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Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Appliance Tip of the Day: Money Saving Tips for Commercial Kitchens

appliance tip of the day archiveHere are some cool tips from The Gasket Guru for your restaurant or commerical kitchen that'll save you $$.

Your restaurant's profit is typically only 3 to 9 percent of total revenue! Money you save on operating costs adds to what you keep. Saving 20 percent on energy operating costs can increase your profit as much as one-third. Wouldn't savings like that be worth a second look?

Fun Facts to Know and Tell

  • An average restaurateur spends 2-4% of every dollar on utilities.
  • Electricity is typically a restaurant operator’s greatest utility expense.
  • A typical restaurant divvies up its energy dollars to: cooking (23%), space heating (19%), water heating (19%), lighting (11%), and other needs.
  • Compared to a sit-down restaurant, a quick-service restaurant uses about 8% more of each energy dollar for cooling and refrigeration.
  • One broiler can use more energy than six fryers.
  • Saving 20% on energy can boost a restaurant’s profits by up to 33%.

Getting a Grip

  • Make a list of all equipment to be included in the program.
  • Develop data on each piece of equipment. Include energy source, input, purchase date and warranties. Record this in a book, on cards, or in your computer. List maintenance tasks that can be done by regular staff and those that should be referred to a qualified agency.
  • Determine exactly what maintenance needs to be done on each piece and the frequency with which it needs to be done. Certain functions such as “check for loose parts, grease or oil leaks and malfunctions” should be carried out each time the equipment is used. Others need to be done daily, weekly, or even once a year. Equipment checks performed each day should be incorporated into cleaning instructions and mounted beside or close to each piece.
  • The various maintenance tasks to be performed should be placed on a master monthly or yearly schedule and indicate how and by whom each function should be done. The master schedule should be referred to regularly.
  • Always list repairs, costs and dates completed on the records. As equipment ages, keep close check on repair costs. Although the replacement point will vary somewhat between types of equipment, a good rule of thumb is to replace when costs in one year total one half the original purchase price.
  • From time to time analyze the nature of repairs to determine if procedures should be changed. Frequency of parts failure indicates that they should be replaced before malfunction. An example of this is putting new door gaskets on refrigeration as soon as signs of wear are noticed.


  • Tears or gaps in the door gaskets let all that expensive cold air escape into the kitchen. Call Mr. Appliance ASAP to replace the gaskets.
  • Keep the door gaskets clean and clear of unsanitary mold buildup. In addition to being a health code violation, molds produce acids that make the gasket brittle and subject to premature cracking and tearing.
  • Brush and clean the condenser once a month. A dirty condenser causes the compressor to run longer.

Solid-Top Ranges

  • Solid-top gas ranges will reach the proper cooking temperature after 10 to 20 minutes preheating. Additional preheating wastes energy.
  • Cooking utensils should make flush contact with the cooking surface. Dented pot bottoms increase operating costs.
  • Grouping cooking utensils will require fewer burners and uses less energy. Always turn down the flame when proper cooking temperature has been reached. The heat may be varied for different sections of the unit, thus eliminating the need for maintaining the entire cooking surface at peak heat.
  • While the surface is still slightly warm, clean the range with a heavy burlap cloth or steel wool. Remove grease or dirt lodged under flanges, lids, rings or plates. Never pour water directly on the range.

Open-top Ranges

  • Open-top ranges do not require preheating. To save energy, turn burners off when not in use.
  • Any type of cooking utensil may be used because the flame tailors itself to the shape of the utensil. For maximum efficiency and heat, regulate burners so the flame tips barely touch the bottoms of the cooking utensils.
  • Power burners should be considered for additional energy savings and efficiency. Maintain according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • After the range has cooled, wash grates, burner bowls and spillover trays. Use hot water and grease solvent if necessary. Clean food spillage from burner ports with a stiff wire. Clean entire range top with a solution of grease solvent when required. If the range has painted surface DO NOT use oven cleaner, or other harsh chemicals, wire brushes, or metal scrubbers, as these can damage the paint.
  • Use sealer strips on range batteries. These snap-on channels create a seal between adjoining ranges and help keep the spaces between equipment free of spilled food and grease.

Gas Griddles

  • Avoid unnecessarily long preheat times or overheating the griddle prior to or during use. Many new gas griddles preheat in 15 minutes or less.
  • A low or medium flame is adequate for light frying. During slack periods, turn down the burner or thermostat to conserve energy.
  • Cleaning is easier when the griddle is slightly warm. Consult manufacturer’s instructions. Some griddle plates are most easily cleaned with an abrasive griddle brick or screen. Some of the newer griddle surfaces should be cleaned with a brush, recommended griddle cleaner or water, to avoid scratching. After cleaning, wipe dry with an absorbent cloth.

Gas Broiling

  • Because gas broilers heat quickly, the flame can be turned low between operations. During slack periods, the broiler may be turned off completely. The super-fast, infrared broilers that require no preheating may be turned off after each use.
  • To save gas during slack periods, turn off the unused portions of a multiple-burner broiler.
  • An oven over a heavy-duty broiler should not be used for roasting or baking because it lacks thermostatic controls. It is a finish oven only for casseroles, au gratin dishes, meringues, etc.
  • Regular cleaning increases the efficiency of gas broilers and reduces operating costs. Empty the grease container at regular intervals. Wash and dry thoroughly. Scrape the upper and lower sides of the grids and clean with an oiled cloth. Scrub the broiler chamber. Wash and rinse the outside of the broiler, then wipe dry with an oiled cloth. Unclog burner ports with a stiff wire. Be careful with ceramic reflector units when cleaning.

