A Guide to Configuring the Best Commercial Range for Your Kitchen
When you’re trying to decide which commercial range to buy, there’s typically much more to consider than what size it should be. With options like griddles, French plates, charbroilers, and “regular” burners, there’s a lot to think about. That can seem daunting, but it should actually be exciting. This is a chance to get exactly what your kitchen needs to create your every culinary masterpiece.
Let’s take a look at some of the choices you can make from top to bottom when you’re ready to shop commercial ranges.
Start Here: Sizing Commercial Ranges
OK, so we just said there’s a lot more to consider than size when you’re shopping for your restaurant cooking equipment, but it’s obviously going to be a factor. If you’re just designing a new kitchen and can afford as much space as you want to every piece of commercial equipment, this may not be your first thought. More likely, though, you’re replacing an older unit or trying to fit everything you need into an existing facility.
Commercial ranges are available from as short as 24 inches to as long as 72 inches, with 30-, 32-, 34-, 36-, 48-, and 60-inch models in between. Among those, the most popular are the 24-, 36-, 48-, and 60-inch models. Apparently people feel more comfortable increasing by the whole foot. In sizing yours, consider how much you’ll be cooking and how many people will be using the equipment at any given time. If you have a predefined space your cooktop absolutely must fit into, you may not have that luxury. However, if you have some wiggle room, you’ll likely need at least a 48-inch unit if you’ll have a couple people cooking at a time. Adding specialty tops like griddles or charbroilers may also require opting for a longer commercial range.
A fairly busy restaurant will likely do well with a 48- or 60-inch cooktop, which allow for plenty of burners and specialty tops. Only the busiest eateries are likely to need a 72-inch unit, while those below 48 inches are typically for smaller operations.
The Gas vs. Electric Range Debate
We have a general piece on this comparison that can offer insight on this choice. Specifically for commercial ranges, electric ranges are typically going to be more efficient because they put most of their heat directly into the cooking vessel. That also means they put less heat into the kitchen, which saves you on air conditioning and ventilation. This type of commercial restaurant range is also less likely to cause grease fires, since there is no open flame, and there’s no chance for gas leaks. These also typically require less maintenance and ventilation.
Still, gas is the undisputed commercial kitchen champ based on how many cooks use it. Gas is typically a cheaper utility and chefs like that it gives instant heat increases or decreases. It’s also a preference established early, since most culinary schools use gas ranges.
Commercial Restaurant Range Top Configuration Options
As we already mentioned, there are many options for the hardware on your cooktop. Here are some of the most common – many of which can be paired in any configuration – and what they’re great for:
Like the ones you probably have on your home range, these are either a circular eye on electric units or a metal grate with a flaming eye below on gas cooktops. Burners are easy to use, in part because most everyone has experience with them, and are probably the simplest form of putting heat under food.
- Hot tops:
The energy source is used to heat a thick (usually one-half-inch to one-inch thick) metal plate that is typically square with 12-18-inch sides. Since two heat transfers have to happen with these commercial ranges, they heat up more slowly, sometimes taking 30 minutes to an hour to achieve cooking temperatures. They also have more heat loss, making them less efficient. However, they do provide a more consistent temperature across the cooking surface.
- French plates:
These are quite similar to the hot top, with a large, flat cooking surface. The burner is hottest at the center, then is gradually cooler as you move away from it. This allows you to cook several items at once at different temperatures on the same burner. These have the same issues – slow heat up and cool down, and heat loss – as hot tops, but still offer the consistent temperatures.
Having a flat top built into your cooktop can be extremely convenient and a huge time saver for many cooks. This addition allows for two of the most popular types of cooking to happen in the same area. Since the whole plate has to be heated, there is considerable heat loss with these units, so be prepared for additional ventilation and air conditioning requirements.
Like griddles, charbroilers are cooking equipment that many kitchens have separate from the commercial restaurant range, but combining the two provides some convenience. For instance, you can give a steak a quick sear on the charbroiler, then throw it into a pan on a burner or hot plate to finish. Charbroilers typically heat up fairly quickly and add delicious flavor to dishes.
Base Options for Commercial Ranges
Nearly as important as what goes on top of your commercial range is what goes below it. In addition to the standard oven your home cooktop likely sits on, commercial ranges can stand tall on a convection oven. There are also units that combine both types of oven. Perhaps one of the most common options, though, offers storage space in the base. Space is at a premium in any commercial kitchen (When was the last time you heard a chef complain about having too much space?), so this can be a boon to those who need more places to put supplies, rather than places to cook food.