From chopping to garnishing, a lot of the labor for your dishes takes place on the top of your worktables. While all worktables provide a surface for your food prep, some are better suited for particular kitchens and tasks than others. There are numerous questions you should ask yourself when purchasing a worktable. What am I going to be doing on it? Where will it fit in my kitchen? How much do I want to spend?
The variables listed above are just some of the considerations you will make when searching for the perfect worktable. Much of your decision will also need to be made according to the health code regulations in your area. Check with a representative from your health department regarding city, county and state regulations before purchasing a table. Beyond code requirements, in this article we’ll take a look at the many worktable options and accessories you’re likely to encounter and hopefully help you determine the best choice for your kitchen.
Understandably, the top of your worktable is where most of the action is going to take place. Whether you’re stretching dough, chopping fruits and vegetables, or putting the finishing touches on a dish, you’ll be using the work top quite frequently. There are many choices when comparing worktable tops. In order to simplify the process, we have broken down the top options into the basic categories of Material, Size & Configuration, and Purpose.
Most worktables are made with stainless steel tops, but there are wood tops available as well. These are most commonly found in bakeries. Bakers like the way the wood tops work with their dough; the wood surface prevents the dough from sliding around too much during kneading and won’t dull knives. For those seeking a stainless steel tabletop, there are a multitude of options.
The first thing to look at is the thickness and type of stainless steel being used. Check the gauge of the worktable top. Typically, worktables will fall into either 18 or 16 gauge stainless steel thicknesses. Some tables are also available in 14 gauge thickness which is most commonly seen in institutions and culinary schools. The lower the gauge number, the thicker and more durable the material is. Also pay close attention to the series number for the type of stainless steel used. What makes stainless steel “stainless” is the amount of chromium in the metal composition. Chrome and oxygen work together to form a very tight transparent layer over the steel surface that is impervious to water and air. This layer is self-healing when scratched or dented and works to prevent rusting by precluding further oxidation when the surface is damaged. Nickel also increases corrosion resistance when it is added to the stainless steel compound. The two most common stainless steel options in foodservice are 430 and 304 series. 430 Series stainless steel contains 16.5% chromium and 0% nickel, while 304 Series stainless steel has 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Therefore, 304 stainless steel is more corrosion resistant, but it is also more expensive. Depending on the application of your worktable, corrosion resistance may not be a major factor in your purchase decision.
Size & Configuration
Widths of worktable tops often fall into the 18”-30” range, while lengths typically go from 2’-8’. Ensure your table will fit comfortably with plenty of room for your staff to maneuver around the kitchen. Backsplashes are also available in many worktable models. They typically are 1 ½” or 5” in height. Backsplashes may be an option that is required by your health department. They can also be useful in ensuring sanitary clean-up around your worktable. The backsplash will prevent any liquids from running behind the back edge of your top and contaminating items below. Depending on the manufacturer, some backsplash models are available at the same price as a flat top table, while others may require a small upcharge. Worktables are also available with different types of edges. Some tables are equipped with rolled edges that are safer to work around. Bullnosed corners provide the same hazard-lessening concept by ridding the table of sharp, pointy edges. Many tops also have been sound deadened which will help reduce the amount of racket in the kitchen.
The next thing to consider when choosing the worktable top is how you plan to use the table. If your worktable will primarily be the site of food preparation, especially of acidic foods like tomatoes, you need to consider the materials properties described above. While a more corrosion resistant 300 series stainless table will likely have a higher cost, it will also stand up much better to the abuse of food acids. The style of the table you choose will also often be dictated by the use. The flat top is the most common style of worktable for food handling, but there are also tops that can be equipped with sinks for more multipurpose use. These tables make for quick transfer of fruits and vegetables to the cutting station, and give you a safe, secure place to put your equipment after cleaning. Also, keep in mind the backsplash option we discussed earlier. If your table will be used in conjunction with food prep where juices could be present, a backsplash may be a nice addition for increased sanitation.
Most worktables are equipped with an undershelf for storage. These undershelves are smaller than the tops, fitted to the interior of the legs, but allow space to keep boxes, bins and covered foods within reach. Similar to the materials used for the worktable top, undershelves are available in a variety of types. Most undershelves are 18 gauge in thickness, but not all are stainless steel. Galvanized steel is commonly used to help reduce the overall cost of the worktable. Also, in most cases, the height of the undershelf can be adjusted to best suit your needs. Another benefit to an undershelf is that it will help add stability to the overall table by acting as an additional support for the legs. There are worktables void of undershelves which allow for increased storage of large items, such as ingredient bins, below the table.
Much like undershelves, the type of legs used on most worktables varies slightly. Typically, legs are crafted from 1 5/8” thick tubular galvanized steel. Some health codes, however, will mandate stainless steel legs, which are also widely available. For added stability the legs’ gussets are welded to the hat channels. And for leveling on uneven floors most worktable legs are equipped with 1” plastic or stainless steel adjustable bullet feet. Rubber casters with brakes are also available for increased mobility. Tables longer than 8’ will have six legs, so bear than in mind before making your purchase.
ACCESSORIES & CUSTOMIZATION
If your establishment needs a table for use in a specialized application there are a variety of additional worktable styles available or accessories that may be added to a traditional table. If used near a cookline, you may want to consider a table with overshelves and a pot rack. Dish cabinets are another specialty type of table that can be used in the same manner as a traditional worktable, but with the availability of increased storage via multiple shelves for plates, glasses, pots and other pieces of dining equipment in an enclosed cabinet base. If you require something more custom, many worktables can be configured with a variety of add-on accessories such as drawers, pan racks, cut-outs, urn troughs, tray slides, and electrical outlets. We are happy to discuss this wide array of options with you and help you develop a completely custom piece.
While they are not likely to be the most expensive piece of equipment in your kitchen, worktables are an important investment. It is best to do your research ahead of time and even consult with employees to see what type of worktables they may prefer before making a purchase. As always, if you have any questions when selecting a worktable, our experts would be happy to help.