Essential School Kitchen Equipment and How to Manage It

Essential School Kitchen Equipment and How to Manage It

When you’re building a school kitchen supplies and equipment list to furnish your school facility, there are quite a few things to consider. A school cafeteria equipment list should include a number of key pieces of machinery and workstation appliances, as well as an adequate volume of utensils, disposables, and other supplies. Here's a beginner’s list of the must-haves, especially for larger school kitchens. Before we start - one note on sizing – many of these types of equipment are made for certain sizes of kitchens. Understanding your headcount will give you a better idea of how to purchase. Not sure where to start? We’re more than happy to help.

School Kitchen Equipment List

When it comes to outfitting your school cafeteria with cooking equipment, cost-effectiveness, cooking efficiency, and are important factors. Check out this commercial cooking equipment that works for a school cafeteria.

Convection Ovens, Combi Ovens, and Ventless Oven Options

How to Clean a Blodgett Oven
Choosing the right commercial oven for your school cafeteria sometimes isn’t an easy task. A commercial convection oven is designed to efficiently cook by evenly distributing heat. Combi ovens are different in the sense that they can regulate a combination of heat and humidity to use in a wide variety of cooking applications including steaming, baking, dehydrating, and more.

Now if you’re looking for a more sophisticated machine without looking into a hood, a ventless convection oven is for you! For example, this TurboChef Tornado2 Microwave/Convection Ventless Oven cooks up to 12 times faster than a regular commercial convection oven and can memorize up to 128 recipes!


Our high-performance commercial microwaves come in a variety of strengths including light, medium, and heavy-duty usage. Microwaves are great for reheating meals or preparing ingredients!


When selecting a commercial gas range for your school cafeteria, think about how much space you have to spare. If your space is limited, we suggest a 36” commercial gas range. Most of these ranges come with an oven which makes your space-saving task that much easier.

Tilt Skillets

If you only choose one piece of school cafeteria equipment, consider tilt skillets! They’re extremely versatile - decide from cooking methods like frying, grilling, simmering, boiling, sauteing, braising, holding, and proofing! They’re also very safe to operate.

School Kitchen Refrigeration

Of course, commercial refrigeration is a top priority on your school cafeteria equipment list. School cafeterias couldn’t properly function without dependable refrigeration. Determine which refrigerator best fits your school cafeteria demands.

Milk Coolers

Deciding whether or not your cafeteria needs a milk cooler is a simple task. Milk coolers help milk maintain a safe temperature, full visibility of milk products - great for reducing milk waste - and the convenience of easy loading & maintaining the unit. If you’re not planning to serve large quantities of milk, perhaps a reach-in refrigerator will be for your school kitchen.

Reach-In Refrigeration

Easily keep your cold ingredients safe with our commercial reach-in refrigeration. Whether you’re looking to allow optimal display with a glass door refrigerator or improve staff accessibility with a pass-through refrigerator, we’ve got what you need to keep in compliance. Is a reach-in freezer on your school cafeteria kitchen list? Take a look at our variety for your frozen ingredients. (Also, think about walk-ins and freezers!)

Cube and Flake Ice Makers

You may not realize that not all ice is the same. If you do, you may not know what the differences are between each style of ice! Cube ice makers keep drinks colder, longer. This style of ice is also the most cost-efficient. Flake ice makers are used for food displays like salad bars because the ice is easy to mold. They’re also great for blended drinks!

School Kitchen Prep Equipment

Preparing meals is a key part of running a smooth operation in the kitchen. Here are some necessary pieces of school kitchen prep equipment we recommend for your school cafeteria equipment list.

Food Processors, Blenders, and Manual Choppers

To make raw ingredients into appropriate textures for dishes and servings, food prep equipment is a critical part of your kitchen equipment list. Make sure capacity can accommodate your crowds, and that you get the right machines. For example, a processor that provides a puree texture is different than a machine that simply slices and dices larger food items. Blenders are great for blending drinks, soups, and sauces. Check out our take on the difference between a food processor, manual chopper, and blender.

