Cooking Equipment

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A Guide to Commercial Ranges

Commercial ranges can vary in terms of width, features, configuration and available options. Typically, these units consist of a range top and a base.

Oftentimes, a range top will emerge as the most used piece of equipment in a kitchen cook line. While culinary staff can use the range top for stir frying, grilling, sauteing, searing, boiling, etc., they can also use the base for baking, roasting, warming, and broiling (ovens), storage (cabinet bases) or refrigeration (refrigerated or freezer drawers).

Restaurant or cafe ranges handle light-duty applications. Heavy-duty ranges have similar features but promise sturdier construction that allows them to stand up to higher volumes and heavier pots and pans. Operators can have heavy-duty models configured and customized as island suites. Typically free-standing, medium-duty ranges often come with standard and convection oven options.

The most common varieties of ranges include open-burner, hot tops, griddle tops and graduated hot tops. Griddle tops range in size from 11 inches to 72 inches wide. Hot tops facilitate easier movement of pots on range tops. A French hot plate comes mostly with electric ranges. Plancha griddles have become a more popular option for creating international cuisine.

A variety of specialty ranges — tabletop, stockpot, Chinese, taco — represent custom models created for specific applications. Induction ranges have become increasingly popular as well, due to their energy efficiency, which is in the 98 percent range. This type also keeps the kitchen cooler, since it doesn’t emit heat, and may not require a hood when in use.

Electric and gas ranges offer different burners. Gas ranges have open burners, with Btus ranging from 25,000 to 260,000. The burner’s grate bowl design determines how efficiently the unit directs the Btu to the cooking vessel. Four- to 10-burner units are offered, although 6- or 10-burner ranges are most often utilized for commercial applications. Electric units utilize tubular metal elements containing resistance wires. Protective hot tops or French plates cover the elements. Electric units come in 208-, 240- or 480-volt models. Oven thermostats range from 150 degrees F to 500 degrees F as standard.

Ranges are available with up to two ovens underneath. The standard width of the range top can vary from 12 up to 72 inches, usually in 12- or 18-inch increments, depending on the equipment and requirements. Most range makers market their units in three sizes — 24, 48 and 60 inches. Restaurant ranges typically measure 24 inches to 72 inches compared to heavy-duty versions, which measure 32 to 36 inches per section. A hotel profile range with a 32-inch base provides more fire power in a smaller footprint. Bakery-depth models accommodate pans both vertically and horizontally.

Many models come with 6-inch adjustable legs to ensure a level stance.

Most manufacturers construct ranges of steel or stainless steel, often 16 gauge. Some models also feature enamel surfaces for an enhanced appearance. Range grates offer welded steel or cast-iron construction.

Purchasing Considerations

When choosing a range, it’s important to know what type of cooking will take place. A heavy-duty model may not be necessary, and an operator may be able to work with four or six burners rather than 10.

“It’s important to look at the application for use of the equipment and make sure flexibility is built into the design to expand or keep it static as needed,” says Ray Soucie, design director, Webb Foodservice Design, Portland, Ore. “Franchises may not want to deviate at all, whereas independent operators may want flexibility.”

In looking at the specific application, operators can make the decision whether an oven base or refrigeration underneath are needed. Will the range serve as a saute station or have a broader use? Is gas, electric or induction heating preferable?

The intensity of the burners impacts the types of menu items that can be prepared on the unit. “Some may require a high, intense heat, so a 20,000 Btu burner won’t be sufficient,” says Soucie. “High-volume operations, such as hotels, may be better off with a range offering 32,000 Btu burners.”

Operators can choose from a number of surface configurations, from open flames to griddles. “Many are getting away from incorporating an oven underneath due to the use of combi ovens,” says Soucie. “Refrigerated drawers under the cooking area provide cold storage and an all-inclusive cooking station for high production. Many users like the quick access.”

Construction impacts the lifespan of a range but needs to be weighed with the financial investment. “For example, a smaller mom-and-pop restaurant with a three- to five-year life span may not want to invest in a heavy-duty hotel range,” says Soucie. “It’s important to decide where to invest the dollars.”

Restaurant-weight ranges typically have welded frames rather than pop-riveted or screwed, which can loosen over time.

Energy consumption is another thing to consider when choosing a range. “Some applications may benefit from induction cooking, which provides greater control over temperature settings,” says Soucie. “If an application needs a long-term simmer with non-fluctuating heat, then an induction cooktop can hold liquid without it boiling over.”

Cleaning & Maintenance Protocols

From food preparation to cooking, most ranges operate the entire day. “There is nothing more frustrating than a range refusing to perform during production,” says George Loredo, service manager, San Antonio and Austin branches, ProTex Restaurant Services Inc., Corpus Christi, Texas. “Surely efficiency is affected during peak periods. However, a poorly maintained range can increase utilities expenses, impact food quality and waste, not to mention food safety. Lack of maintenance can put an operator´s safety at risk from fumes, burns and even fires.”

For this reason, management should initiate regular cleaning and maintenance schedules. While daily and monthly cleaning should be performed by trained employees, quarterly and yearly maintenance should be handled by a professional service company. Consistent daily cleanings will allow for less time consuming monthly cleanings. Loredo recommends the following protocol:

  • Remove the top and ring grates and clean hot water and soap to remove excessive grease, baked on food spills, rinse and allow to dry.
  • Once dry, coat the grates lightly with vegetable oil. This will prevent rusting, and heating them slowly after installing them later will keep them shiny and slick.
  • Remove the burner tops, soak in hot soapy water and brush off baked-on debris.
  • Clear any clogged burner ports at this time, thoroughly dry them and also lightly coat them with cooking oil.
  • With grates removed, brush crumbs into crumb tray and empty it. Vacuum the rest as necessary. Crumb and grease build ups can create smoke or fire hazards.
  • Install burners and grates and heat them on a low flame for about 20 minutes so the cooking oil can season them.
  • Oven racks can be removed and also washed with mild detergent and dried.

The oven interior can now be cleaned carefully. Since most interiors are porcelain enamel, use mild detergent, wooden or plastic tools to remove heavy food or grease deposits.

If an oven has a convection fan, be sure to unplug the range before checking the interior fan for debris. Usually foil gets pulled in and reduces air flow and affects the cooking process.

Install racks and allow interior to dry before closing the door.

Monthly cleaning should include the following:

  • Remove oven base plate and clear lint and grease that may be blocking the air intake ports.
  • Brush away lint accumulating around the knob openings.
  • For convection ovens, pull the range carefully away from the wall and remove debris from behind. Clear lint 
    accumulation around motor air intake ports.
  • These extra steps insure the burners have enough 
    oxygen for combustion and the motor runs as cool 
    as possible.