Charbroilers can impart a distinct flavor profile on a variety of food products including meat, fish and vegetables. This style of cooking equipment typically uses flame impingement or a scorching effect to sear in juices and keep proteins moist.
The hot and cold zones on the cooking surface can make this equipment a little trickier to use. Consequently, many foodservice operators assign their more skilled cooks to work with charbroilers.
Size, construction and, for gas models, BTU output help segment between light-, medium- and heavy-duty units. Though under-fired units, which cook with radiant heat to temperatures between 600 degrees F and 800 degrees F, typically carry the charbroiler designation, operators can also specify over-fired types, which cook as hot as 1,200 degrees F.
Most models use gas, although charbroilers can be electric or have infrared heat. Gas models have BTUs ranging from 17,000 to 217,500, depending on the size. Most units cook between 30,000 and 40,000 BTUs per foot in a 20- to 24-inch deep cooking area. Equipment may offer variable front-to-rear heat source control for more precise cooking. Electric models, which measure 24 to 26 inches, are more costly to run.
Overall, charbroiler sizes range from 15 inches for a single burner model up to 72 inches. The most popular size is 36 inches.
Most charbroilers use cast-iron or stainless steel radiants, which hold more heat and are easy to clean. Cast iron is the most durable and will usually last the life of the unit, while tubular steel is cheaper but can burn out quicker. The fire and smoke these units produce make them popular in display cooking applications. Conducted heat is transmitted through the top grate and convected heat is carried by circulated air. Lava rock or briquette-style charboilers also are available and act as radiants to evenly distribute heat.
Charbroilers that use infrared rays emanating from a heat source use less gas and reach operating temperatures in about 90 seconds. This provides efficient, even, uniform heating without flare-ups.
Charbroilers with stainless steel grates feature welded construction. The grates tend to be reversible and on an incline to help control temperatures underneath. Carbon steel grates have a rod format and stainless steel frame with a handle in front. Most charbroilers feature a fixed distance between the heat source and grates. Others offer adjustable grates, allowing the cook staff to select settings most appropriate to product type and preparation volume.
Grate designs vary and are geared for various food types. For example, waffle grates provide a high-contact surface and aren’t recommended for use with foods that tend to stick, like fish.
Charbroilers require the use of a ventilation system. Wood-fired charbroilers require a special hood.
While floor models are available, countertop units remain the most popular and are typically utilized with refrigerated bases. High-end models may have burner deflectors to better refract heat into the cooking zone rather than releasing it into the environment. This increases efficiency and productivity. Charbroiler accessories include plate rails, condiment rails, cutting boards, splash guards, overshelves and griddle plates.
Today, more end users seem to request smoke boxes. This metal box is filled with briquettes or another fuel type that increases smoke in the charbroiler for a distinctive flavor profile.
One drawback when it comes to working with charbroilers is that this equipment generates a lot of heat and smoke. To increase heat transfer efficiency, it is anticipated that newer technology will be able to better capture and contain heat from this equipment in the future.