A commercial range is a heavy duty piece of restaurant equipment in your kitchen that you rely on. Extremely versatile, ranges come in all shapes and sizes, featuring a combination of the following: burner(s), griddle, plancha, ovens, salamander/broiler, bottom refrigerator and much more. Sold as a stand-alone or modular unit, a commercial range can be configured to meet the needs of your unique business.
Keep in mind that when shopping for commercial equipment like ranges, high power is something you need—and you’ll get! But while many chefs opt for units with higher BTUs, chances are you won’t notice much of a difference in performance between a 30,000 per burner BTU versus a 35,000 per burner BTU. As such, instead of paying more for higher BTUs instead consider other features that might be better for you like an electronic ignition, an added salamander/broiler or even going with an induction cooktop instead!
In this buying guide, you’ll learn more about the different ways to configure your commercial range.
There’s no right answer when it comes to choosing between a gas range or an electric range for your range—it’s really up to personal preference. Chefs have long loved the cooking consistency of a gas range, and you can often save money on electric utilities since gas tends to be cheaper. That said, with an electric range you don’t have to worry about a gas leak and with the advent of induction units, which are more energy efficient, you could even see a decrease in your bills.
Instead of guiding your purchase decision by what some may refer to as "restaurant grade" or "heavy-duty grade", we encourage you to instead consider your environment and menu. Places like churches and firehouses should not have standing pilots, which is why you should consider a commercial range equipped with an electric ignition. With an electric ignition, there is an electric spark that lights the flow of gas (similar to your gas range at home) for an immediate flame.
Not only is it safer, but you’ll save a lot on your gas bill (in some cases, thousands of dollars) by not utilizing a standing pilot light. Commercial ranges equipped with an electronic ignition (an optional upgrade in many cases) may cost more up front, but your long-term savings will more than make up the cost!
Before designing your dream range configuration, consider if your kitchen has space for it! Every commercial range will need some kind of a hood system (equipped with hood filters) to filter smoke and grease-laden particles from the air. Without a properly functioning hood system, you could be putting yourself and your employees at dangerous risk of a grease fire.
Codes vary between municipalities, but general rules require a minimal space of six inches around the entire range. That means that your hood must extend at least 6 inches beyond your commercial range.
Most operators don’t realize that commercial ranges come in a myriad of configurations to suit the needs of each kitchen—in fact, Southbend alone boasts more than a thousand different range configurations. Try out the Southbend Range Configurator to find your perfect setup!
If you’re shopping for a new commercial range, we recommend first taking a hard look at your menu. Knowing what types of food you’ll be cooking (and how much of it) will help you determine what types of cooking surfaces you need. Are you an operation that specializes in all-day breakfast and anticipate cooking a lot of eggs or pancakes? Or maybe you want to put the finishing golden touch on macaroni and cheese.
Don’t waste money (and time) with a bad configuration. Think about the kinds of food you intend to cook:
The most popular option found on commercial ranges is the gas open burner. Prized for its versatility, you can boil, fry, sauté and more on a burner. When it comes to gas burners, instead of asking "Do I need one?" a better question is "How many will I need?".
Griddles are smooth, flat surfaces that are ideal for breakfast service or flipping burgers throughout the day. Great for large and small operations, griddles are extremely versatile and are a favorite in many commercial kitchens.
Combination Open Burner and Smooth Griddle
A combination surface is just that—a combination of gas burners and a griddle so you get the best of both worlds. For the ultimate flexibility in cooking techniques, a combination burner and griddle setup works well in most commercial kitchens.
Unlike commercial griddles which utilize a straight, side-to-side heat source, a plancha is equipped with a circular burner. This burner ensures that the middle of the smooth grill is the hottest area while the outer edges remain cooler.
A French top range is recognizable by its circular cast iron ring. Pans can be placed directly on the flame, or on the removable cover. Because there are only two temperatures (on and off), French tops are ideal for simmering and holding temperature; for example, you can begin cooking at the higher temperature in the center ring and then move it towards the outer edges for simmering. French tops do require regular seasoning.
