Selecting range or hotplate equipment can be a bit overwhelming at first. Ranges come in more eclectic forms than any other pieces of kitchen equipment, and at first glance, picking the perfect one can seem impossible. Ironically, ranges are one of the most customizable pieces of equipment, and picking the right one has more to do with working around your operation rather than your operation working around a piece of equipment. Taking this into consideration, let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to look at when picking out a commercial range.
Size Matters!: There are several different size issues that are critical to examine when purchasing pieces of range equipment. Here are the most important factors to look at:
- Number of Burners / Ovens Needed – The number of burners and ovens a commercial range requires is first priority. These two factors drastically change the size, and must be known in advance. A range that has two ovens will take up usually around 60”; a sizable hunk of kitchen space. Conversely, a range can be purchased without ovens in instances where they are not needed. Ovenless ranges can be bought with legs, cabinet cases, or even as countertop models. For obvious reasons, the number of burners will also affect the size of a range (i.e. an 8 burner range will be around 4 times as big as one with 2 burners), so it is best to have an idea as to how many burners will be used at peak hours. A small hot plate will suffice for operations that infrequently use their range, but for operations with heavily used sauté stations, a larger range may be necessary.
- Size of Burners – This is a little less obvious to those in search of range equipment. Standard gas burners have a 12”x12” grate area, and most electric burners have an 8”-10” diameter heating element. This is fine for most standard size cooking pots and pans, but not every piece of cookware is built to cook on a standard range. Stock pot ranges or Chinese wok ranges may be necessary depending on the size of the cookware being used. Both stock pot ranges and wok ranges have larger burners intended to accommodate larger pieces of cookware, and more often than not, have extra heating power to save cooks time.
- Height – Another often overlooked size factor is how much room is available above the range. Of course there will be a hood overtop, but is there room for an attached shelf or another piece of equipment (for more on this see below)? A back guarding shelf could prevent things from falling behind the range, and expand otherwise limited storage space.
A Range Is More Than A Range!: Ranges offer many add-ons, and can be purchased in a number of different configurations. Here are sample of some of the most common features that a range can come with, or have added on:
- Burners – Typically the most important part of a range, there are two standard options for traditional gas burners. The star burner and the anti-clog usually come standard, however some ranges can also come equipped with larger burners for stock pots, as well as long or standard size French top burners. Additionally, the number of burners is variable. Ranges can come with as many or as few burner as the purchaser, and cook tops can be split with other cooking equipment. Burner configurations can also be “step-up”, which is a term that refers to height of the burner from the cook top. Traditionally step-up units feature front burners which are level with the cooktop, and rear burners that are raised several inches from the cook top, which allows for easier access.
- Flat Top Griddle – A flat top griddle is one of the most common cooking surfaces that split a cook top with burners. For example, if a 60” base is needed because it has dual ovens, but 4 burners are plenty for the operation, a 36” gas griddle can replace the additional burners that would otherwise be superfluous. This can save valuable counter space, as the room that a griddle would have taken up otherwise is free to be used in other ways. Griddles are often also available in step-up models as well.
- Charbroilers – Charbroilers can also be found on the cook tops of many ranges. These broilers are traditionally radiant char-broilers, as lava rock broilers tend to be a bit deeper and can be a pain to clean. This is another way to save counter space, and there are even models that feature burners, griddles, and charbroilers.
- Ovens – Many (not all) ranges come with standard oven bases, however, they can be switched out or upgraded should the buyer desire. Standard ovens can be upgraded with convection or sometimes deck ovens, and most can be replaced with a cabinet base, a modular base, or in some instances, refrigerated drawers.
- Additional Add-Ons – Many ranges have many optional add-ons that can be added to them. Along with the aforementioned cook top add-ons and refrigerated drawers, some other add-on pieces of equipment include cheesemelters and salamanders which can be affixed above a unit for finishing. Additionally, things like extra / taller shelves, towel racks, and other accessories can be added to the rear shelf.
Electric Or Gas?: Gas is the industry standard when it comes to a range. Gas is reliable, and takes significantly less time to preheat. There are, however, quite a number of electric ranges with ovens on the market. They are only produced with French top burners and griddle combinations (there are not any existing range models that feature an electric charbroiler), however many of the other add-ons available for gas models can be added to electric ranges as well (convection ovens, cheesmelters, etc.). Electric ranges require significantly less ventilation, and are a viable option when gas lines or ventilation hoods are not accessible.
When To Customize?: Custom ranges are becoming more and more common in the commercial kitchen. Many kitchens often struggle with space constraints, and a custom range can be one of the best solutions. A custom piece allows customers to control the specifications of the range to a tee; adding burners, add-ons, shelves, cook tops, etc. to suit their kitchen perfectly. This is becoming the norm, as purchasing many pieces of large equipment can not only be an inconvenience as far as space is concerned, but can become costly to purchase and operate equipment. Many restaurateurs opt for custom pieces to simplify their cooking lines, and streamline costs.