Solid State Controls

One of the most significant problems facing today's food service industry is the changing labor market. The food service labor force is dwindling and becoming increasingly expensive, while the industry continues to experience turnover rates as high as 400% per year. In order to effectively counter these trends, the food service operator must find ways to increase individual productivity, reduce the need for highly skilled labor, and simplify training. At the same time, high product quality must be maintained. One opportunity to achieve these goals results from a new generation of cooking equipment using solid-state control of temperatures and cooking times.

How They Work

Solid-state controls allow the operator to program the equipment with complete instructions, including pre-heat temperatures, cooking times and temperatures, and holding temperatures once the food is cooked. All the information is easily entered via a keypad-type control panel.

This type of control is ideal for convection ovens with their wide range of applications. Some models allow five or more operations to be pre-programmed for different foods or cooking processes. Electronic temperature sensors inside the oven cavity continuously monitor and adjust the cooking temperature. If the oven door is opened, causing the temperature to drop, the cooking time is automatically adjusted to compensate. Some models include electronic meat-probe sensors for roasting. As the interior temperature of the meat approaches the programmed target temperature (Ex: 120° - 125° for rare roast beef), the oven's temperature is reduced to the pre-set holding temperature to avoid overcooking.

Many of the new convection/steam ovens or "combi" ovens utilize solid-state controls as well. In addition to time and temperature settings, these units allow the operator to pre-set different cooking modes; dry convection heat, steam, or convection plus steam. Some models allow cooking modes to be programmed in succession. For example, poultry can be started in the steam mode to lock in the juices. Switching to combination mode, the oven will roast the product without drying it out. It can then be finished in the dry-heat mode for a crisp skin and golden brown appearance.

Another type of equipment that has recently incorporated solid-state controls is the deep fat fryer. Instructions entered using several simple keypad strokes are converted into sophisticated cooking instructions by a microcomputer. The fryer automatically pre-heats the cooking oil to the correct temperature, drops the frybasket into the oil, signals the worker when the food is done, and lifts the basket from the fry tank. This type of frying equipment is becoming increasingly popular in fast food establishments that rely heavily on unskilled, entry-level employees, and must minimize training and expense.


The use of cooking equipment with solid-state controls can benefit the cost-conscious food service operator in several ways.

Labor Costs can be reduced by increasing productivity and reducing the need for highly skilled employees.

Training Costs are substantially reduced due to the simplicity of operation. This can be the most significant benefit in facilities which experience high turnover rates.

Reduced Waste results from the elimination of costly employee errors. In addition, quality and consistency of the food is enhanced, increasing customer satisfaction.