All I Wish I Had Known About Commercial Ranges
All I Wish I Had Known About Commercial Ranges
When I first started working here at DEQonline, I was asked to write product listings for Blodgett, which is mostly commercial ovens and ranges. And, as someone who hadn’t worked very long in the foodservice industry, ranges confused me very much. There were so many options, warranties, and features to consider. Similarly, when writing product listings for Southbend, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. They all seemed the same with maybe one or two minor differences. What did it all mean?
Well, buckle your seat beats (figuratively speaking- Don’t read this while driving), because I’m about to tell you all that I learned.
I’ve been working here for a while now and I’ve learned what the differences mean, why they’re important, and what customers need to know about the options they have.
To begin, let me just state my main point in writing this article. It’s to let you, our trusted and loyal customers and potential customers, know that commercial ranges are one of the most customer-specific and adaptable pieces of restaurants equipment we sell. Whatever you want, whatever you need, we represent brands that are either already making it or that are willing to. We can get you what you need.
But, how to know what you need? Well, that’s our second purpose. I want you to know what I did not understand when I first got hired: the different types of ranges, the power options available, the varying types of burners, tops and bases, the possible widths and depths, and all the accessories we have available so your operation runs as smoothly as possible.
Don’t tune out, because if your operation is a small food truck or a large-scale commercial cafeteria, there will be something in this article for you. Even if all you learn is that you don’t need a particular option, at least you won’t have to wonder whether you made the right choice of commercial grade cooking equipment or not after this. It’s well worth the read.
Four Types of Ranges
The first thing you will need to consider, before anything else, is what “type” of restaurant commercial range you will need. You have four main options: restaurant, heavy-duty, specialty, and countertop.
Restaurant ranges are by far the most common. They are typically used in smaller restaurants and come in sizes between 24” to 72” wide. Being mid-sized, they are an excellent choice for kitchens inside of churches, shelters and schools.
They are far less expensive than heavy-duty ranges because they don’t have to be built with the same heavy-duty construction and they’re not quite as large, but they are still built with the durability and strength one would expect for commercial-grade equipment.
Heavy-duty ranges are like beasts inside a commercial kitchen. Seriously, if you have ever seen one, you know what we’re talking about. They’re large, built to last even under the most demanding of circumstances, and have more power than a restaurant range. They are built to last and maintain consistent results in high-volume operations, such as in large restaurants, correctional facilities, hospitals, and large cafeterias. Anywhere where many meals must be produced in a timely manner throughout the day, a heavy-duty grade range may be your best option.
They are quite a bit more expensive, but the price range is definitely worth it if it’s what your operation needs. It will cause less frustration than getting a range that is not built to meet the demands of your operation and require fewer service trips and maintenance. This is not because any of the other range types are not good options, they’re just not made to withstand the types of demands heavy-duty ranges are.
Heavy-duty ranges are typically 32” to 36” wide and are designed to be connected with a continuous line-up of other ranges and equipment. This makes your heavy-duty, high-demand application run more smoothly and allows you to construct the type of line-up that works best for your specific operation.
Specialty ranges, as their name implies, are ranges made for special and specific uses. In this post, we will discuss two different kinds of specialty ranges you may need. The first will be stock-pot ranges, the second will be wok ranges.
We love the idea of stock-pot ranges. They’re just so convenient! They are made specifically for operations where employees will need to cook with stockpots. Their burners are made to handle potential scrapes so the stockpot won’t damage the range. The stockpot range also stands higher off the ground or cooking surface, making it easier for operators to place heavy stockpots right on the range.
Wok ranges are specifically made for use with woks and are typically found in cooking operations that prepare Asian food. They have a raised ring around the burner that supports the bottom of the wok above the burner so it’s not directly touching but still receives high-temperature heat required for cooking.
Countertop ranges are often used in restaurants, mom and pop diners, food trucks, and concession stands. They are designed to accomplish almost all the same things as a restaurant or heavy-duty range, but on a much smaller scale. They, of course, will not have a base, but they will have up to two to eight burners, allowing you to cook a variety of menu items at once. They are typically available in widths ranging from 15 to 48 inches, perfect for areas with limited space.
These commercial ranges can be powered by electricity or gas. As with most commercial equipment, you can choose between liquid propane or natural gas (For more information on which one might be best for your operation, check out our blog post on the differences between liquid propane and natural gas).
