Army cooks put the service's newest appliances to the test Tuesday by grilling, frying and steaming hundreds of pounds of steak, fries and green beans for 800 hungry troops.
Using the new Modular Appliances for Configurable Kitchens, the nine soldiers got the chance to test new griddles, servers, Hawkmoor burners, convection ovens and tilt skillets while they cooked up 350 pounds of steak, 350 pounds of fries and 252 pounds of green beans.
The food fed 800 Army trainees and Marines, airmen and sailors who were on post for training.
The new appliances were a hit among the cooks.
The new kitchen has more space for soldiers to work, and the new Hawkmoor burners give off less heat.
Photo Credit: Army
The new kitchen has more space for soldiers to work, and the new Hawkmoor burners gave off less heat than the six open-flame burners the Army uses now, she said.
"The old burners, they burn extremely hot," Carmon said. "It's less fun working in an extremely hot environment."
Her soldiers loved the new kitchen and its appliances, Carmon said.
"There's nothing much not to like," she said. "Coming from what we used to work in, it's great."
Spc. Beverly Mathis, another cook with the 5th Engineer Battalion, agreed.
"It's a lot more comfortable, we didn't have to worry about being overheated," she said.
The prep and cooking process also went more smoothly, she said.
"It was more efficient, the food was getting done in a quick manner," Mathis said.
The Army gained some good insight and feedback from Tuesday's demonstration, said Al Majewski, capabilities developer for the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.
The new appliances are designed for the Army's new Battlefield Kitchens.
The Army now has a number of different mobile kitchens, including the legacy Mobile Kitchen Trailer, which was first fielded in 1975, Majewski said.
The MKT needs to be replaced because it's old and overweight for its trailer, he said.
The Army used to have more than 4,200 MKTs back in the late 1990s, but it has now streamlined down to about 1,600.
The Battlefield Kitchen, or BK, is meant to replace the MKT. The first BK, designed to feed up to 300 people, is expected to be available in 2020, Majewski said.
New battlefield kitchen appliances received positive reviews from soldiers who used them at a demo at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Army
"Ultimately, we want to see the same appliance suite used in the Battlefield Kitchen, the upgraded Containerized Kitchen and potentially even our small assault kitchens," he said. "The way we're seeing this is we're designing the appliances for the Battlefield Kitchen. Once we've settled on that suite of appliances, then we'll integrate it onto the other feeding platforms."
Majewski said he was "very pleased" with the outcome of Tuesday's demonstration, but he also took away some valuable feedback for possible changes. For example, the grease trap on the grills may need to be bigger, he said.
Overall, the Army was looking for appliances that were more energy efficient and comfortable for soldiers to use, said Joseph Quigley, a project officer with the Combat Feeding Directorate at Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
The new appliances emit less heat and they're quieter, Quigley said.
"You can hold an actual conversation without shouting," he said.
As for the heat, the legacy kitchens could get as hot as 130 degrees — typically 10 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature, said Tony Patti, who leads the energy and equipment team within the Combat Feeding Directorate.
Temperatures in the new kitchens are the same as the ambient temperature, and, in some cases, even cooler because of the vents, he said.
The demonstration at Fort Leonard Wood was the first large-scale test of the equipment and the first conducted by cooks outside of Natick's engineers and technicians.
Patti said he expects there will be more demonstrations across the Army as the service continues to refine the appliances.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Phillips, a food operations manager with the 5th Engineer Battalion, oversaw the eight other soldiers who cooked during Tuesday's demonstration.
The whole six-hour event was much more efficient in the new kitchen, Phillips said.
"It was a really fast process," he said.
Phillips also appreciated the cooler kitchen.
"Normally, it's extremely hot in that CK," he said." With the new Hawkmoor burners, it was at least 20 to 30 degrees cooler in there."
Phillips said soldiers' iPhones used to shut down because of the heat in the old kitchens.
His soldiers like the changes, too, Phillips said.
"My soldiers want to take it to the field with us," he said, laughing. "It's just a much better piece of equipment all around."