Grills and Griddles

Grills and griddles are major pieces of cooking equipment that many restaurant operators use to cook signature dishes. Grills, in particular, provide a flavor profile that other types of cooking equipment cannot replicate.

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When specifying griddles and grills, foodservice operators and their supply chain partners should take into consideration a number of factors, most notably menu, portion sizes and approximate volume of food that culinary staff will cook with this equipment during peak periods. This will help foodservice operators determine the properly sized unit that will best meet their needs and ultimately support the cooking process.

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It is important to understand which menu items culinary staff will cook using a griddle or grill to best determine the proper cooking surface and size. For example, if culinary staff will prepare fish on the grill the foodservice operator should specify a unit with more narrow ribs. It is important to note that grills with tighter cooking profiles across the grate will offer more consistent cooking times.

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Energy Star Griddles

Only thermostatically-controlled griddles may qualify for Energy Star ratings. Single- and double-sided commercial gas griddles must have a cooking energy efficiency of more than 38 percent and a normalized idle energy rate of less than 2,650 Btu per hour per foot.

Energy Star energy efficiency requirements for single- and double-sided commercial electric griddles require a cooking energy efficiency of more than 70 percent and a normalized idle energy rate of less than 320 watts per foot.

With griddles, plate size and thickness will help determine how much food goes through the unit at peak times. The thicker the griddle plate, the more heat it will hold. Operators also can choose grooved griddle plates, which produce a sear on meats. Foodservice operators need to assess what type of grill heating element will best suit their application. For example, those foodservice operations that include exhibition cooking, a lava rock or ceramic rock grill is preferable.

Controls play an important role in the use of griddles. For example, manual controls offer more latitude in terms of temperature control, while thermostatic controls are easier for inexperienced cooks to use. Griddles with snap-action style controls only provide gas to the unit when needed, which helps save energy.

One common mistake operators make is not looking at the equipment size in relation to the user’s reach. Because unit heights can hinder accessibility for some users, especially when the equipment is placed on a base or counter, size needs to be taken into account.

Both grills and griddles require proper ventilation, and this is a key consideration when specifying this type of cooking equipment. Plan all kitchen layouts in conjunction with HVAC professionals to make sure the appropriate system is installed.

To ensure a griddle or grill functions properly it is important to make sure the unit receives the right gas pressure. Starving these units of gas is among the more frequent causes of equipment failure and can shorten the effective service life of a griddle or grill. This is of particular interest when these units share a gas line with one another or a different piece of gas-powered equipment.

Foodservice operators should determine where and how culinary staff will use this equipment. Is a freestanding or tabletop unit warranted? Will a refrigerated base be needed for additional storage? While some units require legs to deflect heat, others have built-in heat deflectors. Mounted griddles also can be specified in kitchens with limited space.

Foodservice operators should take a look at grill and griddle maintenance requirements, as some units require more time than others. Char rock and briquette grills can be more difficult to clean than radiant models, and stainless steel radiants are easier to clean than cast iron. With griddles, there are some surfaces that clean more easily than others.

CFESA’s Preventative Maintenance Tips for Griddles
The Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA) suggests foodservice operators perform the following preventative maintenance tasks to help ensure their griddles have long and useful service lives:

  • Check power cord and plug
  • Check for excessive wear
  • Check for proper pilot light burning
  • Check that burners have blue flame
  • Check that thermostats across griddle measures 350 degrees F with thermostat
  • Empty troughs on a daily basis
  • Clean griddles at or about 150 to 175 degrees F

Additional service tips are available on the CFESA website at www.cfesa.com

Grill Heating

When choosing a grill heating element, there are a number of factors foodservice operators should consider:

  • Radiants are available in either cast iron, which is the most commonly specified, or heavy gauge stainless steel. Cast iron holds more heat than stainless steel, but takes longer to heat up. Stainless steel is more affordable than cast iron, but warps easier and needs to be replaced more often.
  • Geared for exhibition cooking, lava rock or ceramic stone units are not as widely used as radiant grills due to the extensive maintenance these charbroilers require. Lava rocks are loose volcanic stone, while ceramic stones are shaped like charcoal briquettes and have a uniform density. While lava rock grills cost less, radiant units don’t require as much maintenance.
  • There also are a small number of infrared heated grills that feature a glass surface protecting the burners, which are located below the cooking surface.

Three Signs It Is Time to Replace a Griddle or Grill
If properly maintained, griddles and grills can function effectively and efficiently for many years in a variety of foodservice operations. Still, each griddle or grill will eventually reach the end of its service life. Here are three indications that it might be time to replace a griddle or grill.

  1. Signs of Wear: If grills or griddles show signs of corrosion, pitting and/or excessive rust, the equipment’s operation may be compromised.
  2. Inconsistent Results: If it takes longer for the grill or griddle to heat up or complete a cooking task, this will negatively affect food quality and/or speed of service.
  3. Menu or Venue Change: If a foodservice operation is experiencing a major menu overhaul or is moving to a larger or smaller facility with a different footprint and/or utility capabilities, it is time to reevaluate the grills and griddles to confirm if new units are warranted.
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