Electric Ranges are available in a variety of voltages, including international voltages if you need it. They are typically considered safer than gas powered ranges because the potential for gas leaks will not be there, however, they do not produce as much power. They are typically thermostatically controlled and use tubular metal elements with a protective cover to hide interior wires.
They are more affordable due to their easy installation. They also come ENERGY STAR certified, depending on the manufacturer and model.
Gas Ranges are available in a variety of BTU capacities. They have more power than their electric counterparts, generating a “hotter” heat. They are manually or thermostatically controlled and heat instantly thanks to their burner light system. Because the burner light design allows them to reach desired temperatures quickly, food items will require less cooking time.
Gas ranges typically perform more efficiently than electrically-powered ranges and are a more popular option. They are more expensive for initial installation but have fewer operational costs later on.
Chefs often have strong preferences about whether they wish to cook on a gas or electric range so please consult the chef or cook before making any purchases.
The types of customizable options are almost mind-blowing. This is the part that was especially overwhelming for me when I first started working here. See, ranges don’t just come with burners and an oven base. The tops of ranges can be made with griddles, charbroilers, salamanders, hot tops, burners, or a combination of them all.
We’ll begin with the feature that has the most options: burners. Burners can come in a variety of shapes and cooking capabilities. For example, you can get coil burners, star burners, solid burners, burners for induction cooking, and French tops. Coil burners are made similarly to the burners that you will see on electric residential ovens. They have the same texture and general shape. The grates are coiled in a circle, focusing the heat toward the middle of your pots and pans.
Star burners are made similarly to coil burners, except instead of having a circular pattern, the grate pattern will be in the shape of a star. This design focuses the heat toward the far corners of the pot or pan (the tips of the star) for a more even heat. Solid burners can have their grates in either a star or coil shape, but they have a solid top so it isn’t visible. One of the main advantages to this type of burner is how easy they are to clean and maintain. One of the main disadvantages is its higher cost.
An increasingly popular option, induction cooking surfaces are energy efficient and easy to maintain. They omit less heat than typical burners so are effective at keeping your kitchen cooler. They also don’t require a hood so can be used in practically any environment. They do, however, require special cookware that contains cast iron or stainless steel.
French burners are solid like solid burners, except they are made completely flat and seamless. They provide a more consistent heat than some of the other burner types and are designed with flexibility in mind. They can even accommodate stock pots!
Hot tops are excellent for providing uniform and consistent heat. They are merely a solid, flat and smooth piece of steel that serves as a cooking surface for the top of your range. They have a single burner per section and are ideal for scooting and moving pots and pans around on. It is strong enough not to get scratched, making it excellent for operations that require you to frequently move or remove pots, pans, and stockpots.
Instead of choosing a typical top with open or closed burners and grates, you can purchase a range with a salamander top. These ranges will have a salamander or broiler built into them so you can conveniently melt cheese, hold food items at proper serving temperatures, give them a finished brown or melted appearance, or even cook items! Some salamanders/broilers have a griddle built onto their tops for added convenience and greater versatility.
Bringing the delicious taste of grilled food indoors, ranges with charbroiler tops allow you to cook items with the charred, grilled appearance and taste customers love so much! The same options charbroilers offer on their own are available for those that go onto your range.
They can be manually or electrically controlled. They can use either lava rock or radiant heat. They can be powered by gas or electricity. Possibilities really are endless for ranges. For more information about charbroilers and the options they offer, read our post Let’s Go Grilling!
I personally love griddles! They are one of my favorite equipment pieces that we sell. They’re just so versatile. You can cook anything on them. Literally anything. It’s amazing how much versatility they offer, all from a convenient place that offers consistent and reliable results. The benefits of a griddle, which you can learn about by reading our Commercial Griddle Buying Guide, can be brought to your range operation when you purchase a range with a griddle top.
And, of course, the ranges we sell offer you any of these top varieties in literally any combination you can think of. If you want a charbroiler, salamander, griddle, and French plate all on one range, we sell it. Check out our Southbend brand, if you don’t believe us. The option will be listed somewhere. Or, if you don’t want to comb through 1200 available range types, just give us a call. We’ll work with you to find you the top configuration you need.
