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Cooking Equipment – Gas Or Electric?
In brand new foodservice facilities, one of the earliest decisions to be made in the planning stages is which energy supply will be used to prepare the food: gasoline or electric power? Because it is often a matter of chef personal preference, this is truly one of those questions that will continue to be debated for decades.
Without taking sides, the August 2002 issue of Foodservice Equipment and Supplies magazine did a good job of summarizing the advantages of each energy source:
Gas: 1. In general, natural gas is much cheaper than electricity because it contains a higher cumulative amount of Btus (British Thermal Units) delivered from the point of extraction to the point of use. An example:
A supply of 100,000 Btus at the wellhead, which is then converted to electricity, will have “lost” 73 percent of its original energy as it is transmitted through power lines toward the restaurant, providing only 27,000 Btus for actual use. Take the exact same 100,000 Btus, keep it in natural gas form, and feed it through a series of gasoline pipelines to the same restaurant, and the restaurant receives 91,000 Btus, a net loss of only 7 percent (7000 Btus).
2. Electricity has a surcharge, known as the demand factor, which the gas bill does not include. 3. Natural gas does not place additional requirements on kitchen ventilation systems, which are determined by the cooking procedure, not the energy source.
4. Technological improvements in gas appliances consist of infrared fryers with 80 percent fuel consumption efficiency and griddles with uniform temperatures over the entire surface. Boilerless combi ovens that use gas have virtually eliminated the most costly combi oven maintenance problems.
5. Gas fired ovens produce moister products with longer shelf life. Electric power: 1. Electric products are generally more fuel efficient because more of the power they use goes directly to cooking the food.
2. Electric fryers are much more efficient simply because the heating element (heat supply) is placed directly in the frying oil, resulting in better heat transfer. three. By design, electric ovens are much better insulated and also the way their heating elements are positioned gives them more uniform internal temperatures, resulting in improved high quality food and better product yield.
4. Induction hobs, which use electricity, deliver faster heat, instant response and simpler cleanup, contributing to a much cooler environment. 5. Electrical equipment is more energy efficient because the way the thermostat controls the temperature, turning it on and off only as needed, means that the appliance’s actual power consumption is only a fraction of its nameplate.
6. Electricity supply providers often deliver so-called step-rate purchases to business customers, which means a lower cost per kilowatt-hour as consumption increases. You will find as much information on equipment construction as there are pieces of equipment. Be aware that the quality and craftsmanship you choose will help determine the lifespan of your products.
Before shopping, make a complete list of attributes you’re looking for. You will also need this information if you end up ordering custom products. The very first question to consider is: What is it made of? The materials used to construct most food service equipment are stainless metal, galvanized metal, and aluminum.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel is the most expensive and most widely used material, and for good reason—if cleaned properly, it can be the most resistant to corrosion, pitting, and discoloration. In cookware, stainless metal also does not impart taste or odor to the foods cooked in it. Stainless metal begins as iron, but chromium and nickel are added to form a tough, invisible outer layer that gives it its durability.
Probably the most corrosion resistant is 18/8 stainless steel, which means 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 item its flexibility, so it can be shaped into many different shapes.
An important note: In order for manufacturers to meet NSF International Sanitation Standards, stainless steel that comes into contact with food should contain at least 16% chromium. The term “austenitic steel” means that it is 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 Metal Institute ranks stainless steel into five classifications, called grades or types, according to its chemical composition. Each character is identified by a three-digit range; the ones you will most often find in foodservice are Grade (or Type) 304, 301, 420 and to a lesser extent Grade 403. Grade 420 is used for cutlery, kitchen utensils and some cookware.
In recent years, nickel costs have been volatile, prompting steelmakers to experiment with alternatives that contain much less nickel to keep costs down. They can replace anything from nickel with manganese or nitrogen; they can reduce both the nickel and chromium content and add a bit of copper.
