You have several equipment options to cook anything on your menu.
The workhorse of any kitchen is the range or cooktop. Consider the following points before you make a purchase. The range and cooktop category includes all equipment where food is either cooked directly on the surface of the equipment or cooked in a vessel on the cooking surface.
Griddles come in lengths from 12" to 72," with larger lengths having multiple heating zones. If you need accurate temperature control, choose a unit with a thermostat that is not a standard feature of many models. Ask about the thickness of the steel griddle plate. The thickness is an indication of how much heat is retained and how quickly the griddle will recover temperature.
A few griddle manufacturers have grooved plates used to simulate the marking of a broiler. Another feature is a chrome-plated top, which is easier to clean and also operates somewhat cooler.
The plancha is an item that has some characteristics of a griddle, but may also be used as a hot top. Its unique feature is the ability to have several distinctly different temperature zones in close proximity on the same cooking plate.
Broilers use open grates to cook foods — especially meats. A broiler can be under-fired, meaning the heat source is under the grate as in a charbroiler. Some under-fired broilers use ceramic stones heated by flames while others use steel radiants. Many chefs say the best steaks are cooked in an over-fired broiler. As the name implies, the heat comes from above. Some of these units are mostly enclosed, like an oven without a front door, creating an intensely hot cooking chamber to give steaks that perfect sear on the outside and keep them juicy inside. Surface cooking temperature is not all that easy to control so the height of the grate from the heat source can be adjusted to get the degree of heat needed. Gas is by far the most common heat source, although there are electric units as well as wood or charcoal-burning broilers.
Also included in the broiler category are conveyor broilers. The combination unit — sometimes called a clamshell — uses a top-heating element that can be raised and lowered to speed cooking from the top and bottom of grilled items.
The main thing to consider here is the burner size and the BTU produced. If you'll be using mostly 10" pans, you'll want a 36", 6-burner range. If your application is for large pots, you'll want something like burners found in a 36", 4-burner range. Typical ratings are from 20-33,000 BTU's per burner. Lighter duty or restaurant ranges often have less robust burners in the 15-30,000 BTU size.
Wok ranges or Chinese ranges have intense heat in a single burner that produce a 2000°F temperature for extremely fast cooking. These units can be purchased with one to four or more wells or chambers (one for each wok). Wells also come in a variety of sizes.
Induction units are a type of open burner with a magnetic field that heats a pan. The burner itself does not get hot and when the pan is removed from the unit, it will automatically shut itself off. Air-conditioning costs may be lowered by using induction, because there is no flame or waste heat added to the kitchen.
There are two basic lines of ranges — a heavy-duty line that can be paired together into a continuous lineup of ranges and a lighter duty series called restaurant ranges. The restaurant ranges are often smaller in both length and width and built less ruggedly for lower-volume operations. Even though the heavy-duty range costs nearly double the price of a restaurant range, most production kitchens opt for the additional cost and the longevity.
The restaurant range does have its place, though, in a snack bar or low- to mid-volume restaurant. Restaurant ranges have some nice features that would be welcome in heavy-duty versions such as the all-in-one range. These ranges have a broiler, griddle, open burners and two ovens all in one five- or six-foot unit.