Extending the life of a pan

by Charlotte Atchley
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To ensure their products release cleanly, bakers must treat them with the utmost respect. If bakers don’t respect their pans, they face the possibility of rejected product, damaged pans and money lost on frequent recoating. This pervasive tool in a bakery’s daily life holds a surprising amount of opportunity for costly, wasteful errors, but with the right coatings and by following proper procedures, bakers can lengthen the life cycle of their pans and ensure their product releases every time.

To keep coatings effective, pans must be reglazed after a certain number of cycles determined by the type of coating and product. For American Pan’s Americoat glazed pans, that can be every 600 bakes. The company’s DuraShield coated pans can reach up to 5,000 bakes before needing to be replaced or recoated. BCS-Teflon treatment of pans from Bakeware Coating Systems can last in excess of 5,000 cycles.

 “The main reasons they send pans in for recoating is because product is starting to stick to the pans, they have carbon buildup on them or the bake quality and consistency is declining,” said Jason Tingley, vice-president of American Pan, a Bundy Baking Solution, Urbana, OH. “For products that do not require oiling of pans, such as buns and rolls, the product may be releasing okay, but once the glaze has been completely worn off, the dough will actually begin to ‘attack’ to the aluminized steel of the pan and cause delamination.”

If bakers wait too long to recoat, they face the possibility of baked foods sticking to the pan, which not only results in reject product but can also cause problems downstream. “When bread stays in the pan and the robot tries to stack it, it is much more difficult,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford Corp., Oklahoma City. This can cause pans to stick together and jams to happen further in production, prompting more damage to pans.

Once products start to stick, pans must be packed up and shipped to a facility for cleaning and recoating. This process can take several days, according to Steve Schwartz, president, Bakeware Coating Systems, Campden, NJ, and Anaheim, CA, and requires the baker to keep an extra set of pans on hand or run a staggered schedule to avoid any downtime. Of course, shipping pans also costs money. While these expenses are unavoidable, it’s in the baker’s best interest to extend as long as possible the number of cycles between recoating.

Minimize the damage

Bakeries are dangerous places for pans. They face peril from mishandling, abrasion, thermal breakdown and excess moisture.

The biggest threat to pan coatings is mishandling of the pans either by human hands or automated equipment. “The hardest thing on pans is stacking and unstacking,” Mr. Lindsey said. When stacking pans on top of one another and unstacking them, they can scrape the inside and scratch the coating.  Conveyor transfers can jam and bend pans, which will also impact automated stacking and unstacking at the end of the line. Bent and misaligned pans, however, can be corrected when they are sent for cleaning and recoating.

Abrasions from other sources such as brushes, excessive air pressure and accumulated ingredients and product also wear on pans, according to Mr. Tingley. Cleaning brushes should be soft and adjusted to not sweep too closely to the pan. High-pressure air can blow abrasive ingredients such as seeds and crumbs onto the pan, and other food residue on the pans will degrade the coating’s non-stick properties.

Thermal breakdown and excessive moisture can interfere with the release properties of coatings, and thermal breakdown ultimately is the culprit for coatings wearing down. According to Mr. Tingley, every time a pan is heated and cooled, microscopic cracks form in the coating that will eventually cause it to fail. Bakers can address this problem by shutting off the heat to the oven when lines are stopped, check the oven for consistent heat flow and ensure that the proper amount of dough is deposited in the pans.

Excess moisture from proof boxes and pan washing also can degrade coatings. Mr. Tingley of American Pan suggested bakers ensure that humidity settings on proof boxes are set correctly and aren’t too high. To prevent premature degradation, washed pans should always be thoroughly dried and not stored wet.

Coatings to match

Choosing the correct coating for the product and process can maximize performance and make the coating go further. “As products have become much more diverse, we’ve responded by coming out with specifically engineered coatings for unique baking environments within the industry,” Mr. Schwartz said. Choosing the perfect coating is all about identifying the product and its needs, challenges and any processing issues that might come up. Multigrain breads, which tend to include seeds and other inclusions, are going to need a coating that can withstand regular abrasion. Baguettes that go from oven to freezer require a coating that can handle temperature changes gracefully. 

