The inclusion of a griddle can greatly enhance the usefulness of your electric commercial range throughout the day. That's because they're great for cooking everything from breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes, to dinner dishes like shrimp and steak. A griddle is a broad, flat surface typically made of steel that is heated from below. Food is cooked directly on the griddle surface, so there is no need for pots or pans, which should never be used on a griddle. These are equipped with a grease trough along the front to capture liquids and scraps from cooking, and splash guards on their sides to prevent potentially damaging or dangerous splatter.
The most affordable option on a commercial electric cooktop is the coiled cal-rod element. These are identical to the ones you'll find on many electric residential ranges, which means they're familiar to most people, making them easy for even the novice cook to use. However, these are not as durable as the alternative element style covered below. They're also open, allowing for spills and crumbs to fall into the well where they may create smoke as they burn and can be very difficult to clean. These elements are fine for light-duty and infrequent usage.
The most common element on commercial electric ranges is a solid flat disc called a sealed element. These are typically made of stainless steel, known for its efficient transfer of heat, or cast iron. The latter is prized for being durable and for its heat retention capacity, which means it holds its temperature better during cooking. Chefs prefer these because their closed nature prevents food and spills from falling into the burner. It's also easier to move pans across these and they're built for more heavy-duty use. While they are more rugged than their coiled kin, if the element needs replacing, that task is more difficult and costly with this type.
Hot tops on commercial electric stoves are similar to a griddle in appearance and construction, with a smooth, flat top made of metal. Unlike a griddle, they're made to be used with cookware and most manufacturers recommend against cooking food directly on them. The entire surface is heated, so you're not restricted as to where you place your cookware – if it fits, it cooks. This provides flexibility to use both large and small cookware, and optimizes the cooktop for maximum usage. The downside here is that these are not as energy-efficient as elements, since you're heating the entire area, rather than just a small circle. That drawback is especially magnified if you only heat one or two items at once, so these are best reserved for high-volume kitchens. The heating elements in these also have to heat the cooking surface before they can heat the pot or pan, compounding their inefficiency.
Range Additions: Electric Salamander Broiler
A salamander broiler is a versatile cooking piece that can be used for everything from finishing dishes to cooking steaks. These are also used for heating fajita platters to create that sizzling presentation and for holding foods that have already been cooked, though those lighter-duty tasks are better for a commercial electric cheese melter. Salamanders, which come loaded with powerful burners typically offering tens of thousands of BTUs each, are typically mounted on a flue riser or wall above the range, though they can also be standalone units.
Range Additions: Commercial Electric Cheese Melter
Though sometimes thought of as a low-powered salamander, the functionality of the two pieces is vastly different. As noted, the cheesemelter is meant for lighter-duty jobs, including, as their name implies, melting cheese as a finishing touch on dishes like burritos and lasagna. Like the salamander, they can be mounted on a riser or the wall, and can also stand alone on a counter. These typically have a single, lower-powered element in the top of the unit, so heat is only applied from above.
The most basic of the commercial electric range ovens is the standard or conventional oven, which has an element at the bottom of the cooking chamber. Since these provide heat from the bottom and there is no means of spreading that out in the cabinet, the heat tends to be uneven and cooking time is slower than with their convected kin.
Because of that contrast, the convection oven is the most popular cooking base for these ranges. These use a fan to move the heated air in the cavity around, which can cut cooking times significantly. They're preferred by chefs for most jobs around the kitchen, but any serious usage will necessitate a standalone oven. If you'll be using your range oven for lighter items like soufflés, look for a convection base with a two-speed fan, because the fan can scatter the batter before it sets if it's cranking at full blast.
A more rare option in these units is the warmer oven, a cabinet sometimes containing a low-powered element and sometimes simply warmed by the residual heat from the cooktop. These keep dishes at serving temperatures, rather than actually cooking them. They can be handy during the rush, when your cooks may need to keep one diner's dish hot as his or her tablemate's food is prepared. However, if you want to prepare food in advance of a rush and hold it, you'll do better to opt for a separate holding oven. Those provide more room and don't require cooks working on the range top to move every time you need to access them.
The final oven option is the space saver oven, which is a narrow version of the standard oven. They are sometimes used to squeeze an oven into a smaller range or are paired to provide two cavities in one mid-sized range. These are fine for most typical conventional oven work, but keep in mind that they may not accommodate larger food pans, with only select models capable of holding a full-size food pan. Additionally, these present the same problems of inconsistent heating and slower cooking times as other standard ovens.
Of course, you might opt for a storage base unit that offers room for commonly needed items like pots, pans, and ingredients, rather than additional cooking space. These can be a great option for budget-limited kitchens, and in establishments where a separate oven provides the needed baking and roasting capabilities.
Electric ranges are more easily relocated than gas models, since there is no need to disconnect and move gas lines. While we typically recommend casters for most large equipment because they allow for cooking under the unit, those are especially helpful if you think you will need to move the unit. These also typically have lighter ventilation hood requirements. Some jurisdictions may actually let you use one without a hood, as long as you have the right space and menu.
If you cook at higher altitudes, which typically means anything above 2,500 feet above sea level, an electric restaurant range may be a better option for you. That's because gas ranges have to be modified at the factory for operation at those elevations, while their electric cousins don't. Additionally, electric may be more efficient at height, since gas doesn't burn as profusely at higher altitudes due to the decrease in oxygen in the air.
If you only need to do very limited cooking or if you are facing serious space constraints, you may want to consider a commercial electric burner, or hot plate, as an alternative. These also provide flexibility in location, since they can easily be picked up and moved around your kitchen or facility as needed. You can't do that with a full-size electric commercial stove.