The top can be laid out to meet your specific needs as well. Whether you want the griddle on the right or left side of the top of your range, we have options for that. Ranges really are all about what you- as the customer- wants.
All About The Base
For further proof of this, let’s talk the base of your range. Every option imaginable really. If you want a convection oven, we sell it. If you want a standard, shallow-depth or space saver oven as the base of your range, they’re available. If you need extra storage, we offer cabinet bases. If you want a refrigerated base (yes! Refrigerated!), we sell that too. Possibilities are endless. Just let us know what you need.
For specifics, though, let’s briefly cover what each of these base options will provide you.
Ranges with convection ovens as their base enable you to have the convenience of a convection oven without purchasing a separate unit. Convection ovens have fans which circulate warm air evenly throughout your oven’s interior. This bakes your menu items more evenly, keeping them consistent. Some convection ovens also have a humidity feature which keeps your products moist and fresh.
Standard / Conventional Ovens
Standard ovens do not have the convection capabilities, but can still be used to bake a variety of items. They typically have porcelain interiors or are aligned with some form of porcelain to make them easier to clean. For more on the difference between conventional and convection ovens read our blog “The Great Debate.”
Space Saver Ovens
Space saver ovens are typically conventional ovens that are smaller. This enables you to have all the benefits of a standard oven without requiring as much floor space. This is excellent for kitchens that already have limited space or a tight lineup.
Ranges with a cabinet base provide operators with additional storage space. While they will not enable operators to cook more items from the convenience of a single machine, ranges with a cabinet base can be used to store a variety of items, including pots and pans that you use frequently, food ingredients that you would like within reach while preparing food, or frequently used utensils. They are excellent for kitchens that have limited storage, providing extra storage without taking up anymore of your floor space.
If you need a range that allows you convenient access to food items and ingredients, but most of the ingredients you use require refrigeration, consider purchasing a range with a refrigerated base. You can get either a base that serves as a refrigerator or freezer. This gives you extra cold storage space without taking up any more of your kitchen’s footprint.
Depending on the width of your commercial range, you can get more than one type of base built into your range. For example, we offer some ranges that have a cabinet base on its right side and an oven on its left or vice versa. To shop all our ranges, simply click on the link. You can have a convection oven and standard oven, a cabinet base and a space saver oven, etc. all in one! It all depends on the size of the range you choose and the needs of your particular operation.
Size of Ranges
Some ranges are massive! I’ve personally listed ranges that vary from 12” to 108” wide! The most popular ones, however, are the models that are 24”, 48”, and 60” wide. They are large enough to complete the tasks most restaurants need them for, but are not large enough to take up unnecessary floorspace.
Additional Items You Will Need
Ranges can be expensive investments, but to ensure they work properly and are meeting food safety codes, you must consider these additional accessories and features.
To meet the demands of safety laws and regulations for most districts within the United States, you will need to purchase an exhaust hood with your commercial-grade range. These hoods come in varying sizes to meet the needs of your particular operation. For some of the ranges, purchasing more than one hood may become necessary.
The hoods remove gas, fumes, and smoke from the air, reducing the risk of fire, making it easier to see, and cleaning the air so it is easier to breathe. Most hood systems remove the smoky and grease-filled smoke from the building, expelling it out of a pipe into the outdoors. Some, however, will filter the air and recirculate it throughout the kitchen.
Gas Connection Hoses
For gas commercial ranges, it may be necessary to purchase a connection hose. Some ranges, depending on the manufacturer and model, will come with their own and their own gas conversion kit. If not, however, you will need to purchase one. We recommend Dormont or Krowne Metal because of their wide selection of gas connection type hoses and kits.
If you’re range does not come with casters, consider paying the extra money to have them installed. Having casters, instead of mere legs and feet, will make your range easier to put into place, easier to clean around, and easier to move when necessary. Krowne Metal is our most popular brand for casters if you wish to purchase them separately, but casters can also be added as an upcharge from any of the manufacturers we sell from. For example, if you purchase from Garland, Southbend, Blodgett, Bakers Pride, etc., they all can add casters to your order upon request. Just let us know what you need!
I sincerely hope this post has been helpful to you. Although a bit long, the information contained in it is vital for successfully choosing a commercial restaurant range and it’s everything I wish I had known when I first embarked upon my food service industry career.
If you have any questions, special requests, or are simply ready to order a commercial range, give us a call!