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BTU Definition

Choosing Cooking Equipment like a Restaurant Oven Means Considering BTU Heating Measurements

When it comes to shopping for cooking equipment, the British thermal unit (BTU) is king and finding your way through his empire can be tricky. The most important thing to know is that more is typically better, including when you’re shopping for a restaurant oven.

King BTU: Who He is, What He Does, and Why He Reigns in Commercial Ovens

The BTU is a measure of potential heat energy, specifically the amount of energy needed to change the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree F. When it comes to cooking equipment, the BTU measurement you see is typically an hourly average for the heating power of the restaurant oven in question. Though it’s not likely the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the term “BTU”, but BTU is also used in commercial refrigeration, since it quantifies energy needed to both heat and cool a pound of water 1 degree.

For some food applications, BTU measurements will be important because they’ll use the commercial oven mainly for high-temperature cooking like broiling. However, in most applications the BTU measures something else much more important: Recovery time.

Every time you open the door of your restaurant oven and/or put something you’re cooking into it, you lose heat. Some of it escapes. Some of it goes into whatever you just put into your cooking equipment. Wherever it goes, there’s a bit less heat in the cavity. The more BTUs the element inside your commercial oven is capable of producing, the faster it will recover that lost heat, which will speed up the time it takes to cook your food and give it more even temperatures throughout.

The importance of BTUs for restaurant ovens varies depending on the type of oven and the circumstances under which it’s used. Typically, BTU measurements are most important for cooking equipment like fryers and cooktops, where quick recoveries can mean quicker table turns. Still, a commercial oven with a sizable BTU capability can be critical for some foodservice operations.

Obviously those that do a lot of cooking in an oven, like bakeries, would be included in that list. So would high-volume kitchens that use an oven for finishing purposes like melting cheese or browning, since they may be opening and closing the oven doors frequently. Finally, operations that do a lot of high-temperature cooking like broiling can benefit from beefier BTU outputs that can allow them to move the mercury higher and keep it there.

What it All Means: Notes on the Power of the BTU for a Restaurant Oven