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You are probably familiar with most of the cooktop types. There are open burners in large stockpot format, which are configured four burners for a 36-inch top. Open burners are also available in a smaller sauté-style format with six burners. There are griddles, even heat plates, charbroilers, French tops and planchas.
The French cooktop has a single large ring in the center and usually several large ring burners below the steel-plate top. The unit in action will get very hot in the center at the bull’s eye and be cooler further from center. It allows you to move pans around based on the heat you need at the moment without adjusting a flame. For example, you can bring a pot to a boil quickly in the center of the top, and then push it off to the side to simmer. There’s also some dual French top models with two rings on a 36-inch base, which allow even more versatility.
The plancha top is a smooth steel plate that looks much like a griddle with a drip gutter on three sides instead of just the front. The unit differs from a griddle in that it can be operated at a much higher temperature—about 800°. The top steel plate is often thinner than a griddle for quick heat response. The unit can be used for grilling food directly on the cooking surface or you can cook in pans heated by the surface. For example, you can make a sauce in a pan next to the item you are grilling on the same cooktop.
Induction is another range type to consider. The units are powerful, as fast as gas and don’t add waste heat to the kitchen. Several manufacturers have experimented with induction as an option for a range-top configuration, but they haven’t been widely introduced yet.
Induction is available as single- or double-countertop units. Because there’s no flame or need for ventilation, air-conditioning cost could be lowered by using induction. There seems to be great potential in induction.
Over the past few years there have been many engineering changes in gas burners to get the most heat. Some manufacturers have also added more insulation to their equipment than in the past. The added insulation is especially useful in the performance of an oven base. The insulation will also provide more temperature separation for units with refrigerated bases—an option that’s becoming increasingly more popular in today’s compact kitchens.
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He’s a member of Foodservice Consultants Society International and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.