The gluten-free movement prompted Bakeware Coating Systems to develop a line of coatings specifically for those products, which tend to be stickier and tackier than traditional doughs. Using the right coating to meet those needs extends the life of that coating and gives the product its best chance of releasing. “If you were to select the correct coating for that, you’re going to get excellent performance,” he said. “However, if you just go with a regular off-the-shelf coating, you’re not going to maximize the pan’s performance.”

The needs of a cheesecake or a ­butter-filled croissant are different, so matching the coating to different products is paramount to making the coating last.

A little help from oil

Some products and coatings do require release agents; however, these oils can contribute to build-up and wear on pan coatings and degrade finished product quality, Mr. Tingley pointed out. “The more build-up, the more difficult the cleaning process is before a pan can be recoated, and therefore, the cost can go up for service,” he said. Keeping the pans free of excess oil and preventing debris left behind can help bakers achieve this goal. Proper pan-oiling technique can play a role in that.

“By using a pan oiler, we can extend the pan coating because the oiler helps the product release easier, extending the glazing,” Mr. Lindsey explained. “And of course, the better the application of the oil, the cleaner the pan clean is. If you don’t have to deal with overspray, then you don’t have to deal with that on the pan, and the coating lasts longer.”

The application of the oil is critical to reducing overspray, waste and increased sanitation costs. “You can buy the best release agent or the worst, and neither will work if they are not applied well,” said Bob Mallet, chairman, Mallet and Co., Carnegie, PA. Where the oil is placed, the size of the drops and even the pressure used to apply the oil matters. “If you use too much pressure, you’ll get mist,” Mr. Mallet said. “If you use too little pressure, you’ll get globs or a distorted pattern.”

To prevent the waste and mess of overspray, Mallet and Co. uses several strategies including nozzles customized to the pans’ shapes. Traditionally, oilers use nozzles that spray in a circular pattern and change the size to cover the cavity that needs to be oiled. If that cavity isn’t a circle, bakers simply would use a nozzle larger than the cavity and sometimes, multiple overlapping circles of oil to ensure complete coverage. However, this creates a great deal of overspray, which not only wastes oil but also causes build-up on the pans. To reduce waste and enhance spray precision, Mallet and Co. supplies nozzles to match the shape of the cavity or target area being oiled.

When it comes to bread pans, the proofer can cause problems as well. “When that bread proofs, it will bring the oil up with it,” Mr. Mallet said. If the pan is oiled completely before the final proof, then as the bread loaf rises, oil spills onto the edges of the pan, not only wasting oil but also causing a mess that would wear on the coating. To prevent this, Mallet systems oil the sides of the bread pan only halfway, so when the bread dough rises, it brings the oil with it to provide the release.

Using less oil altogether also extends the life of coatings between reglazing. By using better oil blends with value-added properties, bakers can use less oil on the pans, which can extend the time between reglazing, Mr. Mallet said.

Burford’s pan oiler accomplishes this by offering bakers an even coating that allows them to use less oil on the pan. Three nozzles, two adjustable to the pan width, respond to a pan sensor to spray the pan. A timer controls the amount of oil sprayed onto the surface, with normal oil usage clocking in at about 15 oz per 1,000 units.

While pan coatings may prevent product from sticking to the pan, using a light amount of oil can also help the coatings last longer. According to Mr. Mallet, bakers often don’t oil freshly glazed pans, which he considers a grave mistake. The enemy of silicone glaze, he explained, is water, particularly steam, which will prematurely degrade the glaze. In the oven, water from the bread turns to steam; this can harm the pan’s glaze. “When you are using silicone-coated pans, you should use a small amount of oil, really much less than you would use normally,” Mr. Mallet said. “That is now a glaze-saving barrier as opposed to a releasing agent.” 

Ensuring product releases from the pan is a critical decision bakers must make. Figuring out which coatings and oils to use and how to extend the life of pan coatings requires a balance of cost and efficiency, and sometimes, spending more upfront can save even more in the long run. With the proper plan in place, bakers can make their pans go further and keep products intact.

 

 

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