The classification of a commercial grill can cover the gamut of a small countertop contact appliance to large open fire equipment that creates theatre cooking. So how can distributors judge what the most suitable grill is in each case?
According to Jestic Foodservice Solutions’ culinary director Michael Eyre: “The key factor dealers should consider before specifying a grill is the operator’s menu and the number of covers at each site. Jestic’s experienced team can advise dealers on the best grill for each operator – starting with equipment demonstrations through to supporting trials, installations, equipment training and menu development.”
Sometimes the decision is driven by the amenities available at the site itself though, as Eyre detailed: “The type of fuel will often be determined by the available power at a venue, whether that be single or three phase electricity and if the venue has a gas supply. If the operator is situated in a designated smoke control area they must only use charcoal, which is on the Defra approved list, and they will require specialist extraction.”
“For operations with a relatively low skilled workforce electric or gas equipment is preferable as grills can be turned on, the temperature controlled by a dial and turned off at the end of the day. With solid fuel grills you have to manage temperatures with a degrading fuel source and this requires a degree of fire management skill and experience.”
He further advised that for open kitchens or front of house applications, a grill with visual appeal is vital: “One grill which is proving particularly popular for this kind of application is the new Mibrasa Fire Parrilla open grill – which combines charcoal and firewood cooking to create the ultimate live fire grilling appliance. The base is lined with refractory bricks to ensure maximum heat efficiency and complete thermal insulation in the grilling area – whilst the built-in air circulation system reduces the transmission of high temperatures from the burning pit to ensure a comfortable environment front of house,” he underlined.
Elsewhere, cooking equipment manufacturer Charvet’s grills and salamanders are usually supplied as part of a full cooking suite. The firm also has the ability to tailor the colour panels on its range of salamanders to help distributors colour match a client’s décor.
In terms of other essential specification considerations, UK sales director Ian Clow cited energy output, as well as underlining: “There should also be some attention paid to the manufacturer and the reliability and build quality they bring to a product. For high volume sites and/or where food is served all day, only a true heavy duty product will last any reasonable length of time.”
He believes that both gas and electric have roles to play for grill fuel types. Clow added: “In busy sites and especially when used in front of customers, the ruggedly good-looking traditional gas salamanders provide the consistent grill power needed for service, along with the theatre of cooking and a warm fiery glow that customers love.
“But – and especially in sites with more irregular service patterns – there has been a move away from traditional style gas salamanders to more efficient electric units which provide energy savings by shutting down when not in use. These grills are using infra-red heating units that still provide 400°C in just nine seconds and 570°C after 15 minutes of continuous use.”
Over at Grande Cuisine, it supplies gas and electric grills from Mareno. The supplier’s MD Steve Hobbs analysed: “The biggest drawback of a solid fuel grill is that it is much harder to control its temperature – gas and electric units are much more controllable. When it comes to choosing between gas and electric the main consideration is that with a gas unit you need to extract smoke, grease, and CO2, whereas with an electric grill you don’t need to worry about the latter.”
On advice to distributors regarding grill specification, he summed up: “There is a combination of three factors to consider – performance, reliability, and serviceability. A gas chargrill for instance might give you the levels of performance that you want, but if the product in question has a temperamental pilot light, or burners that are easily blocked and difficult to clean, then you are not going to be doing the end user any favours by specifying it in the long run.”
At fellow supplier, Euro Catering, sales director Justin Towns emphasised the importance of considering a site’s menu when recommending grilling appliances: “Are they looking at the grill being the centrepiece and the prime cooking piece of equipment in an establishment like a steakhouse or is a chargrilled item just part of the menu?
“The client may want to consider what is important in presentation – do they want to show grill marks on the food? If they are doing lots of burgers the customer might not even see the score marks between the buns. The different menu requirements eg, vegan, may mean that a separate grill may be needed.”
Towns identified a big current trend towards robata grills, which can use solid fuel, gas or both. Conversely he also reported that electric grills are proving popular, often because gas may not be available. He added: “These are effectively heated bars/elements that put the score marks on the food a lot more quickly. In many cases they have a water reservoir underneath that catches the juices and fat from the food and the water keeps humidity in the food. They can be plumbed in so they are relatively easier to clean.”
For Pete Gray, MD of Taylor UK, grill specification depends on “a huge variety of factors, from the size of establishment, number of covers and peak service period to the products being cooked and the staff skill level. Is it for front of house or back of house? Programmable clamshell grills with intuitive control panels, such as the Taylor L810, are simple to operate so that even relatively unskilled staff will be able to cope easily.”
He weighed up: “For sites wanting to produce foods quickly, such as for fast food, then clamshell grills are ideal. For these operators we’d recommend three phase electric units: they’re easy to fit, easy to move if necessary, and easy to service.
“For sites looking for that flame grilled finish and flavour, plus some theatre, the large solid fuel Josper units are ideal.”
Elsewhere, the advice of Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM)’s commercial director, Mark Hogan, was: “As when specifying any product, you should make sure it fits the needs of the site, that it can keep pace with the required output and that it has access to all necessary services and ventilation suitable to each appliance.
“While barbeque grills are traditionally used for outdoor dining it is possible to use certain modern models inside, with suitable ventilation. This allows businesses to offer authentic barbequed products all year round.
“FEM supplies a range of enclosed barbecue ovens from Pujadas. These require less supervision than traditional barbecues while still delivering authentic flame-grilled flavour and can be used both outdoors and indoors.”
However, he warned: “You should never consider domestic barbecues in a commercial setting. Commercial cooking equipment is much more hardwearing than domestic versions.”