Ranges are one of the most prominent types of cooking equipment found in any commercial foodservice operation. Commercial ranges are popular for their simplicity and versatility, used for braising, sautéing, pan-frying, boiling, and simmering. Ranges come in a variety of sizes, styles, and configurations to better address specific kitchen needs. To get started, it is important to understand the different types of ranges on the market.
Types of Ranges
There are technically three different categories of ranges:
Commercial specialty ranges include Chinese and wok ranges used primarily for Asian cuisine, as well as stock pot stoves. Stock pot stoves are a smaller type of range with a limited number of burners used mainly for heating large stockpots of liquid. By far, the two most common categories are restaurant series and heavy-duty.
Restaurant Series Ranges
Heavy Duty/Modular Ranges
Available in varying widths. Most units are either 24, 36, 48, 60, or 72 inches wide.
Typically come in one standard width, depending on the manufacturer. Usually between 32 and 36 inches.
Standard depth of 36 inches.
Depths can vary, but the most common is 42 inches.
Lighter construction. Some units are bolted together instead of welded like their heavy-duty counterparts.
Units are normally welded together to withstand more rugged applications, built to last longer under high volume and constant use.
Independent units that stand alone.
Designed to be banked together for a continuous line.
Each unit must be connected to the gas supply separately, with the gas manifold connecting to the rear.
Gas manifolds are in the front so they can easily be joined to other units.
Lower BTU output, usually ranging between 15,000 to 25,000 per burner.
Higher BTU rating for faster cooking, usually varying between 20,000 and 45,000 per burner.
Surface finish is normally painted.
Stainless finish is common for the front and sides.
Traditionally the more economical option.
Traditionally the more expensive option.
Oven BTU input is around 25,000.
Oven has a higher heat input, ranging typically between 35,000 and 50,000 BTU.
Please note, BTU (British Thermal Unit) is a unit of measurement common on gas-powered cooking equipment, referring to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one-degree Fahrenheit. Traditionally, the higher the BTU, the higher the production output. For more information on BTUs, click here.
Range Power Type
Ranges are available in both electric and gas. Before committing to a specific range, it’s best to know how your commercial kitchen is outfitted and what adjustments will be necessary. For commercial electric ranges, know your voltage (208V, 240V, etc.) and phase hookup (single or three). Commercial gas ranges are available in either liquid propane or natural gas. If you’re opting for a gas range, it is important to know your gas hookup ahead of time.
Is gas-powered or electric better? For a lot of applications, it’s just splitting hairs. Many claim the biggest benefit of electric ranges over gas ranges is the extra layer of safety. Because they’re electric, there’s no need for a pilot light. Electric ranges are simpler to operate and generally considered safer, ideal for churches and school cafeterias that won’t be constantly operating their range. Additional benefits of electric cooking equipment include:
- Typically considered cheaper and easier to install
- No danger of a gas leak
- Considered more efficient because energy input is converted directly to heat
Though the numerous benefits of electric commercial stoves should certainly be taken into consideration, it’s important not to discount all the advantages of a commercial gas cooktop. Gas units are still the most popular in commercial kitchens—and for good reason. Some benefits of gas heating include:
- Greater control over heat intensity
- Reduced wait time as the heating element heats up
- Quicker cool down
- Not inconvenienced by power outages
- Typically considered to heat faster than electric stoves for quicker turnaround
What size do you need? For restaurant series ranges, the common widths are 24” (traditionally features 4 burners), 36” (6 burners), 48” (8 burners), 60” (10 burners), and 72” (12 burners). The larger the width, in theory, the more product you’ll be able to produce. You’ll want to consider how much product you’ll be cooking up during high-volume rushes and factor that into the size. Standard depth, regardless of width, for restaurant series ranges is 36”. You’ll also want to keep hood space in mind. Many health codes require hoods to extend at least 6” beyond the equipment. For instance, if you have a 60” hood, the widest range you’ll be able to place under it would be 48”.
If space is an issue, there are other options besides open burners. Griddle tops are popular among restaurants and diners specializing in breakfast foods. If you’re working with a menu with more variety, you’ll want to take into consideration the number of burners vs. griddle space to configure your unit. Many manufacturers offer griddle options in 12” increments, and there are often “space saver” ovens to help you make the most out of your kitchen layout.
Charbroiler vs. Griddle
Different Range Top Configurations
Some popular range configurations include:
- Open Burner/Grate Tops: The most popular of the range top configurations, these feature cast iron or steel framing supporting the pot or pan above the burner. They allow for more flexibility, accommodating several different types of cooking methods. They usually come with a removable tray under the grates to catch any spills for easy cleaning.
- Hot Tops: Also referred to as “uniform heat tops,” these steel plates typically range between 12 and 18 inches wide and ½ to 1 inch thick. The heat input is generally greater for hot tops than for a single open burner.
- Graduated Hot Tops: These feature two or three concentric rings that may be specified to accommodate different size stockpots. The burners are designed and positioned to heat the different rings, beginning with the center and moving out to match the base diameter of the stockpot. If a smaller pot is being used, only the inner rings are heated.
- Griddle Tops: These steel plates fitted over the range are great for cooking a wide variety of foods like pancakes, breads and buns, bacon, hamburgers, chicken, etc. They transfer heat from the plate directly into the food. Griddles normally range in width from 12 to 36 inches. The thickness of the plate is important as it directly affects the cooking process, determining how quickly the desired temperature is reached. Medium-duty griddle tops are between ½ to ¾ inch thick, whereas heavy-duty tops are typically around 7/8 to 1-1/2 inch thick. The thicker the plate, the longer the heat retention, more even the heat distribution, and the less likely to warp.
- French Hot Plates: Most common on commercial electric ranges, these round metal plates are traditionally 6 to 10 inches in diameter and designed to fit over the top of a burner. They are used in lieu of an open burner to provide a more even heat distribution and easier cleanup.
In addition to what’s on top, the base you choose for your commercial range can greatly enhance your cooking efficiency. Both conventional and convection ovens can be specified for placement beneath the top, or you can forego the oven for a storage base where you can stash pots and pans.
- Standard depth ovens – conventional standard depth ovens use a stationary, radiant heat source and fit pans that are up to 2-1/2” deep.
- Bakery depth ovens – bakery depth ovens offer more space for bigger pans up to 4-1/2” deep. This is ideal for baking bread.
- Convection ovens – as opposed to conventional ovens that have a stationary heat source that usually emanates from the bottom, commercial convection ovens feature a built-in fan to circulate forced hot air for a more consistent and efficient baking experience.
Additional Range Options and Accessories
Commercial charbroilers are great for getting those grill-like results in a commercial kitchen. Though typically ordered as stand-alone units, if kitchen space is limited, radiant broilers can be added to your range.
Featuring an adjustable sliding grill, salamander units are best used for finishing foods and desserts. Used for melting, browning, broiling, and caramelizing, they are typically mounted above the cook top on the back shelf of a range.
Adriane works as a Content Specialist at Central Restaurant Products. She has more than a decade of experience as a copywriter and e-commerce strategist, with most of that time spent focusing on the restaurant industry. When she’s not writing about foodservice, Adriane enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling, and hanging out with her dog.