Commercial Cooking Equipment | Restaurant Equipment | A Definitive Guide
One of the major investments you face as a restaurant owner is the commercial cooking equipment. You can easily burn through a quarter million dollars in no time. So, before you buy a single kettle, investigate the most financially economical means for achieving the biggest bang for your buck.
Purchasing a good quality equipment, one that has a higher level of utility and resourcefulness is imperative to a restaurant and for their overall functionality. Many restaurants these days, specifically in the Covid-19 times, are resorting to wholesale restaurant suppliers to look for the right restaurant equipment. It is recommended though that on big ticket items, models that have been tested and certified by either of these three internationally recognized agencies: NSF International (www.nsf.org; CSA International (www.csa-international.org) & Underwriters Laboratory (www.ul.com), should be preferred. They provide a degree of assurance regarding the quality of its manufacturing and the materials it is made from.
Restaurant equipment stores can be a gold mine for spending pennies on the dollar. There are some good deals on expensive equipment on these cash and carry stores. Their online cash and carry stores can also be particularly useful for small wares - the myriad of little stuff like cutlery, dishes, utensils, containers, etc.
Once you have decided on what your budget is and how you are going to spend it, there are pre-purchase factors you need to consider:
  • All models are not the same. Ensure that you familiarize yourself with the function and operating manual for each piece you purchase to avoid unwanted surprises/disasters after you have started
    operating the equipment
  • Restaurant equipment and cooling appliances use a lot of energy. With today’s high costs it is not economical to just turn on all your ovens and stovetops first thing in the morning and leave them on all day long so that whenever you need something, it is ready to go. Learn the heat up times - which are quite rapid with today’s equipment - for each relevant piece. Your hands are valuable equipment. Sometimes the manual skill you have will be faster than the time it takes to set up, use, break down and clean an attachment or piece of specialized equipment.
 
 
OVERVIEW
The following is meant as an overview of your most basic equipment needs. It cannot possibly represent all the different factors and specialties that make up the unique cooking needs of YOUR restaurant.
 
COOKING
The rangetop and oven constitute the bulk of the cooking requirements in a commercial kitchen, but besides this other cooking and food preparation equipment are also quite essential including bake pans, woks, cooking pots and fry pans. As such, they are often found together in one unit. They most commonly use electricity, gas, or electromagnetic induction as their energy source.
The rangetop can easily accommodate 6 pots and pans cooking at different temperatures at the same time on a variety of different cooktops. Ovens, in addition to roasting and baking, can also do many of the jobs normally done on the rangetop, such as braising, poaching, and simmering. This frees up the rangetop for other tasks. 
 
Cooktops
 
  1. Open burners. Electric coils or gas flames, burners heat quickly and can be turned off after short use. Cooktop space is limited to one pot per burner.
  2. Flattop. A steel plate covers the entire burner section, which allows more cooking space. Varying thicknesses of the steel plate top are available depending on the weight that it needs to support. The thicker the plate, the longer the preheat. With the burners set at different temperatures, pots can be moved around the flat top as required. Gas ranges can have a steel plate cover that includes burner ringtops that can be removed to allow access to the direct flames beneath.
  3. Induction cooktops. Using an electromagnetic field to agitate the molecules in steel or iron cookware, an induction top does not become hot. The pots and pans that sit on the top become hot. It heats more efficiently and more precisely.
“It’s much faster to cook with induction: you can increase or drop the temperature far more quickly, which is a more efficient use of energy. Cutting energy use, when you don’t need it, makes a huge difference in a commercial kitchen”, says prominent Australian chef, restaurateur and TV cooking personality Neil Perry, who was a leader in adopting the technology.
With gas or electric, 35-65% of the heat created is lost to the atmosphere, which often makes the kitchen a hot place. Induction cooking is 90-95% efficient, making a much more comfortable working environment.
Perry adds, “They’re far easier to clean after use. You are no longer a slave to an incredibly dirty gas stove top (or electric for that matter) with multiple fittings that must cool down and be dismantled ahead of cleaning. There is far more elbow grease involved when cleaning a gas top.”
Induction cooktops used to be out of range (pun intended) for most budgets, but prices are now comparable to gas and electric cooktops.
 
Ovens
There are many kinds of ovens used for all kinds of specialty or high-volume purposes. Most ranges will offer either a conventional oven or a convection oven.
 
CONVENTIONAL OVENS
Conventional ovens simply heat air in an enclosed space. Variations are often available, like ovens as part of a broiler, or stack ovens that consist of individual shelves or decks. Pans are placed directly on the oven deck rather than on wire shelves and you can adjust the temperatures of each deck.
 
CONVECTION OVENS
Convection ovens have fans that circulate the hot air. This distributes the heat rapidly throughout the interior. The forced air cooks foods more quickly at lower temperatures. Plus, shelves can be closer together than in conventional ovens without blocking heat flow.
 
SLOW- COOK-AND-HOLD OVENS
Available as both convection ovens and as regular stationary-air ovens, slow cook-and-hold ovens have more sophisticated features. Computerized electronic controls and special probes can sense when a roast is done and tell the oven to switch from cooking temperature to holding temperature. Many are also designed for low-temperature roasting. Sensitive controls make it possible to cook at steady, reliable temperatures of 200°F (95°C) or lower and to hold foods at 140°F (60°C) for long periods. It takes many hours to roast at a low temperature like 200°F (95°C), but by setting the controls in advance, large cuts of meat can be roasted overnight, unattended.
 
BARBECUE/SMOKE OVENS
These ovens operate like conventional ovens with one important difference: they produce wood smoke,
with woods such as hickory, mesquite, or fruitwoods such as apple or cherry. The smoke created by the wood surrounds the food and adds flavor while it bakes or roasts. A barbecue oven should not be confused with a smoker which is used to smoke, for example, hundreds of pounds of meat at a time.
 
Broilers & GRILLS
Broiling and grilling is a favorite way of preparing steaks, chops, chicken, and many other items. Overhead broilers generate heat from above the grate that holds the food items, grills generate their heat from below the grate that holds the food. Apart from heavy duty grills, other grilling equipment including panini grills, grill bricks, grill scrapers and BBQ grill baskets are also a popular and essential choice.
Broilers and grills can produce very high heat and consume vast quantities of energy - up to 2,000°F (1,100°C) in some cases, so food must be watched closely to avoid burning. Temperature is controlled by lowering or raising the food grate. Grilled foods are popular because of their charcoal taste, which is created by smoke from the meat fats that drip into the heat source.
 
Deep Fryers
Although a separate piece of equipment from a range, deep fryers for restaurants are often heavily used for one purpose - cooking foods in hot fat. Given the popularity of fried foods, this function is important. Either they are gas deep fryers or electric deep fryers, a standard deep fryer has thermostatic controls that maintain the fat at preset temperatures. An automatic fryer removes the food from the fat after an automatically preset time.
 
Coming Soon: Kettles, Steamers, Processing Equipment & Commercial Cooling Equipmen
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