Industrial Scales

For serving large numbers of people, it's important to get your weights and measurements right, for recipes, and for parceling out servings. Industrial scales help to serve this purpose, and are an essential part of school cafeteria equipment that takes up a significant amount of countertop space – so plan for that!

Salad Dryers

Not only does a salad dryer remove excess water efficiently, but it also keeps the greens crispy, and allows salad dressing or oil to stick to the leaves with less waste. For a fresh salad every time!

Cafeteria Serving Stations

The cafeteria serving stations often serve two roles at once. They allow an effective service of delivering the food to the individual diner’s tray. For instance, combination spoons and ladles will help with all of the serving that gets done on a particular kitchen day. Check out our serving and transport equipment and decide what you might need for your school kitchen.

Steam Tables and Food Wells

When it comes to the student serving line, you should rely on the productivity and temperature maintenance of your school cafeteria equipment, like hot and cold wells. Many of them also keep food at appropriate temperatures with bain-marie installations (also called “food wells”) or hot water holders that make sure food is kept safely for serving. Our steam tables and food wells are designed for displaying and serving - especially for a busy kitchen like a school cafeteria.

Utility Carts

In a school kitchen situation, the staff will be responsible for delivering large volumes of food to points of service. Utility carts can help. Many of them will have specifically sized trays or containers for individual food containers to rest in, as well as quality casters and features for easy handling.

School Trays

Every school cafeteria equipment list should have that can be used to move food and drink to dining areas. Melamine, a hard plastic, is a great option. Although some institutions used to have metal trays, many of them have moved to high-quality polymers.

Warming, Cooking, and Holding Units

We have a number of holding units that can keep your meals at safe temperatures. Depending on what you’re serving, you may need one or more of these essential holding cabinets. If you’re storing and transporting already prepared food, an insulated food pan carrier is a perfect solution for you! If you’re looking to store ready-to-cook food, consider investing in a cook and hold cabinet. This specific piece of school cafeteria equipment is designed to cook food and store it for a long period of time while maintaining safe temperatures. If you’re looking for better temperature control when reheating liquids like soup, pasta, or chili, a rethermalizer is a great consideration. For example, this Vollrath Mirage Induction Rethermalizer doesn’t require water and has a unique stirring indicator to prevent burning.

Pan/Cooling Racks

Bun pan racks

School Kitchen Supplies List

Some of the equipment that we sell to schools and educational facilities are specific to this type of institutional kitchen. School kitchens are not a restaurant, per se, but the kitchen is still responsible for many of the standards that restaurants have to meet and uses a lot of the same methods to feed a large number of people each day. Here are some of the essential school kitchen supplies you'll need:

Knives, Cutting Boards, and Utensils 

Just like a professional chef or a home cook, a school kitchen cook should have high-quality knives and cutting boards that can stand up to pressure without harboring hidden bacteria. Washing these properly is also critically important. Some other types of utensils are important, too. If you’re considering baking or cooking from scratch in your school cafeteria, using professional baking supplies is a top priority. We’ve got everything baking from flour sieves & rolling pins to bakery displays & bakery disposables.

Can Openers

When it comes to opening large quantities of canned ingredients, using a regular hand-held can opener not only takes more time to complete but can strain the person opening them. For a more efficient prep task, choose a heavier-duty manual can opener. For example, this Edlund #1 Old Reliable Can Opener can open up to 11 inches high and fifty cans a day!

School Kitchen Storage Equipment

Maintaining an organized and easy to access storage space is an essential part of your school cafeteria. Here's what we recommend.

Food Storage Containers

This is a must-have for your school cafeteria equipment list: food storage containers and lids. These containers are ideal for storing wet and dry foods. We highly recommend Cambro food storage containers and lids when purchasing for your school kitchen.


