Equipment like this has a cooktop with burners, a griddle, a hot top, or a charbroiler, and many have a combination of more than one of these. The best way to pick one is to think about the types of food you'll be making. If breakfast food is your specialty, get one with plenty of griddle space for cooking eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes. If you'll be using a lot of cookware, consider a range with many burners. If you'll be building your name on grilled burgers and steaks, be sure to get a unit with a charbroiler.
Range Top Configuration Options
Burners are the most common components of a commercial gas range. These are used for heating cookware and accomplishing everything from boiling pasta to sauteing vegetables. All gas burners have grates above the burners to sit your cookware on, and most are made from cast iron. Cast iron is rugged and retains heat very well, so it's excellent for repeated use and it heats food quickly. Ranges are sold with up to nine burners included.
A griddle is a broad, usually flat surface made of stainless steel, chrome, or cast iron. Food is cooked directly on a griddle, without the need for using pans or pots. You can cook a lot on a griddle, from burgers to pancakes, steaks to eggs. Griddle tops with grooved surfaces are also available. These will give food those classic sear marks that are usually associated with a charbroiler. They're also good at draining away grease from fatty foods like burgers, which can improve the taste and quality of those items.
There are three common griddle surface materials: steel, cast iron, and chrome-plated steel.
- Steel is the most economical option. It's also easy to clean and transfers heat quickly. The main drawback of steel is that food is more likely to stick to it than the other surface materials, so cooks must be diligent to avoid this.
- Chrome-plated steel is more durable than steel and transfers heat even more efficiently. Chrome is very smooth, so food is less likely to stick to it than to steel alone. The downside is that it is more expensive than the alternatives.
- Cast iron is the most rugged option. It retains heat the best, so it stays hot when you add cold foods, making for faster cooking times. There are a few extra maintenance steps involved in cooking with cast iron, though. It must stay properly seasoned to protect it from corrosion and to keep the non-stick properties.
A charbroiler is a unit with grates placed over a series of burners. The heat is direct and intense, making it great for grilling meats, vegetables, and seafood. The grates are most commonly made of cast iron, but stainless steel grates can be found, which are a bit easier to clean. Charbroilers are used to sear in the flavor and give a degree of charring to foods, creating a characteristic grilled flavor. A distinct trademark of food cooked using this method is the “grill marks” left by the grate during the cooking process, which enhance the presentation of food.
Also called conventional ovens, these are similar to most residential units. They heat the baking chamber using burners at the bottom, which can mean the chamber does not get heated evenly, which can create hot and cold spots that make results inconsistent. They're ideal for finishing food and baking potatoes, but you'll need to be careful with more delicate items like bread.
Convection ovens use a fan to circulate heated air around food, which helps distribute heat evenly and solves the inconsistency issues you might get with a standard oven. This allows a convection oven to cook food more evenly, in less time, and at a lower temperature than a conventional oven. Some units include both a standard oven and a convection oven side-by-side, which gives you the flexibility to cook foods that require either. This type of oven is the most common base for a range.
A third option is the space saver oven. These are simply a narrower version of the standard oven we talked about above. These are useful if you want to bake small quantities of items at a different temperature than your main oven; just be mindful that you won't be able to fit full-size pans in one of these. Larger ranges will include two space saver ovens side by side.
Because many kitchens rely on a standalone oven, they may well opt for a more practical base option. We also offer models with a storage compartment or shelf underneath the cook top, providing you access to your most commonly used cookware, ingredients, and utensils within arm's reach. This is also the most economical choice of bases.
Temperature controls can be manual or thermostatic. Manual controls include a range of intensities, from low to high. You need a little more experience to use a manual control, but many people prefer them for the flexibility they provide or because they're typically cheaper than other models. Thermostatic controls have specific temperatures on the knob, and the thermostat keeps the cooking temperature around what is set. These are usually the easiest to operate, because once you know which temperature you need, you can always just set it there and know that your equipment will stay at that level. These are helpful in kitchens with inexperienced cooks or high turnover. They make training easier and operation simpler to understand.
A commercial gas range is powered by either natural gas or propane (LP). The one you choose may well depend on which resource you have access to. Natural gas is usually provided as a utility by a municipality or cooperative, and you may already have the right hookups installed to use it. To use propane, you need a tank outside your building to store it in. Keep in mind that although these all use gas as their main heat source, some of them contain electrical components - the fan in a convection oven, for example - and will require at least one electrical outlet as well. Be sure you have the right connections in your kitchen before you order a range.
Gas ranges will need to be vented to protect indoor air quality and to remove excess heat and grease-laden vapors. The size and type of hood you need will depend on which range you choose, the setup of your restaurant, and your local requirements. Be sure to check on this critical detail before you choose a range.