Broilers (Overview of All Types)
Broilers provide an alternative method for cooking flavorful, nourishing, and healthful foods. Broilers are used to cook a wide variety of foods by a process that usually takes 3 to 6 minutes. Products commonly prepared with broilers include steak, poultry, seafood, hamburgers, pizza, and ethnic dishes.
Some types of broilers are used to "finish off" items like toasted breads, cheese sauces, and hot sandwiches. Depending on the broiler type, these food items may be cooked in metal pans, glass casseroles, or directly on the surface of broiler grates or conveyor belts.
In the 1950s, only about 10% of the nation's food service establishments featured a broiler. Today, one third are equipped with broilers.
Four major types of broilers are available.
Click on the desired type below for more information.
Standard over-fired broilers are heavy-duty units designed to cook large quantities of food by exposing it to radiant energy. This energy is emitted by heating radiants above the grid. Infrared broilers work much like standard broilers, but they operate at higher temperatures (up to 1,600°F) to produce high intensity infrared radiation. Infrared broilers have very fast preheat compared to standard over-fired broilers.
Temperature and cooking time is controlled by moving the grid up or down through several grid positions. The grid is spring-loaded or counter balanced for convenient up or down adjustment. The grid also rolls in and out for easy loading and is removable for fast clean-up. Each deck of the broiler typically has separate temperature controls, usually with high-low or high-medium-low settings. This varies depending on the manufacturer and the type of fuel powering the broiler.
Drip shields are located below the grids and move with the grid to collect grease and food particles. V-shaped channels deposit the liquid residue in a drip pan for disposal.
Over-fired broilers are usually installed on stainless steel counters and are available as single and double-decked modular units. They can also be mounted on a one-pan oven base, convection oven base, or a storage cabinet base. In fact, some combinations of single gas broiler decks have storage cabinets below and a finishing oven above the broiler deck.
The waste heat generated by gas burners is sometimes used in the finishing oven cavity. This is an effective method of saving energy by recycling heat that would otherwise go unused.
Under-fired broilers or charbroilers are typically medium- to heavy-duty units. They have the ability to cook large quantities of food by exposure to radiant energy produced by heating elements located below the grid. Charbroilers are available in countertop, cabinet base, or stainless steel frame models.
Charbroilers cook food much like an outdoor barbecue grill. Food is placed on a cast iron grate above the heat source, and cooking occurs primarily from radiant heat and conduction by the grate. The energy source may be electricity, gas, wood, or charcoal. As the food cooks, fats or marinades drip onto the coals or ceramics producing smoke. The smoke produces the characteristic charred flavor, while the hot grates create the strip marks that are typical on charbroiled foods.
There are two types of under-fired charbroilers. One type allows the radiant heat source to heat a radiant to a cherry red color. The radiant, in turn, broils the food product. The other type of charbroiler uses a heating source above or below to heat lava rocks or ceramic briquettes. The rocks or briquettes distribute the heat more evenly than the heat source alone. Some manufacturers use both methods to increase efficiency and reduce preheat times.
The broiler grate is adjustable to both level and tilted positions. Typically, the charbroiler is designed for the rear two-thirds of the grate to be hotter than the front section. Many models also have grease troughs fastened to each blade in the top grates to channel excess fat runoff and reduce flaming. Excess residual fat drains into a large grease drawer in a cool zone for disposal.
A charbroiler, like an open range-top burner, consumes energy at a constant rate, which depends on the temperature control setting. Because the charbroiler has a significant thermal mass of heating material that requires preheating and retains heat, the unit cannot be turned "on" and "off" quickly on demand.
Maintenance costs for a charbroiler are typically higher that any other broiler types. This is partly because the heating radiants below the open cooking grates are exposed to any materials falling through the radiants.
Back-shelf & salamander broilers
Back-shelf broilers, salamanders, and cheese-melters are often used to supplement existing broilers. These light-duty units "finish off" partially broiled products and browned foods that are not normally broiled for the complete cooking cycle. These small units are capable of broiling other foods as effectively as larger standard units, but not as quickly.
Small amounts of food are "finished off," melted, or broiled by exposing the food to radiant energy from the heating radiants located above the grid or rack. Back-shelf and salamander units are always single-deck broilers. Some salamander/cheese melter units are loaded and unloaded from one side, while others are equipped with pass-through capabilities. The units may be mounted on steel wall back-splashes above the ranges, mounted on 4 to 6 inch legs and placed on counters, or simply wall-mounted above prep stations.
Infrared models work like standard models, but the infrared radiants operate at considerably higher temperatures, increasing their heating capability and shortening preheat times. Back-shelf radiants are located above the cooking grids or racks. Each radiant has a separate temperature control with high-medium-low settings. In addition, the grid moves up or down through several levels. As with over-fired broilers, the grid of a salamander is spring-loaded or counterbalanced for easy operation. Drip shields are located below the grids or racks to collect grease and food particles. The grease and other liquid residue collects in a drip pan.
Some units have switches that turn on 100% heat when food is placed on the rack and then automatically lower the heat to a standby temperature in between cooking jobs.
Conveyor broilers combine the principles of over-fired broilers and under-fired broilers using a stainless steel belt to convey and consistently cook large quantities of food between two sets of heating radiants. One radiant is located above the food and one below . Each conveyor broiler may have one or more broil belts. IN multiple belt units, the speed of each belt is regulated with a separate digital speed control so different foods can be cooked simultaneously.
Conveyor broilers can bake, broil, heat and melt a variety of food items faster and with less labor than other broiler types. The production capacity of a conveyor broiler depends on operating temperatures and the characteristics of the food being cooked, such as composition, diameter, and thickness of the food product. Fresh or frozen hamburgers, steaks, pork chops, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, chicken, fish, or any product that can fit in single-serving oven-safe cookware can be prepared using conveyor broilers.
The heating radiants of the conveyor broiler, which operate at temperatures up to 1,600°F, are controlled by on and off switches. The speed of each stainless belt is controlled by a variable speed belt control. Cooking time is a function of the intensity of the heat source and belt speed.
Conveyor broilers can be free-standing floor models or countertop models and can be flow through or front load-front return operation.