When it comes to the prepared foods industry, few areas of production could be more enduring than pizza. Long held as a favorite dish across the country, pizza producers nonetheless face a considerable number of options when it comes to choosing the best equipment available for their individual operations. This month, we’ve chosen to focus on various equipment throughout the production line from three different suppliers, looking at machinery from first assembly to the final slice.

Refrigeration and prep tables

Choosing what kind of refrigeration units you’ll employ for your pizza’s ingredients isn’t just a matter of food safety, but also an integral part of maximizing your workflow, says Michael Williams, the director of culinary marketing at retail for Unified Brands, which numbers prep tables and refrigerated storage among the commercial kitchen equipment it manufactures for commissaries.

“Whether the operation is a small hand-made one or larger assembly production, adequate work space and access to ingredients at the correct temperature is the primary consideration for pizza manufacturers,” Williams says. “A well-designed work space configured for the task will include access to necessary components within a comfortable reach, which helps to reduce worker injuries (such as muscle strain) and improve production flow. Food components should be easily accessible at the correct temperature for the item, though not all components require refrigerated temperatures during production. Items such as fresh pizza dough and some red sauces — which are high in olive oil content — are often used at ambient temperatures, while meats, cheeses and vegetables must be held below 41°F. The work space should be designed to consider all of these facets to reach peak worker output and food safety while maximizing production flow.”

Unified’s line of Randell Prep Tables includes a variety of models, from the simple and popular 72-in. wrapped-rail table employed by many pizza chains to their mega-rail and double-rail models, which can be real space-savers for larger facilities, he says. The company also provides more customizable options that combine other specialized machinery for those manufacturers working with tighter budgets.

“Randell raised-rail prep tables were actually born in the pizza industry,” Williams says of the line. “Each feature has been designed with input from the operators to exceed their needs. For instance, features like press-fit gaskets reduce operating costs while rail drains speed up cleaning and allow for enhanced sanitation, and these are just a few examples of operator-focused designs.”

These raised-rail tables are unique in that they use an expansion valve technology that provides a top-notch recovery as compared to others, he adds.

“They also feature mullion-coil middle refrigeration, which circulates the air around the cavity instead of from front to back. This more effectively keeps stored product at the proper temperature, and the coil position also provides more internal storage space since the coil is in the middle of the box. The extra storage space then allows front-to-back storage of up to a full-sized sheet pan on each shelf. Our prep tables are also available with drawers, which come in a variety of configurations.”

With one of the biggest priorities in refrigeration being precise temperature storage, Williams also suggests the FX Series line of models, which he says is adaptable to any pizza operation, no matter its size. This line of refrigerators stores product at a selected temperature between -4°F and 41°F, and is controlled with a simple thermostat.

“This technology is perfect for items that make finished product unique,” he says. “FX units can be stand-alone, used as equipment stands or installed into prep tables for point of use access.” 

Sprayers and depositors

When dealing with other pizza ingredients like oils and sauces, consistency is the name of the game, and is crucial to both brand identity and quality assurance.

“Spraying oil or other cold liquid on pizza crust can be achieved by using our disc spraying system,” suggests Luc Imberechts, owner of equipment supplier Bakon USA. “This sprayer ensures a consistent, thin coverage of the products while reducing to a minimum the overspray. The machine is designed based on the needs of the customer and typically has its own container, possibly with an integrated refrigeration or heating system.”

Oils of course are fairly easy to control with systems like this, but marinara and other sauces can present challenges when it comes to their level of viscosity and the presence of chunkier ingredients. Yet for this, Imberechts says there are more options than you may realize.

“Bakon piston depositors allow the user to deposit consistent quantities of sauce on the product and can accommodate sauces containing pieces of vegetables,” he says. “As another option, we can also use a ‘printing system’ to apply the sauce on a specific area. For instance, ‘printing’ the sauce in a circle on the pizza crust while staying away from the edge of the pizza. These machines offer consistency, flexibility, and ease of use, as well as ease of cleaning and maintaining.”

Imberechts went on to note that these machines are designed based on each individual commissary’s needs, and that the working width of your conveyor, targeted capacity and other considerations all play a role in the final construction presented for your production line.

Slicing machines

When it comes to finally slicing your end product, there’s more to prioritize than the simple sharpness of a blade. According to Food Tools’ General Manager Doug Petrovich, “The top factors for slicers are sanitation of the equipment for food safety, serviceability for the maintenance teams, and machine capacity to handle future requirements.”

For this Petrovich suggests the ACCUSLICE-100PC for dual-lane portioning, ACCUSLICE-100PC-1 for high-speed portioning, and the ACCUSLICE-100PC-1A for high-speed inline portioning. For the smaller pizza operation, he says the CS-5A model is ideal for single-shot industrial slicing.

The 100PC is made for high-production facilities with its ability to turn out 2,700 products per hour, and can work with other products like lasagna or quesadillas since it can be customized. It can slice wedges, rectangles, squares, or triangles out of both round and square products.

The 100PC-1 turns out 1,500 products per hour and is also designed for round, rectangle or square pizzas and other products, with a single product lane that is customizable and ideal for those with limited space.

Like the 100PC-1, the 100PC-1A can also turn out 1,500 pizzas per hour in a limited workspace, plus its blades and accessories are designed to require minimal changeover time between products, maximizing efficiency down the line.

The CS-5A is even more ideal for small spaces, and while its turnout rate is less (at 750 products per hour), it too boasts the ability to slice any number of products on top of pizza, and also has a blade set designed for quick product changeover. It also pulls the product into and out of itself automatically, allowing the operator to start preparing the next pizza as soon as the first is on the conveyor. The CS-5A comes with accessories that can be made of either stainless steel or aluminum according to your commissary’s individual needs and preferences.