Unless you’re a completely raw food restaurant, your commercial kitchen will need cooking equipment. And depending on your menu, you might need several kinds of equipment to properly prepare your dishes. How do you choose the right commercial oven? Do you need multiple fryers? Are gas or electric appliances going to work better for you? There is no single right answer to these questions, because so much of your decision making comes down to the specific needs of your restaurant.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you choose commercial ovens, ranges, fryers, and exhaust hoods — the key equipment you need to get cooking in your restaurant.
What kinds of ovens should I have?
While your restaurant will probably have at least one radiant (standard) commercial oven, there are a few different kinds of specialized commercial ovens on the market. Whether or not you invest in that specialized equipment comes down to your menu’s needs:
Convection ovens are all about air circulation. Fans inside the oven circulate the air, helping avoid uneven temperature spots during cooking. This makes convection ovens especially good for breads and pastries.
Like a broiler in a standard oven, the salamander (usually installed above the main oven for easy reach) is great for finishing meats, browning or caramelizing dishes, and melting cheese toppings. But salamanders get very hot very quickly, so chefs need to keep an eye on whatever item is placed inside to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Cook and hold
Cook and hold ovens essentially do the job of a slow cooker and a warm box. At its low temperature, the slow nature of a cook and hold oven is good for roasting meat while avoiding shrinkage. It can also be used to proof doughs. If your menu features slow cooked items that need to be kept warm during service, this could be a good oven for your kitchen.
Conveyor ovens are probably going to be used the most in fast casual restaurants, especially sandwich-focused lunch places that need to toast and warm items quickly. Depending on the use, conveyor ovens are powered by forced air, radiant heat, or infrared.
New or used?
The advantage of buying a commercial oven new is that it’s almost guaranteed to be more energy efficient given current standards in the marketplace. Also, consider your need for a warranty. Setting up a warranty for any piece of new equipment, especially commercial ovens, provides a certain amount of protection for a certain amount of time. If you buy your commercial ovens used, you likely will not have that protective option.
Why is commercial oven upkeep important?
Unless you’re a raw-only restaurant, cooking your items is a crucial part of your business. So if your ovens break, your whole kitchen is in trouble. Even one oven not working can throw off an entire shift.
And don’t forget to maintain a regular cleaning regimen. A dirty oven is not only a food contamination issue, but it can also lure in pests or be a safety hazard.
Gas or electric?
There’s been a push in recent years for restaurants to move over to electric appliances, especially ranges. In some ways, it makes sense. Electric is generally more efficient. It also cooks more evenly. And electric also avoids both open flame and the gas itself, which reduces the likelihood of a fire or gas leak in your kitchen.
However, electric ranges have limitations that could cause huge problems for commercial kitchens. For one, electric ranges heat up very slowly, while a gas range springs into life with a turn of the knob. If you need to get a pot boiling for more pasta in the middle of the shift, for example, an electric range will be far too slow.
It’s also much harder to precisely control the heat for an electric stovetop — once it gets hot, it’ll stay hot for a while even if you turn it down. On the other hand, a gas range flame can be fine-tuned so you’re getting just the right heat on the pan.
And as gas ranges are not electrical, they give you much more room to maneuver your menu in case of a power outage. Ultimately, while there are several types of electrical kitchen equipment that might benefit your business, it’s a good idea to employ some gas appliances where it makes sense.
What should I look for?
There are many different sizes for commercial fryers in the restaurant industry. Choosing the right fryer for your business is really about what’s on your menu.
Chicken and fish can both change the flavor of the oil it cooks in (and then affect the food cooked in that oil after it). So if you’re planning to fry chicken or seafood, you’ll need different vats for each type. If one of your items is frozen and then flash fried, you’ll need a larger vat so that the oil can recover more quickly from the dip in temperature.
The fryer you choose also depend on the quantity of fried items you go through in any given shift. For instance, if fries are the main side offered for all of your entrees, you’ll need enough fryers to keep up with the demand.
Why is upkeep important?
Keeping your fryers clean is largely a safety concern. The potential for a grease fire in your kitchen gets way higher when there’s a fryer involved. Along with safety concerns, having very old oil in your fryer isn’t good for maintaining the clean taste of the food you’re frying. That doesn’t mean you have to change out the frying oil constantly — look to the owner’s guide that comes with the fryer and it will tell you best practices for maintenance and cleaning. And then be sure to taste your fried food every day to determine whether your use lines up with the manufacturer’s expectations.
What should I look for?
There are two kinds of exhaust hoods — grease and heat.
Grease exhaust hoods vent smoke, but they also collect grease and oil. Grease exhaust hoods need to be installed over cooking equipment like fryers, ranges, and griddles.
Heat exhaust hoods vent fumes from high heat cooking equipment without needing grease collected. You’d likely install heat exhaust hoods over pizza ovens and convection ovens that won’t give off a significant amount of smoke, but may produce steam and excess heat.
As you’re researching, make sure to investigate the local municipal codes and ordinances for exhaust hoods in commercial kitchens. Make sure that your exhaust hood is large enough to fit all the equipment needing to be placed underneath it. That might mean purchasing an extra-long hood or multiple hoods.
Why is upkeep important?
Over time, oil, grease, and grime can collect in your exhaust system, forming a gross greasy sludge where bacteria grows. This build-up can potentially make its way into the food (a major sanitation and taste problem), and will make it harder for your exhaust to properly filter out smoke.
On top of that, grease buildup is a major fire hazard. Commercial exhaust hoods need to be cleaned by commercial cleaning professionals periodically, but also regularly cleaned and maintained in between those appointments. Always follow your hood model’s instructions for how to do so. The life of your hood depends on it, as does the life of you and your employees!
Did you know that new restaurant equipment like commercial ovens could be eligible for a tax break? Download our free tool on “10 Tax Tips for Restaurants and Bars” to find out more.
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