Fire It Up! Create Different Flavors with Griddles and Charbroilers

If you’re a restaurant owner or chef, you might have a choice to make when outfitting your commercial kitchen: Should you install a griddle or a charbroiler — or perhaps even both — for your cooking needs?

Both have their pluses and minuses, but you should understand that your choice could significantly affect the taste of your menu items, especially meats. Charbroiling releases grease and oils that vaporize and incinerate when met with the extremely hot surfaces of a charbroiler, giving the food a light charcoal-smoke flavor many people enjoy.

A large number of guests can immediately tell the difference between grilled and charbroiled meats; one foodie recently noticed Chipotle restaurants vary in their use of meat-cooking methodology.

Here are the main features of charbroilers versus griddles.

Charbroilers: These lidless appliances cook food quickly on top of a grated surface, exposing it to temperatures that can exceed 260°C (500°F). That action sears in flavors and produces a roasted aroma and effect called the Maillard reaction (the aforementioned vaporization and incineration) that only occurs when foods are cooked at such high temperatures. Charbroiler burners are typically closer together than those on a regular outdoor grill and get much hotter, putting out as much as 40,000 BTU/hour, per burner, of dry heat. That ranks them among the highest energy consumers compared to other commercial cooking devices.

Some commercial charbroilers are designed to cook using only infrared energy, though most use infrared in part with convection and conduction. Some come with extra features such as gas orifice sizing, under-burner heat deflectors and burner divider plates known as "superchargers.”

Setup of indoor units usually means installation of a significant exhaust system that can efficiently clear the room of cooking smoke. They’re typically fueled by propane or natural gas and come in a range of sizes that fit into commercial countertops.

Griddles: Chefs sometimes prefer to do all their cooking on regular griddles, arguing griddles retain the inherent flavor of the food itself instead of transmitting a smoky taste. They employ smooth, evenly heated cooking surfaces instead of grates. Chefs must consider whether they prefer a stainless steel or chromium surface; stainless is more scratch- and dent-resistant, while chromium is more corrosion-resistant. Griddles typically cook via low to medium heat, using electric, gas, steam or infrared power. Snap-action thermostatic controls offer specific temperature settings, but can be slightly more expensive.

Electric and steam models heat slower than gas-powered options, but heat evenly once they’re ready. Propane or natural gas models allow the chef more intermittent temperature control and are among the least expensive to operate. Infrared commercial griddles heat the fastest, making them extremely efficient. Any of those griddle options are almost always cheaper energy-wise than a charbroiler.

Still in doubt? Talk to your TriMark representative, who can help you make the best choice for your business.

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