Commercial Salamander Buying Guide
Broiling, Cheese Melting, Toasting, Finishing
1. What Are Kitchen Salamanders?
A kitchen salamander is basically an oven which is dedicated to broiling. It is often attached to, or is manufactured as a part of, a commercial range. Cheesemelters or broilers are primarily built the same way while kitchen salamanders have the ability to produce and vary more heat. Therefore it can then be used as a cooker and not just a browner or melter. In short, a salamander was created for your convenience.
Today’s market has also introduced countertop and detachable salamanders. Some may be modular, meaning they can either be used attached to a range or they can sit upon a counter. This provides mobility and placement options that can fit virtually any venue.
The market carries two varieties of kitchen salamanders: Those that are attached to ranges and those that have a griddle on top. While the most popular method of using a kitchen salamander has been to have it attached to the range, standalone and countertop salamanders can involve more staff than the chef to create a more seamless operation.
These ranges have also been more popularly used with a griddle on top. While this is extremely useful for combination cooking, it isn’t what makes a salamander, well, a salamander! Consider that, a kitchen salamander without a griddle on top may save up-front expense; a kitchen salamander with a griddle on top may make it easier (and therefore boost production) for the chef to “not move.”
2. Different Types Of Salamanders
You’ll often see equipment labeled “salamander, broiler, cheesemelter.” This is mostly about a choice of words, but could also give clues as to the specifications of the unit. However, there is distinction between these equipment types. Kitchen salamanders may carry a higher price tag, but this is typically because they are designed with higher heat outputs or are made for heavy usage. Commercial cheesemelters may be designed specifically for browning or melting cheese, and therefore may be more limited in output. Broilers which are listed as “broilers” may use the standard broil function, but may be limited in extra features such as temperature control (high and low vs. thermostatic, plate detection).
Some manufacturers cater to a specific niche or market and may choose to use a term over the other, so when selecting one of these, pay attention to the output and energy consumption (voltage/amps, btu’s) and heat type (IR, gas, electric elements, continue reading to learn more about these…)
No matter your choice, all of the features and considerations that are about to be mentioned are available with any of these broiler types. As with everything foodservice related- look at your options, weigh the differences, and then make your selection.
3. Types Of Kitchen Salamanders
The famous crème brûlée. To crème brûlée, is to “burn cream.” And it is with broiling that you achieve this centuries-old treat (custard topped with caramelized sugar).
The kitchen salamander is typically used for finishing your food product or for desserts. It’s used for melting, browning, broiling, and caramelizing. Also it can be used as "pass-through equipment," uniting the chefs and servers. Kitchen salamanders often, but not always, come with a griddle on top, particularly on ranges that require broiling and griddle cooking. The browning or melting process is generally very quick, as the goal is to serve quickly and efficiently.
The possibilities of a kitchen salamander are not limited to the following:
- Cheese Melting
Kitchen salamanders that are kept at a very low temperature can be used as a food warmer which acts as a product holder until the rest of the meal is prepared. However, they are intended as cookers and any product left untouched too long will become dry or may burn.
4. Types Of Heat Sources
IR - Infrared heat elements are available and are highly sought after. They are set apart from other electric salamanders due to their efficiency. They are easier to service and also provide steady and quick heat. This creates a consistently created dish with little wait.
Gas - Gas powered salamanders are typically higher output models. This is a great option for establishments which need to boil all day long, from breakfast to dinner.
Electric - Electric salamanders may be needed for establishments that are not already suited with gas lines or the proper hookups. They also should be considered by establishments needing a more “module” unit that has the ability to change position (this still requires the proper safety precautions such as ventilation hoods). The elements in an electric unit are typically quartz or metal burners.
Range & Riser Mounted Salamanders - Kitchen balamanders can be mounted on an existing kitchen range/oven. Countertop salamander broilers are now available as well. When the access of the salamander is limited to your chef, consider purchasing a salamander that is mountable to your existing range. You will most likely have to stay with your current range manufacturer. However, most commercial range manufacturers have mountable salamanders available. For ranges that cannot have a salamander mounted, consider one of the following options.
Standalone Salamanders - These can be a great addition. Single deck and multideck salamanders are available, which may be able to boost your production. Be aware that this will require more staff. Standalone units can require a large amount of floor space. Always look at the footprint (how much floor space will be required) of the salamander and add room around it so the staff can pass safely by and have access the equipment as well. Standalone salamanders are really a great selection for establishments which require all day broiling.
Salamander Broiler - These are a solution for smaller spaces, restaurants with a lower customer count, or for those looking for less energy demands. Salamander broilers can be pretty heavy duty and are the proper choice for heavy broiling needs in a smaller space. However, countertop units which can be placed on a counter closer to properly trained staff can mean a closer pass-thru from the chef to the server. Salamander Broilers truly are a great choice for smaller establishments.
Wall mount salamanders - These are available for those who don't have room on the counter, on the range, or the available floor space. These can also be a reasonable option for those who need the salamander mounted above the range for the chef's access.
6. Passing Through & The “Hot Plate”
Have you ever ordered a meal and received it with a note that reads... “careful, hot plate!” This is because the dish may have been presented fresh from the broiler/salamander. The chef can finish a product and ready it to be served, then a trained staff (server) can remove it and directly serve it. This is why the customers are sometimes warned of "hot plates."
Pass-through doesn’t mean that a backdoor is available. Typically, you don’t want staff behind any unit, and therefore the term pass-through means that it can travel from one person/stage to the next person/stage. Although, open salamanders are available. These have open sides and an open front. Smaller units may have a back door available, although it is recommended to ensure that you consider any hazard either of these options may present (staff training, combustible materials, locations, etc).
7. Adding the Griddle
Kitchen salamanders are often manufactured with a griddle on top. This is very convenient. Due to the commonality, the price tag is not as affected by this addition as it once was. Consider adding this as an extremely useful addition to your kitchen. It may alleviate the need for other griddles in the kitchen. This consolidates your equipment needs in the kitchen.
8. Proper Plateware?
The proper plateware. Since the finished product usually comes straight from the kitchen salamander, you’ll need to make sure that you use the right plateware. Else you may find broken plates or worse, it could be a fire hazard. The following should be used in a salamander:
- Metal plates/bowls
- Cast iron wares such as skillets
- Dishware labeled as “broiler safe”
Commercial salamanders produce grease laden particles. This means that grease particles will become a part of the air you breathe. This is hazardous to your health and also creates a fire hazard. All salamanders should have the proper ventilation available, which means a hood system MUST be in place.
Since gas is a power option for kitchen salamanders, you’ll need to make sure that the proper gas safety measures are considered; such as line harnesses or quick disconnect valves. You’ll also want to make sure you purchase the right equipment for your gas type (propane vs. natural gas).
Electric units can come in 115v and higher. With both high and low voltage ovens, you’ll want to make sure and dedicate a breaker in the breaker box to the unit. This is because, even though low voltage units operate and run at a certain amperage, a power spike occurs every time a unit is turned on. And with foodservice equipment (salamanders are no exception), they typically spike very large. Any circuit that is not “dedicated” or has other devices or equipment operating on them, is destined to short out or trip. Even low voltages (or brownouts) will hurt your foodservice equipment. Seriously consider a true dedicated circuit. This means directly wiring the unit to the breaker. Some units will require this.
9. You Should Know:
You'll want to purchase kitchen cookware that can be used inside of a salamander broiler. The market now contains a variety of cookware at affordable prices that are "servable" (appealing to the customer).
Be careful… salamanders which are mounted at eye level, such as on top of a range, may release grease at eye level. This could mean injury to your eyes. So consider this when placing a salamander or designating staff access.