These new alloys are acceptable alternatives, and some of the resulting products and cookware have the added benefit of reduced weight. You may be asked what finish you want on your equipment, meaning its degree of polish or shine.
The different finishes are given numbers on a scale from 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) is preferable because it can otherwise reflect glare from light. The higher the target number, the more expensive, so even choosing a three over a four can save 10% or so on product costs.
Galvanized steel: Galvanized means that the iron or metal is coated with zinc. It has the strength of stainless steel, but the galvanized coating or baked-on enamel is used to prevent corrosion and eventually chips and cracks, leaving the underlying steel to rust. Galvanized metal is still a good option where appearance is not as important as for the legs of products or the bracing that strengthens them. It is not recommended for places in a kitchen that are normally damp or wet.
Aluminium: Aluminum is a soft, white element found in nature that must be converted into a metal of the same name. It is hardened (mixed with other substances) to improve its density, conductivity, strength and corrosion resistance before it is used in hundreds of manufacturing applications. Hardened or alloyed aluminum could be almost as strong as stainless steel, but not nearly as heavy.
It can be cleaned, is rust resistant, reflects heat and light, does not ignite or burn, could 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) parts. 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 are aware of the challenges it has to survive in a busy food service. Wooden tabletops or wall panels should never be used around waiting stations, coffee machines or other places where there is a lot of traffic or moisture. Never use chipboard in foodservice manufacturing because it loses its shape and texture when wet.
For countertops, plywood is acceptable if covered with plastic laminate or wood-look veneer, which must be glued on with an exterior-rated adhesive typically intended for outdoor use. Again, moisture is the issue and you want your countertops to be as moisture resistant as possible. The best plywood is classified by a three-letter code; if the last letter is X, it means that the glue is externally classified.
If money is no object, request marine-grade plywood, which is heavier (and much more expensive) than regular. Solid-Surface Resources: In recent years, truly appealing countertop options have been formulated 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 intense heat like some other resources are. High-quality granites are quite expensive, but lower grades are available that are durable and won’t break the budget. An interesting site that provides instructions (and recommends items) for cleaning, sealing, and polishing a number of these countertop resources is http://www.stonecare.com. Other construction details. The thickness of the metal (abbreviated GA) indicates its thickness.
The lower the number, the thicker the metal. Pots and pans are usually 18- to 20-gauge metal because they must be light enough to conduct heat well. Low impact surfaces such as aprons or exhaust hoods are generally 18 or 20 gauge. But heavy and load-bearing surfaces, for example, work tables and counters in food preparation and delivery areas, should be 14 gauge.
For surfaces in serving areas, 16 gauge is sufficient. In terms of price, the thicker the metal (or reduced GA range), the more expensive it is. That’s really why you use it sparingly, only where it’s really needed for security and robustness. It is important to reinforce equipment that can hold many kilos or can be affected by heavy objects.
An unreinforced table top can bend noticeably from the weight of products; a storage shelf can even buckle or buckle if overloaded. Robust leg structure requires horizontal support to prevent swaying or bowing. Drawbars can achieve this on mobile stands, cross rails or work tables. The least effective strengthening method is simply to “nail” (turn under) the edges of the enclosing sheet metal frame, which doubles the edges and makes them somewhat stronger.
This type of reinforcement may be sufficient for cabinets, but if they are located in high-traffic corridors, wherever mobile carts can hit them, much more extensive framing is needed. Equipment is most often held together by welds. Welding, joining two pieces of metal by heating them, is by far the most robust and permanent method, but also probably the most expensive.
A fully welded piece of equipment will outlast one that has been attached by other means. It will also cost more to ship if it has to come from elsewhere because it is already fully assembled. Manufacturers like pop rivets simply because they are faster and much cheaper, but each pop rivet has a hole in the middle where dirt can collect.
They cannot be replaced if they come off. Screws are also less desirable; they tend to vibrate loose from the metal when the equipment is in use. The screw may fall out completely or the screw hole may be stripped beyond repair. Choose only these cheaper choices for lightweight products.
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