Title:
Food serving system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable food serving system for keeping food cold or for cooling hot food and keeping it cool that does not require a power source includes a generally rectangular inner pan and outer pan. Each of the pans has a bottom wall. The outer pan also has four sidewalls with a drain plug on one of them and rails at the bottom to form feet. The inner pan fits within the outer pan and the bottom wall of the inner pan is raised above the bottom wall of the outer pan. The inner pan has a plurality of compartments located therein with spaces formed between the compartments. A plurality of baffles extend upwardly from the bottom wall of the outer pan and extend into the spaces between the compartments. The system also includes a plurality of clips for releasably locking the inner pan with the outer pan. Ice and a cooling liquid may be placed in the spaces between the compartments and between the bottom walls of the pans. A cover fits over the pans.



Inventors:
Demirjian, George C. (Cinnaminson, NJ, US)
Application Number:
12/008925
Publication Date:
07/16/2009
Filing Date:
01/15/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/457.6
International Classes:
F25D3/02; F25D3/08
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TRPISOVSKY, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Norman E. Lehrer (Cherry Hill, NJ, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A food serving system for cooling food and keeping it cool comprising: a pair of generally rectangular pans including an inner pan and an outer pan, each of said inner and outer pans having a bottom wall and said outer pan having four sidewalls; said inner pan fitting within said outer pan and said bottom wall of said inner pan being raised above said bottom wall of said outer pan to form a space therebetween; said inner pan having a plurality of compartments located therein with spaces formed between said compartments; a plurality of baffles extending upwardly from said bottom wall of said outer pan and extending into the spaces between said compartments; and means for releasably locking said inner pan with said outer pan, wherein ice and a cooling liquid may be placed in the spaces between said compartments and between said bottom walls of said pans.

2. The food serving system of claim 1 wherein each of said pans has a lip forming the periphery of each of said pans and a plurality of recesses located along the periphery of said inner pan.

3. The food serving system of claim 2 wherein said releasable locking means includes a plurality of clips, each of said clips fitting within a respective recess of said inner pan.

4. The food serving system of claim 1 further including a cover fitting over said pans.

5. The food serving system of claim 1 wherein said inner pan includes two compartments.

6. The food serving system of claim 1 wherein said inner pan includes three compartments.

7. The food serving system of claim 1 wherein said outer pan includes a plurality of feet.

8. The food serving system of claim 1 further including a drain located within one of said sidewalls.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed toward a food serving system and more particularly, toward a system that chills food and allows the food to stay cold for an extended period of time.

A problem facing many businesses in the food industry is the inability to maintain the temperature of foods meant to be kept cold. For example, in a salad bar type of setting or in catering situations it may be necessary to keep foods chilled for extended periods of time after they have been removed from normal refrigeration facilities. Particularly difficult is the inability to maintain cold temperatures at the upper level of the foods which is required by the health authorities. That is, while it is normally not too difficult to maintain salad or the like located near the bottom of a serving pan at a relatively cold temperature, it is difficult to maintain salad or a similar food at the top of the pan at an equally cold temperature.

In one type of salad bar arrangement, for example, shallow pans are placed within wells of a cabinet or service counter. The crocks, or containers of food, or the food itself is then placed within the pans and crushed ice is then placed around the containers or the food. Alternatively, the ice may be placed within the pans first and then the containers may be placed in the ice. These systems do not provide a consistent, chilled environment for the food.

Another typical salad bar arrangement has a refrigeration coil under the pans holding the crocks or containers of food. The problem with these types of systems is that it is difficult to maintain a suitable temperature. That is, the food either freezes if it directly overlies a refrigeration coil or becomes too warm if it is located far from a coil. Furthermore, the cooling tends not to be uniformly distributed to all of the food or containers particularly near the top of the pan. In these types of arrangements, in order to lower the temperature sufficiently near the top of the pan, the refrigeration coils must be so cold that food at the bottom of the pan which may be in close proximity to the coils freezes or deteriorates as a result of the very cold temperature. These systems are also not normally suitable for portable use as they require electrical power or another source of energy for the refrigeration equipment.

Another food serving situation is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,989,419 to Brando et al. This patent discloses a food service tray having a plurality of pans with a sealed double wall so that spaces are formed between the pans and the bottom wall. The spaces are filled with a refrigerant. The tray must be placed in a freezer until the refrigerant is frozen. This tray appears to be rather inconvenient to use, however, as there must be room enough in a freezer to freeze the refrigerant. Also, the tray is not ready to use at any time. Rather, the person using the tray must first place the tray in a freezer for an appropriate amount of time in order for the tray to be ready when it is needed.

Also, U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,579 to Bigwood et al. discloses a double walled bowl with a fill cap that allows the user to pour hot or cold liquid into the space between the walls. This food cooling system, however, appears to only have one compartment so that only one type of food can be chilled at a time.

Another problem facing the food service industry is the ability to quickly cool hot foods and to safely hold them at a cool temperature. To help prevent heat resistant bacteria from producing dangerous toxins as they metabolize at optimum incubating temperatures (“the danger zone” between 135° F. and 41° F.) the FDA food code requires that hot foods are to be cooled as follows: 135° F. to 70° F. in less than two hours and 70° F. to 41° F. in less than four hours. While expensive blast chiller equipment and the like can perform such functions, to Applicant's knowledge, there are no inexpensive or portable products available to accomplish this.

Therefore, a need exists for a food serving system that may be used in a wide variety of situations and allows a plurality of foods to be chilled efficiently for an extended period of time and at a consistent rate or for cooling hot foods and keeping them cool.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is designed to overcome the deficiencies of the prior art discussed above. It is an object of the present invention to provide a food serving system that allows food to be chilled and which allows the food to stay cold for an extended period of time.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a food serving system that allows food to be chilled at a relatively consistent rate.

