Grilled menu items are growing in popularity but what equipment gets the best results?
As consumers continue their fascination with healthier food, adding grilled items like fish, chicken and burgers is a great way to diversify your menu and attract extra trade. Not only do grilled options appeal to those looking for a non-fried option, but it also expands the potential for doing so much more when you consider the different flavours you can achieve with the endless array of rubs, spices and marinades that are available. And there’s clearly a demand for this alternative method of cooking as highlighted by a recent Mintel report which revealed 48% of UK diners would like to see more barbecuing/grilling when dining out.
Grilling is something fish and chip shops can tap into quite easily - grills don’t require a huge investment or skill to work and they can be used for a multitude of items from basic sausages and eggs in the morning to grilled seafood platters at lunch and steaks in the evening. With a huge range of options to suit different usage and budgets from suppliers ranging from Falcon, Blueseal, Parry, Hobart and Synergy to name just a few, friers really are spoilt for choice.
Griddles, also called planchas, are very simple items of cooking equipment and are popular for breakfast preparation, as well as food items such as burgers, fish, scallops, stir frys and bakery goods, but bear in mind they can be slow to cook thick portions of meat such as steaks or chops. There is a choice of three cooking surfaces - steel is the cheapest and most popular, but there’s also cast iron, ideal for constant, heavy-duty use, and chrome, which tends to be less prone to food sticking, has much lower heat emissions and is easier to keep clean.
Flat griddles are the most popular models specified in the foodservice industry although griddles with grooved plates, which imprint sear marks on the food while allowing fat to drain off, are also available. If you want both, mixed plate griddles are another option, giving you the possibility of using the flat plate to cook quickly and the ribbed side to finish food.
If you want your food to have a barbecue appearance and taste then a chargrill is your answer. Powerful appliances, they are ideal for burgers, steaks, chicken, seafood and vegetables. There are two main systems of delivering the heat, almost always coming from gas. Many caterers prefer the system that uses a lava rock base because it gives a traditional barbecue taste and smell. The other system doesn’t use lava rock, rather it has upward-facing gas jets that are shielded by a protective shroud to prevent fat clogging them. As the fat from the food being grilled falls onto the hot protective covers, it carbonises and gives off the smoke that creates the barbecue flavour. This system is easier to clean than the lava rock alternative.
If you’re thinking of purchasing one, John Whitehouse, chair of CESA, has the following advice: “See if there is a split level facility to enable part of the brander bars to be raised for cooking more delicate foods or those which require longer cooking time. Double-sided branding bars are extremely useful during busy service periods as the bars can be turned over instead of having to halt cooking while they are cleaned.”
Other useful features to look for, he says, include a rest area, water trough and protected pilot lights, which all make the unit easier to operate and clean.
Contact grills are perfect for the breakfast and lunchtime rush for cooking sandwiches, toasties and paninis as well as bacon and cuts of meat. They cook fast and are available in single models, ideal for shops where space is at a premium, as well as double models giving twice the output but with independent plates to cook multiple foods simultaneously. Flat and ribbed plates are available as are mixed plate contact grills, allowing rapid cooking and easy cleaning lower plates with a ribbed upper plate to give branding lines to food.
A salamander is essentially a high-temperature overhead grill used for toasting, browning or even simply hot holding dishes at a set temperature. Available in either gas or electric versions, the heat source comes from above and friers simply raise or lower the grill pan to adjust. They are quick to heat up and are generally placed at eye level, which frees up counter space in small kitchens.
Whatever type of grill you go for make sure it can handle the workload you’re anticipating and look for a model that is simple to clean: check how easily they strip down to enable any traces of carbonised food and fat to be removed. Also, ensure the equipment is regularly serviced and, remember, gas grills will need proper ventilation while solid fuel grills will require special ventilation systems to remove the highly toxic carbon monoxide which is released when burned.
Still need help? Nisbets has a grill finder feature on its website, whereby answering just a few simple questions will match you with the perfect grill. Visit www.nisbets.co.uk to take the quiz.
Built-in range solution
While most of the time grills and griddles will be freestanding, there is an advantage to having one built into your frying range as it means it’s literally on-hand.
This was the thinking of Paul Goodgame, operations manager for The Chesterford Group, who comments: “We were looking to install a grill that could give our food an authentic BBQ flavour and my research led me to the Synergy Grill, a state of the art grill that is
revolutionising grilling. It has a fan-assisted function that creates a vortex which flattens out the flame on to a unique ceramic dish base, causing the ceramic to reach very high temperatures. In turn, when the fat from the product being cooked hits the ceramic base, it vaporises which then gives your food an amazing taste!”
The Synergy Grill is normally purchased free-standing but Paul wanted this to be built into the ranges to provide an efficient operation for the staff and to keep the grill under the same extraction system as the range, so he tasked KFE to help them.
Paul comments: “I can honestly say we have been blown away with the seamless installation of the piece of equipment. It has really improved our ability to diversify our menu whilst providing our store managers an amazing production line to work with, ensuring we can deliver first-class fish and chips at the same time.”
Hand it to Hanbury’s
As part of a kitchen upgrade, Hanbury’s Fish & Chips in Babbacombe, Devon, installed a standalone Adieu grill from KFE in March, which meant it could achieve a long-held ambition to offer grilled fish alongside battered.
The flat, Swiss-built, cast iron grill cooks an array of fish from cod, haddock and plaice to hake, lemon sole and skate and, with up to 85% less fat/oil, it has the added advantage of creating a healthier product too.
Owner David Hanbury comments: “We’ve always wanted to do grilled fish but we said we would only do it when we could find something that was going to do a good job. This is the bee’s knees. We grill the fish flesh side down first and then finish it off on the skin. Every piece of fish has a beautifully crispy caramelised top, but when you cut into it the flesh is so moist. It’s just incredible. I honestly thought it was going to be a bit of a job to get my guys to grill fish as it’s something we’ve never done before, but they’ve all just got into it so easily.”
Using the right-hand side of the grill for fish and the left for gammon steaks and burgers, David says the addition of a grilled menu has brought an extra angle to the takeaway, because he can offer more species of fish, while boosting footfall in the restaurant. He adds: “In the summer, if the weather is very hot, we don’t get many people in the restaurant but this summer we’ve been busy all the time.”