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Cooking Equipment – Gas Or Electric?
In very new foodservice facilities, one of the earliest decisions made during the planning phase is what energy supply will be used to cook the food: gasoline or electrical power? Because this is often a matter of chef personal preference, it is truly one of those questions that will continue to be debated for decades.
Without taking sides, the August 2002 edition of Foodservice Equipment & Supply magazine did a good job of summarizing the benefits of each energy source:
Gas: 1. Overall, natural gas costs much less than electricity, because it contains more Btus (British Thermal Units) delivered from the point of extraction to the point of consumption. An example:
A supply of 100,000 Btus at the wellhead, which is then converted to electricity, will “lose” 73 percent of its original energy by the time it is transferred via power lines to the restaurant, delivering only 27,000 Btus for actual use. Take the exact same 100,000 Btus, put it in the form of natural gas, and deliver it to the same restaurant through a series of gasoline pipelines, and the restaurant receives 91,000 Btus, a net loss of only 7 percent (7000 Btus).
2. Electricity has an additional cost, known as demand factor, which is not included in gas bills. 3. Natural gas does not place additional demands on the kitchen ventilation system, which is determined by the cooking process, not the energy source.
4. Technological improvements in gas appliances include infrared fryers with 80 percent fuel efficiency and griddles with consistent temperatures across their entire surface. A boilerless combi-oven that uses gas has almost eliminated the most expensive combi-oven maintenance problems.
5. Gas-fired bakery ovens produce moister products with a longer shelf life. Electrical Power: 1. Electric products are generally more fuel-efficient, as more of the energy they use goes directly into cooking the food.
2. Electrical fryers are more efficient because the heating element (heat supply) is located directly in the frying oil, resulting in better heat transfer. Three. By design, electric ovens are better insulated and the way their heating elements are positioned gives them a more uniform internal temperature, which results in higher quality food and better finished products.
4. Induction range tops, which use electricity, provide quick heat, quick response and easy cleaning and contribute to a cooler environment. 5. Electrical appliances are more energy efficient, because the way a thermostat controls temperature, cycling on and off as needed, reflects the appliance’s actual power consumption rather than the nameplate rating.
6. Electrical utility providers often provide so-called step-rate purchases for commercial customers, meaning a lower price per kilowatt-hour as usage increases. As many pieces of equipment as there are pieces of equipment, you will learn about the construction of the equipment. Be aware that the quality and workmanship you choose will help determine the life of your products.
Before you buy, make a complete list of the properties you’re looking for. You will also need this information if you order custom-fabricated products. The first question to consider is: What is it made of? The materials used to make most food service equipment are stainless steel, galvanized metal and aluminum.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is the most expensive and commonly used material, and for good reason—if cleaned properly, it can be the most resistant to rust, pitting, and discoloration. As far as cookware is concerned, stainless steel also does not impart taste or odor to the food cooked in it. Stainless steel begins with iron, but chromium and nickel are added to form a hard, invisible outer layer that gives it durability.
Perhaps the most corrosion-resistant is 18/8 stainless steel, meaning it contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Chromium combines with oxygen to form a strong, corrosion-resistant film around the steel; Nickel gives the finished product its flexibility, allowing it to be shaped into a myriad of different shapes.
An important note: In order for manufacturers to meet NSF International Sanitation Standards, stainless steel that comes into contact with food must contain at least 16% chromium. The term “austenitic steel” refers to a non-magnetic steel made with 16 to 26% chromium and 6 to 22% nickel. 18/8 is a type of austenitic steel.
The American Iron and Metals Institute classifies stainless steel into five grades or types based on its chemical composition. Each grade is identified with a three-digit range; The grades (or types) you’ll most often find in foodservice are 304, 301, 420, and to a lesser extent, grade 403. Grade 420 is used for cutlery, cookware, and some cookware.
In recent years, nickel prices have been volatile, prompting steelmakers to experiment with alternatives containing less nickel to keep costs down. They may replace the nickel with some manganese or nitrogen; They can reduce both nickel and chromium and add some copper.
These new alloys are acceptable alternatives and as a result some products and cookware have the added benefit of light weight. You may be asked what finish you want for your device, meaning how polished or shiny it is.