Keeping your products neat and organized in your storage area should be on your school kitchen equipment list. Our restaurant shelving options are easy to install and are very durable. Choose between wire shelving, solid stainless steel shelving, and more!

School Cafeteria Food Containers and Dispensers

Along with any bain-marie or hot water tables that are used in the cafeteria serving stations, heavy drink containers and dispensers are also important to consider. All of these types of equipment help staff to serve a lot of food, to many eaters, every day.

Paper, Plastic, and Foam Disposables

Here's where the kitchen equipment list has to consider the use of disposable food and drink wares. One of the biggest trends in recent years has been toward renewable or sustainable materials. Items like Styrofoam and heavy non-recycled plastics were popular in past years, but now, schools and institutions are increasingly turning towards hemp, paper, or other “greener” biodegradable materials. In any case, you have to have an adequate supply on your school kitchen supplies list. Think about portioning and container sizes, and how the right kinds of disposables will present your food to your audience.

Manage School Kitchen Equipment

There should also be cleaning supplies to regularly clean school kitchen equipment and keep track of everything that goes on in a busy foodservice day. It’s a good idea to have a comprehensive management plan for everything that you use in a school kitchen, to ensure consistency and a good job day after day, and to maintain goals like fire safety.

School Kitchen Safety Equipment

When you’re running a school, especially a school cafeteria, safety should be your number one priority. Not only for the students attending, but the staff running the school kitchen, too. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when looking for school kitchen safety equipment.

Freezer/Oven Gloves

Protect your school kitchen staff with freezer and oven gloves! These gloves are designed to withstand harsh temperatures - handling products at below 0°F won’t be an issue anymore.

First Aid Kits

You may hope for a worry-free kitchen, but accidents happen. Stay prepared with first aid kits! We have fabric bandages and OSHA-compliant first-aid kits.


Chef Aprons are a must to stay clean. With our aprons, you’ll look good too! These chef aprons are comfortable and can withstand daily operations.

Floor Mats

Provide comfort and safety for your school cafeteria staff. With our heavy-duty floor mats and rugs, you can rest assured anti-fatigue and slip safety is present in the kitchen.

Wet Floor Signs

While on the topic of slip safety, having wet floor signs can greatly reduce the risk of accidental floor slips. A bright, easy-to-read, and lightweight sign is ideal.

Daily and Preventative Maintenance

To make your students and staff aware of the daily preventative measures in your school cafeteria, choose compliance and wall signage. Browse from a hand-washing reminder to an employees-only sign.

School Kitchen Sanitation Equipment

Now that we covered safety in the kitchen, let’s discuss sanitizing your kitchen. School chefs work to keep diners safe from certain kinds of hazards like food poisoning with proper preventative methods and sanitation. To maintain the safety of your students - especially those with allergens - look for the color-coded knives, cutting boards and utensils that are color-coded to prevent cross-contamination of common allergens such as:
  • Peanuts
  • Gluten
  • Dairy

Allergen safety is a big part of school cafeteria service, and something to be aware of as you run this type of kitchen.

Sanitation Buckets & Kitchen Towels

Consistently sanitizing your countertop space is a key method in preventing cross-contamination & potentially harming your students and staff. Using clearly-labeled sanitation buckets (and changing the water every 2 hours) will put your school cafeteria in a safe direction. Check out these tough and lint-free kitchen towels that pair well with your sanitation bucket.


A handy set of thermometers will help ensure that food is kept at an adequate temperature, to prevent the growth of bacteria that can induce illness. Some kinds of labeling can help, too. Some school staff members are familiar with HACCP commercial kitchen food safety rules and how to implement them in a large kitchen.

Mop Buckets, Mops & Brooms

A clean workstation can prevent unwanted viruses or bacteria. When it comes to cleaning the floor, having a clean and sturdy broom, dustpan, mop, and bucket are necessary. Our mops and mop buckets are tried and trusted by thousands of food service operators. Turn to Chefs’ Toys for everything that you need for your school kitchen!