Outdoor Grills Buyers' Guide
Grilling out is an American tradition, but it's one that's usually associated with backyard get-togethers and tailgating parties. Restaurant owners and caterers can offer guests the smoky flavors and experience of dining outdoors with a commercial outdoor grill.
Types of Outdoor Grills
Built-in grills are made to be permanently installed into outdoor patios. They're designed to withstand the elements, so a simple vinyl cover will provide all the protection necessary to keep the grill in service season after season. Built-in grills are typically sold with shells that provide all the pieces you need to build them into permanent brick patios.
You can incorporate a built-in outdoor grill into a full outdoor cooking suite by installing it alongside other outdoor equipment like an ice machine and a refrigerator. In the summer months, this type of setup at a restaurant can draw in diners who prefer to enjoy their meals al fresco. Expand the setup with only minimal additional investment with mobile bar equipment to outfit a full-service patio or an open-air event venue.
Mobile grills are equipped with wheels so you can transport them virtually anywhere. Caterers can load their mobile grills up and take them on the road to do some on-site cooking. Churches, country clubs, and other organizations can host impressive cookouts with mobile grills. Their mobility also allows the grills to be rolled inside out of the elements for safe storage.
Smaller 30- and 36-inch mobile grills provide enough cooking area to serve a handful of guests an hour. Grills are also available in 48-, 60-, and 72-inch widths if you need equipment that can take care of an entire patio full of hungry guests.
Towable grills are equipped with road-ready wheels, tires, and towing couplers so they can easily be pulled to events. Many towable grill models include built-in refrigeration equipment that can hold all the chilled entrées and trimmings you'll be serving. These are the best grills for professional catering companies that specialize in outdoor events like tailgate parties and summer weddings.
Restaurant Outdoor Grill Features
Many outdoor grills are available with cooking components beyond the standard grill grates. Consider choosing a grill that's equipped with one of these components to expand the types of food you can prepare with your outdoor grill.
- Choose a grill with an open burner so you can heat pots of baked beans and chili at the same work station at which you grill your meats.
- Some outdoor grills can be equipped with griddle plates that fit over the grill's grates. This component will let you cook foods like eggs, bacon, and pancakes.
- You can use a steam pan adapter to turn your commercial outdoor grill into a hot food table, keeping prepared food hot as you serve guests.
- Some outdoor grills can be outfitted with rotisserie adapters for slow-roasting chicken and large cuts of meat over the flames of the grill.
- Choose a vegetable and fish tray to cook more delicate items on your outdoor grill.
- Bun racks fit into grills' hoods to warm hamburger and hot dog buns away from the intense heat of the main grates.
- A smoker box turns your grill into a smoker for cooking favorites like pork shoulder, brisket, and other slow-cooked meats.
Other useful outdoor grill accessories include roll-top domes that contain heat to speed cooking and shield food, and wind guards to protect the flames and food from gusts.Grill Grate Materials
As you shop for a restaurant outdoor grill, you may discover varying models include grates made of different materials. Steel grates are valued for their light weight and the ease with which they can be cleaned. Chrome grates are less likely to cause food to stick. Cast iron grates are virtually indestructible, but they're much heavier than steel and chrome components and require extra effort to clean.
Choosing a Grill by Fuel TypeCharcoal
Charcoal cooking is a common practice in backyards, but less so at commercial operations, mainly because there's a good deal of labor involved in lighting the fire, tending the coals, and cleaning the resulting ashes. It's virtually impossible to regulate the temperature of a charcoal grill, but adjustable racks let you move food closer or further away from the coals.
Still, a charcoal grill may be the best type for your particular concept. The charcoal grill is the simplest type of commercial outdoor grill, which makes it the most economical. That low price makes the charcoal grill a good choice for establishments that will only be using the equipment occasionally and can't justify investing in a gas grill. Charcoal is also often preferable for caterers who may not always have access to natural gas and don't want to have to keep a stock of propane tanks.Natural Gas
Since natural gas is the source of fuel for the majority of gas-burning restaurant equipment, it makes sense for restaurants installing a permanent gas grill to choose natural gas equipment. Natural gas cooking is familiar to chefs and offers quick, powerful heat, making it a good choice when you want to make grill cooking a primary part of your restaurant concept.
Natural gas is the way to go when you can install a gas connection outdoors, whether you're building a grill into your patio permanently or want to use a mobile grill in the same spot each time. Unlike propane, natural gas is not sold in mobile canisters, so natural gas grills can only get their fuel from a building's main gas supply.Propane
Choose a propane grill when you want an outdoor gas grill that you'll take on the road or wheel to different places at your facility. Propane grills are powered with the same propane canisters that residential grills use. Those are commonly available at convenience stores and supermarkets.