The various finishes are numbered on a scale of 1 to 7: 1 is very rough; 7 is an almost mirror-like sheen. For most work surfaces, 3 or 4 (brushed or matte finish) are preferable as they may otherwise reflect glare from lights. The higher the finish number, the more expensive it is, so even choosing three instead of four can save 10% or so on product cost.
Galvanized Steel: Galvanized means iron or metal coated with zinc. It has the strength of stainless steel, but a galvanized coating or baked-on enamel is used to prevent corrosion and eventually chips and cracks, which corrode the internal steel. Although the products don’t have to look like the legs or the bracing that reinforces them, galvanized metal is a good choice. It is generally not recommended for damp or wet kitchen locations.
Aluminum: Aluminum is a soft, white element found in nature that must be converted into the metal of the same name. It is tempered (mixed with other materials) to improve its density, conductivity, strength and corrosion resistance before being used in hundreds of manufacturing applications. Tempered or alloyed aluminum can be almost as strong as stainless steel but not nearly as heavy.
It can be sterilized, is corrosion-resistant, reflects heat and light, does not ignite or burn, can be polished to an attractive finish and does not become brittle in cold conditions – making it a good choice for refrigeration units. Its thermal (heat) conductivity makes it useful for water heaters, condenser coils, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system components. One of the environmental benefits of using aluminum to make appliances is that it is completely recyclable.
Wood: Everyone loves the look of wood, but few people realize that it needs to last in a busy foodservice setting. Wood countertops or wall paneling should never be used near waiting stations, coffee makers, or anywhere that is subject to high traffic or moisture. Never use particleboard in food service fabrication, as it loses its shape and consistency when wet.
For countertops, it is acceptable if the plywood is covered with a plastic laminate or woodlook veneer, which should be adhered with an exterior-rated adhesive, usually for outdoor use. Again, moisture is an issue and you want your countertops to be as moisture-resistant as possible. Largest plywood is graded with a three-letter code; If the last letter is X, it means the glue is externally-rated.
If money is no object, request marine-grade plywood, which is heavier (and more expensive) than regular. Solid-Surface Resources: In recent years, really attractive countertop options have been created from granite, marble, concrete and man-made materials such as Corian® and Formica®.
For long-term quality, many recommend granite because it is not affected by extreme heat like some other sources. High-grade granites are quite expensive, but lower grades are available that are durable and won’t break the budget. An interesting web site with directions (and recommended items) for a variety of cleaning, sealing, and polishing of these countertop resources is http://www.stonecare.com. Other construction details. The gauge of metal (abbreviated GA) indicates its thickness.
Fewer the number, thicker the metal. Pots and pans are usually 18- to 20-gauge metal, as they should be light enough to conduct heat well. Low-impact surfaces such as counter aprons or exhaust hoods are usually 18 or 20 gauge. But heavy-use and load-bearing surfaces, such as worktables and counters in food prep and delivery areas, should be 14 gauge.
For surfaces in the serving area, 16 gauge is sufficient. In terms of cost, the thicker the metal (or the lower the GA grade), the higher the cost. This is why you use it sparingly, only where it’s really needed for safety and strength. It is important to reinforce equipment that bears large pounds or can be impacted by heavy objects.
An unreinforced countertop can bow significantly from the weight of products; Storage shelves can also crease or buckle if overloaded. A strong foundation structure demands horizontal support to prevent swaying or buckling. Tie rods can be completed on mobile racks, cross-rails or worktables. The least efficient reinforcement method is to simply “hem” (bend down) the edges of the enclosed sheet metal frame, which doubles the edges and strengthens them somewhat.
This type of reinforcement may be sufficient for cabinets, but if they are in heavy-traffic areas where mobile cars may bump into them, a much more solid framework is required. Devices are often held together by welds. Welding, joining two pieces of metal together by heating them, is by far the strongest and most permanent method but perhaps the most expensive.
A fully welded piece of equipment will last longer than a single one constructed by other means. It will also cost more to ship if it needs to come from elsewhere, as it will be fully assembled already. Manufacturers like pop rivets because they are quick and much less expensive, but each pop rivet has a hole in the center where debris can collect.
Once they are closed they cannot be changed. Screws are also less desirable; When the equipment is in use it vibrates loose from the metal. The screw may come out completely, or the screw hole may be removed beyond repair. Choose this less expensive option for light-duty products only.
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