It is an even further object of the present invention to provide a food serving system that is capable of quickly cooling hot foods and safely holding the foods at a cool temperature.

In accordance with the illustrative embodiments demonstrating features and advantages of the present invention, there is provided a food serving system for keeping food cold that includes a pair of generally rectangular pans including an inner pan and an outer pan. Each of the pans has a bottom wall. The outer pan also has four sidewalls. The inner pan fits within the outer pan and the bottom wall of the inner pan is raised above the bottom wall of the outer pan. The inner pan has a plurality of compartments located therein with spaces formed between the compartments. A plurality of baffles extend upwardly from the bottom wall of the outer pan and extend into the spaces between the compartments in the inner pan.

The system also includes means for releasably locking the inner pan with the outer pan. Ice and a cooling liquid may be placed in the spaces between the compartments and between the bottom walls of the pans. Each pan has a lip forming the periphery of each of the pans. A plurality of recesses are located along the periphery of the inner pan. The releasable locking means includes a plurality of clips where each of the clips fits within a respective recess of the inner pan. A cover fits over the pans. The outer pan includes a plurality of feet and a drain located within one of the sidewalls. In a first embodiment, the inner pan includes three compartments. In a second embodiment, the inner pan includes two compartments.

Other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be readily apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments thereof taken in conjunction with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the accompanying drawings forms that are presently preferred; it being understood that the invention is not intended to be limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the food serving system of the present invention without a cover thereon;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 3-3 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of the food serving system of the present invention including the cover;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 5-5 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 6-6 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 7-7 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 8 is an exploded view of a portion of the pans of the food serving system of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 9-9 of FIG. 2; and

FIG. 10 is a front perspective view of a second embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the drawings in detail wherein like reference numerals have been used throughout the various figures to designate like elements, there is shown in the FIG. 1 a food serving system constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention and designated generally as 10.

The food serving system of the present invention essentially includes a pair of generally rectangular pans including an inner pan 12 and an outer pan 14. Each of the pans 12 and 14 has a bottom wall 16a-16c and 18, respectively. The outer pan 14 also has four sidewalls 20, 22, 24, and 26. The inner pan 12 has a plurality of compartments 28, 30, and 32 located therein with spaces 34 and 36 formed between the compartments 28, 30, and 32. (See FIG. 3.) The inner pan 12 fits within the outer pan 14 and the bottom walls 16a-16c of the inner pan 12 is raised above the bottom wall 18 of the outer pan 14 to form a space therebetween. (See FIG. 2.) A plurality of baffles 38 and 40 extend upwardly from the bottom wall 18 of the outer pan 14 and extend into the spaces 34 and 36 between the compartments 28, 30, and 32. (See FIG. 3.) The pans may be made from a plastic material, or the like and are preferably transparent or translucent.

Ice and a cooling liquid, such as cold water, may be placed in the spaces 34 and 36 between the compartments 28, 30, and 32 and between the bottom walls 16 and 18 of the pans 12 and 14. Spaces 42 and 44, for example, are also formed between the sidewalls 20, 22, 24, and 26 and the compartments 28, 30, and 32. The baffles 38 and 40 are generally triangular and aid in forcing the water and ice upwardly in order to assure more efficient cooling and cold transfer. Also, the baffles provide structural rigidity to the system.

The system also includes means for releasably locking the inner pan 12 with the outer pan 14. Each pan 12 and 14 has a lip 46 and 48, respectively, forming the periphery of each of the pans. (See FIGS. 5 and 7.) A plurality of recesses 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 60 are located along the periphery of the inner pan 12. (See FIGS. 4 and 6.) The releasable locking means include a plurality of clips 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, and 72 where each of the clips 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, and 72 fits within a respective recess 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, and 60 of the inner pan 12. (See FIG. 9.) A gasket 74 fits in between the lips 46 and 48 of the pans 12 and 14 to form a seal therebetween. (See FIG. 8.) In this way, the lips of the pans lie flat against each other which, in turn, provide a flat, smooth surface for the cover 76 to fit on top of the inner pan 12 and cover both of the pans 12 and 14. (See FIG. 9.) The clips may be released when desired so that the inner pan may be removed form the outer pan when needed.

The outer pan 14 also includes a plurality of elongated feet in the form of ribs 78 and 80 and a drain 82 located within one of the sidewalls 26, for example. The ribs 78 and 80 provide structural rigidity to the system and also act as a stand-off so that the bottom of the outer pan does not sit directly on a flat surface when in use. In this manner the coldness from the system is prevented from dissipating when the system is set on the flat surface.

A second embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 10. The system 110 of FIG. 10 has all of the components and functions in the same manner as the system described in the first embodiment. In this embodiment, however, the inner pan includes two compartments 128 and 130, one baffle 138 is located between the compartments 128 and 130, and four clips 162, 164, 166, and 168 releasably lock the pans together.

While only two embodiments of the present system have been described, it should be realized that the pans may vary in size and shape and that the number of clips, baffles, drains, and compartments may vary as well.

In order to use the system of the present invention, the pans are separated. Ice and water are placed within the outer pan. The inner pan is then placed within the outer pan and adjusted so that the ice and water rest on top of the baffles and in between the compartments, in between the bottom walls of the two pans, and the spaces between the sidewalls of the outer pan and the inner pan. The clips may then be locked into place. As the ice melts, the liquid may be drained through the drain located in sidewall. The cover may be placed over the pans and removed as needed. The system may be taken apart by releasing the clips and removing the inner pan from the outer pan and inverting the outer pan in order to remove any remaining and water therefrom.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof and accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims rather than to the foregoing specification as indicating the scope of the invention.