If you've ever been to a hotel ballroom or banquet hall where dozens or even hundreds of people are being served a full-course meal at the same time, you may have one of these units to thank for the speedy service and amazing efficiency. These compact powerhouses combine one or more broiler decks into a single cabinet, sometimes along with other common cooking equipment, making it possible to prepare very large amounts of food within a relatively small footprint. You might hear one called a steakhouse broiler or hotel broiler because you're likely to find one in those very busy kitchens. They're reliable pieces of equipment that many large-scale foodservice operations depend on; keep reading to learn about the many varieties and uses of these units. More
These units are good for cooking food quickly, evenly, and in very large amounts. The heat in one of these comes from several gas burners above or below the cooking rack, and some units include burners in both places. Once the settings are adjusted for a particular food item, very little attention is required until the food is finished cooking. Unlike with types of equipment that require constant monitoring and tending the food, the person in charge of operating the unit can leave it to cook and go prepare other dishes. This makes sure that the food gets cooked evenly and consistently from serving to serving, while freeing up time to get other work.
Most of these units have knobs on the outside that can be used to adjust the vertical position of the racks inside the broiler. This lets you decide how close food will be to the burners when it is cooking because some foods will cook better with more intense heat than others. For example, vegetables, bread products, and thin cuts of meat will do better when cooked quickly near the heat source, while thicker products like steak and burgers will be cooked on a lower height setting, so heat can penetrate and cook them thoroughly.
The most common kind of upright broiler will simply include two broilers stacked one above the other. In busy steakhouses, these are often used for cooking nothing but steaks. The temperature and rack height of each chamber can be adjusted once, and then steaks can be cooked dozens at a time with consistency and predictability. The two chambers can be set to different temperatures and rack heights to achieve different doneness of steaks, as well.
To make them even more useful, these are sometimes built into the same unit with an oven, griddle, or holding cabinet to increase the amount of food you can cook in the kitchen. These are great for restaurants that want to buy a 2-in-1 unit that will let them do two of the most important cooking tasks at the same time. For example, in restaurants that want to have entrees ready in advance, a unit with a warming oven is useful because you could prepare food in the broiler and transfer them directly to the warming oven to be kept until they get served to the customer. Others will include a full-power broiler with a lower-power salamander, for example, so foods can be fully cooked in one unit and finished in the other by melting cheese on it or adding a caramelized crust.
Choosing the Right Fuel Source
These units can be purchased fitted for either propane (LP) or natural gas. Your choice will likely depend on which resource is available to your facility or most affordable to you. Natural gas is usually delivered as a utility by the city. It's very popular in many areas and not at all in others. It can also be expensive to get access if your eatery isn't already served by natural gas. Propane, on the other hand, usually requires an on-site storage tank which is refilled periodically from a truck. In the event that both are available, the decision will be largely based on comparing the cost and convenience of the two. Like most other equipment that operates on gas, these units must be installed underneath a hood ventilation system, so keep this in mind while you choose one for your facility, as it will be a major factor in the cost of the equipment and may determine where it can be installed in your kitchen layout.
These units are made to be easy to clean, and cleaning is important to keep them running efficiently and producing fresh-tasting food. You should always clean one of these units whenever you change the type of food you cook in it. This will help prevent flavor transfer between the different types of food, and it will also help remove any charred remains that may have fallen down into the cabinet, which will create a burned taste.
These broilers usually have a drip tray to collect excess fats and juices from food as it cooks. These are removable so they can be quickly emptied when they need to be and they won't slow down the kitchen or make a big mess. It is a good idea to empty the grease tray before it gets full. This will help prevent grease fires and protect employees because they can become quite heavy and hard to manage when they get full.
The broiler grids, which are the racks inside the unit that the food cooks on, are fully removable from these units, so they can easily be taken out and cleaned regularly, too. These can be cleaned with a wire or high-temp nylon brush and warm water with mild soap. Be sure to thoroughly dry the racks after they're cleaned to prevent rust and corrosion. A clean grid helps keep food tasting fresh and will help prevent items from sticking as it cooks.