In spite of the name, this cuisine is not from Mongolia, nor does it have anything to do with barbeque. The large, open cooking surface and thinly sliced ingredients are said to evoke the food and traditions of Mongolia, but really, it's more like the classic, familiar Asian stir fry. Often the ingredients are accompanied by Asian noodles or placed over steamed rice. This method of cooking is also popular on many college campuses for making a quick and healthy meal for on-the-go students.
The round shape of a Mongolian range allows you to make use of the entire cooking surface, something that is more difficult with a square or rectangular griddle. This circular shape also allows you to walk around the grill while cooking several dishes on different parts of it. You can attend to each individual's meal in turn, or several chefs can gather around a single cooking surface and work simultaneously. This makes it an efficient method of food preparation that is also interesting to watch.
The frames of these griddles are made with heavy-duty stainless steel and feature welded construction, so they're made specifically for high-volume, intensive use. They can also be equipped with a heavy-duty knee valve making heat adjustment easy while leaving your hands free for cooking. They also typically include a large stainless steel gutter surrounding the cooking surface to catch food or liquids that stray, keeping these off the floor for a safe, clean kitchen. Larger ones will include a chute in the middle so you can quickly dispose of grease and food scraps as you cook.
Choosing a Top
The tops of these grills will be made of either stainless steel or cast iron. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Stainless steel is smoother, so it's easy to clean and requires less maintenance. Cast iron retains heat better than steel, though. This means you can cook quicker and the surface takes less time to recover heat when you add cold food to it. Cast iron requires a little more maintenance because it must remain seasoned. This requires a few extra steps, but if you follow the manufacturer's directions, it creates a nonstick surface that's well worth the effort.
BTU stands for British thermal unit and is a common way to measure heat output of cooking equipment. The BTU rating of a Mongolian BBQ range can be a good measurement to guide you in selecting one for your restaurant. The ones you'll find here range in power from 110,000 to more than 500,000. For comparison, a common 36 inch griddle is rated at around 90,000 BTU. If you plan on using the range to supplement the other equipment in your restaurant, and it's not your main method of cooking, one with a lower BTU rating will meet your needs. If you're going to be cooking primarily on the range, a larger one will be needed to keep up with the demand.
This type of range can incorporate single or multiple burners under the cooking surface. Often, models with multiple burners will have individual controls for each. In this case, you'll have the ability to heat different areas of the cook top to different temperatures, giving you the flexibility to cook several different dishes at the same time. This will also allow you to shut some of the burners off during slow periods to conserve gas and help keep your restaurant cool.
Choosing a Heat Source
You can order a range that uses either propane (LP) or natural gas as a heat source. The choice will likely depend on which resource you have access to. Natural gas is usually provided as a utility by your city, and you may already have the proper hookups for equipment that uses it. Propane (LP) requires a storage tank outside your building and must be refilled periodically from a truck. If both are an option, the decision will probably be based on which is more affordable.
Cleaning and Cooling the Cooktop
Cleaning one of these will be similar to cleaning a more standard griddle. To avoid flavor transfer and burning foods to the cooking surface, you should clean the surface with a scraper and brush regularly during cooking. The pause between dishes allows ample time for completing that task. At the end of the day, use a griddle brick for more thorough cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on further cleaning.
With so much heating power and such thick cooking surfaces, these units continue to put off large amounts of heat for quite a while after they've been turned off. You'll need to keep this in mind when planning your daily closing routines, as someone will need to tend to the grill until it's reached a safe temperature. Do not attempt to speed this process by throwing ice onto the top, as this can cause it to crack or warp.