So effective that I’m writing about it to share with you all.

We have decided to unofficially endorse this education method for those who are curious about the food service industry and would like to learn more about it.  We will be posting their educational content periodically on our site (Citing our sources of course) to help you find the content.  Like what you found there?  Let us know if this blog was helpful for your search in restaurant industry education.

In the huge sea of restaurant equipment, parts, and small wares, you can learn and educate yourself into a competent member of the food service industry.

Restaurant Parts, Equipment, and Smallwares.
Restaurant Parts, Equipment, and Smallwares.

For over 12,000 restaurant equipment parts, visit us online at http://www.westernequipmentsales.com.

How to Convert A Deep Fryer to Propane

American Range FryerConverting a deep fryer to propane, is a question we see a lot during this time of year, when everyone is thinking about mobilizing their restaurant equipment for fair season.  So we thought we would offer up some friendly advice.

Propane has more energy per cubic foot than Natural Gas, in fact it has about 2.44 times more energy per Cu. Ft.  Using a fryer that is set-up for Natural Gas with Propane gas is very dangerous and should not be attempted.  To better understand the significant difference between Propane and Natural Ga, please visit Propane 101.

Disclaimer: We highly recommend you consult a professional technician when attempting to convert any equipment over from natural gas to propane, or the other way around.  Contact your local restaurant licensed, qualified restaurant equipment technician.

There are three items that need to be changed when converting a fryer:

1) burner orifices.
2) gas valve regulator.
3) pilot orifice.

A few manufacturers like Frymaster and Pitco provide a “kit” with all of the required items.  Most manufactures require you to purchase all of the items separately.

For example:

If you have a popular Pitco Model 14 and you are converting from Natural Gas to LP then you would use kit B751008. (Note: If you have any letters after your 14 model, it may require different kit.  Please call us at 866-585-6978 to make sure you order the correct kit.)

If you have a common American Range model AF-45 and you are converting from Natural Gas to LP you would need to buy separate items: Valve Conversion (RSW), Burner Orifices (3 or 4), depending on your BTU’s) and a Pilot Orifice.

Changing the parts is not all that difficult.  Ensuring the proper gas pressure requires some special equipment and knowledge that most people do not have, so we do recommend consulting a restaurant equipment professional.

If you are planning on doing this type of conversion, feel free to give the sales guys over at Western Equipment Sales a call at 866-585-6978, and they can help you get the right parts for the job.