Essentially a grill for the commercial kitchen, a charbroiler is perfect for those wanting hot, direct heat on burgers, steak, fish and more.
Broiler, Salamander or Cheesemelter
Great for finishing off dishes like French onion soup, lasagnas and more, an additional salamander/broiler or cheesemelter is perfect for commercial kitchens who want to add that final browned touch to dishes. Read on to learn more about each:
Often a low-power option featuring a metal shelf and an open front, cheesemelters are often equipped with electrical heating elements that are perfect for giving dishes a finishing touch, like melting cheese on a chicken parmigiana.
Featuring overhead burners, a salamander is typically open in the front and has racks that can slide in and out. Unlike cheesemelters, salamanders have a wider range in temperature controls so it can be utilized to cook, not just brown or melt food. When kept at a lower temperature, a salamander can even be used to effectively hold food at a safe warming temperature. Depending on the manufacturer, a salamander may come with a griddle on top for added versatility.
Induction is still rather new to most American commercial kitchens, but some manufacturers are starting to include induction technology in their configurations. Rather than relying on gas or heating elements, induction cooking generates heat by relying on the power of magnets. By creating rapidly alternating magnetic fields, induction cooking is 50% or more effective at energy transfer than its electric and gas counterparts because the heat is being generated by the pan itself. Note: in order to cook with induction you require induction-ready, or magnetic cookware.
While determining your ideal configurations for the top of your range, you should also be considering what would be placed below. The following are common options found on most ranges, however check with your individual manufacturer for what is offered for your specific unit.
Standard or Convection Oven?
Standard ovens utilize a stationary heat source while convection ovens are equipped with a fan to circulate hot air within the cavity. Some chefs prefer this type of heating which results in faster cooking times (roughly 25% faster) and more consistent heating without fear of hot spots.
Like the name suggests, a space-saver oven is a narrower oven designed to fit in tight spaces. Keep in mind that with a smaller oven you can only fit full-size sheet pans lengthwise. If you anticipate a lot of baking, consider an additional convection oven to handle those needs.
Commercial Cabinet Base
An open cabinet base is great for additional storage when it comes to keeping additional sauté pans, pots and other supplies close at hand.
Commercial Refrigerator Base
When working on the line, having a refrigerator base can really help your productivity. With a refrigerated base, you can keep your filets, toppings and other ingredients close by without disrupting the flow of traffic in a tight (and busy) commercial kitchen.
Commercial Freezer Base
If you anticipate cooking a lot of frozen items, like frozen burger patties, then opting for a freezer base might suit your needs best.
Countertop Char Broilers, Griddles and more
Tight on space in your commercial kitchen? You’re not alone! Many chefs are equipping their kitchens with countertop griddles, char broilers and more. Compact enough for crowded kitchens, countertop restaurant equipment is versatile for tight spaces and delivers the same power and durability as floor models.
Now that you’ve configured the perfect commercial range, consider these additional accessories you’ll want for your equipment:
Gas Hose Connector Kits
Specified in the 2006 edition of the National Fuel Gas Code (ANSI Z223.1 / NFPA 54), commercial-grade, flexible connectors are now required on all foodservice installations of gas appliances; this is because inspectors require operators to move these heavy duty appliances for cleaning and sanitation purposes.
Gas hose connector kits like the Dormont Blue Hose® system are ideal for establishing a safe kitchen. Dormont’s blue hose technology features a flexible, durable corrugated 304 stainless steel tubing wrapped in a tight-weave stainless steel braid to prevent stretching. Plus, with Dormont’s selections of gas connector accessories like the Safety Quik® or SnapFast™ Quick Disconnect gas connectors, you can easily find a good, safe solution for your kitchen.
Note: for kitchens above 2,000 feet, your gas valves will need to be adjusted to compensate for the thinner air. Consult your local service technician for more.
Most health inspectors will expect to see casters, on all of your heavy duty equipment, commercial ranges included. Casters make it easy to move equipment for regular cleaning. Make no mistake, your inspectors will be checking those hard-to-reach areas!