My mission in this article is to give you a feel for the kind of equipment that's usually required by the health department and equipment that's traditionally used in a personal kitchen but can also be used to get your business started. I've also included a few helpful tips that can make your work a little easier, less time consuming and more profitable.
Here's your first money-saving tip: used commercial equipment will more than satisfy your needs. Commercial equipment tends to have a long operating life when it's taken care of properly.
The following equipment list will be especially helpful if you're operating on a shoestring budget. It will also be useful if you are uncertain about operating this type of business and want to test the waters.
Ovens - The health department has no requirements concerning the size, type, or make of oven used in your business. You can use the same type of conventional stove that you have in your personal kitchen if it bakes properly and produces the results you need. But you should be aware that conventional ovens limit the quantity you can bake at one time and the speed of baking.
To increase production and keep up with demand, you'll need a commercial oven, preferably convection. Convection ovens bake fast and efficiently. Before purchasing a commercial electric oven, inquire about wiring and outlets needed for operation. Before purchasing any type of gas oven, make sure you have enough space for a hood fan and proper ventilation.
Mixers - If you have budget concerns, a home-style stand mixer will work perfectly to get you started. I recommend KitchenAid mixers. If you have product demand and the budget, definitely invest in a commercial mixer. A used twelve or twenty-quart commercial mixer will get you off to a great start.
Refrigerators/Coolers - Are you watching the budget? If so, here's another tip that will save you many dollars. Home-style refrigerators will work perfectly for your start-up and established business. Commercial refrigerators (referred to as coolers) can be expensive, even the used ones. So consider carefully the amount of space you have, the amount of product to be chilled, and your budget for refrigeration. Before purchasing a commercial cooler, inquire about the necessary electrical wiring and outlets needed for operation.
Proofing Cabinets - If you're making large quantities of yeast breads, you will benefit from having a proofing cabinet. This cabinet maintains a warm temperature that's perfect for the stage of bread making when the dough needs to rise and double in bulk.
Work Sinks - A stainless-steel compartment sink is usually a requirement of the health department. Even if this type of sink is not required, you should consider buying one. The convenience and ease of washing large sheet pans, large mixing bowls, and other oversized pieces make it well worth the cost.
Work Tables - The health department usually requires a certain kind of work surface for food preparation and protection. Stainless-steel tables are the most popular because they can be easily cleaned and do not absorb germs and other contaminants. There may be other tabletop surfaces that meet approval. Ask your health department for more information. The size table you buy should be determined by available space and the task to be performed. Rolling Pan Racks (Shelves) These heavy-duty metal racks are made to hold both half- and full-size sheet pans. They vary in height and the number of pans they hold. They are excellent space savers. Use them for cookies and cakes (before and after baking), ingredients, supplies, and more. One of the great convenience features is mobility. They can be moved to wherever you're working. A pan rack is not required by the health department, but it should be near the top of your list of necessities. Used racks will work perfectly.
Storage Shelves - You'll need lots of storage space for dry ingredients, packaging supplies, and other items. It's always a great idea to make the most of your work space from floor to ceiling.
Hand Sink - A hand sink is generally a small sink used to wash your hands before and during work. This sink is usually required by the health department. You can save on cost by purchasing a fiberglass sink (called a utility sink) at most building supply stores.
Ingredient Bins - It's not necessary to buy commercial storage bins for items like flour and sugar. Just go to a building supply store and purchase large thirty-two-gallon trash cans with lids. They must be new, of course. These cans will store a fifty-pound bag of flour or sugar and more. Do not empty the product directly into the trash can. Instead, drop the unopened bag into the can, and then open the top of the bag and dip out the product as needed.
More Tips: Before purchasing any large equipment, measure all doorways that the equipment has to pass through before it can be placed in the work area.
Always ask for a warranty. Most companies offer at least a thirty-day warranty on used equipment.
For more on starting your home-based baking business PLUS, alternatives to starting a business outside of the home, creating a budget, writing a business plan, purchasing equipment, marketing, setting prices, turning your baked goods into gourmet gifts and more, visit http://www.BringingHometheBaking.com
Quincella C. Geiger, business owner and author of “Bringing Home the Baking"- How to Start a Licensed Home-Based Baking Business.