Gas Ovens

  • Slow roasting – roasting at lower temperatures – reduces meat shrinkage, produces a juicier, tastier product and saves gas.
  • Know how long it takes your oven to preheat and schedule preheating according to the oven’s first use of the day. Many new gas convention ovens, for example, only take 10 minutes or less to preheat.
  • Because the oven will not preheat any faster, nothing is gained and gas is wasted by setting the thermostat higher than baking temperature.
  • Energy usage may be reduced by loading the oven to capacity and scheduling baking and roasting to take full advantage of “receding” heat. With large ovens, plan baking and roasting so the oven will not have to be brought up to full heat more than once or twice a day.
  • Gas convection ovens maintain a uniform temperature throughout, permitting use of multiple cooking racks, which increase production and save on kitchen space. When preheating and baking in these ovens use the fan at all times. Remember that cooking time is reduced and lower temperatures are necessary in the convection oven. With convention ovens, remember to include the fan in routine cleaning procedures.
  • A clean oven operates at maximum efficiency. Remove spills before the residue has carbonized. When the oven is cool, wipe the bottom. Scrub shelves frequently and clean the exterior when dirt and grease accumulate.

Gas Fryers

  • Fill kettle to capacity with high quality frying compound specifically designed for deep-frying, (Look for oil level mark stamped on the kettle.) If solid or semi-solid shortening is used, melt before adding to kettle, or use the fryers melt cycle.
  • Set thermostat for desired temperature. (Usually 325-350 degrees.) Never use temperatures higher than 375 degrees.
  • Limit preheat time to 10-12 minutes.
  • Regular care keeps the gas fryer in good working order. Shut down the fryer completely when draining. Filter the fat and wipe the kettle clean daily. Once a week, fill the kettle with warm water to a level above the grease ring. Bring to a rolling boil and add manufacturer’s recommended cleaning compound. (Never us a caustic or lye solution.) Boil 30 minutes and shut off. Drain and refill the kettle with warm water. Boil and drain. Rinse kettle until it is free entirely of residue.

Gas Braising Pan

  • The gas-fired tilted braising pan, when used for grilling or sauté work, is operated in a manner similar to that of a gas griddle, thus the energy saving tops for griddles apply to braising pans.
  • Because braising pans are thermostatically controlled, preheating at a temperature higher than needed for cooking wastes gas and does not speed the preheating process. Also, preheating is not necessary for boiling or steaming.
  • Braising pans usually are equipped with lids so that heat and moisture can be retained, making this appliance a versatile cooking device for pot-roasting, steaming vegetables, defrosting frozen food, stewing, or holding foods for servicing. Using the lid whenever possible saves gas, while lifting the lid unnecessarily wastes energy.
  • Like a griddle, the pan’s surface can be damaged by the sharp edges of spatulas or other utensils.
  • Take care to avoid scratching or nicking the pan’s finish. Likewise, avoid heavy metal scrubbers or a wire brush when cleaning.
  • Other than for normal cleaning and an occasional greasing of the tilting mechanism, braising pans are relatively maintenance free. After food is removed, clean the pan while it is still warm. Soak if needed, and then flush with water to remove food particles completely. Scrub with a fiber brush and recommended cleaner. Rinse with clear water and dry.

Steam Equipment

  • Steam boilers, on self-contained units, require up to 20 minutes to reach operating pressure. Energy usage will be reduced by eliminating unnecessary preheating time and planning steam cooking to utilize the steamer’s full capacity. A variety of foods may be prepared at the same time if thought is given to their placement in the steamer compartment.
  • Compartment doors must be sealed tightly so energy is not wasted and cooking times unnecessarily lengthened. Steam escaping around the door’s sealing gasket indicates an incomplete seal caused either by insufficient pressure applied to the door handle or wheel when closing, or a worn gasket.
  • Should a pressure steamer compartment start taking longer than usual to come to pressure or become slower than other compartments on a multi-compartment unit, the automatic steam temperature actuated value, located at the real or side outside the compartment, may be defective. A faulty valve, which not only slows cooking times but wastes steam, should be replaced with one of the same type.
  • Because steam cooking is fast compared to other cooking methods, a timer should be used to prevent over-cooking and wasted energy.
  • Leave doors slightly ajar when the steamer is not in use. Daily, wipe the compartment with detergent and water, rinsing well. Keep door gaskets and area around opening free of grease. Use a soapy steel wool pad if necessary. Lubricate the door wheel (on outside) monthly. Remove the interior racks and run through the dishwasher.
  • Cleaning and maintenance of the broiler are vital to steamer performance and energy conservation. If the steam broiler is making steam for 8 hours or more, it should be drained or blown down twice daily, or about every four hours. When blowing down the boiler, full pressure should be used. Annually, schedule a complete boiler clean and descaling.

Water Heaters

  • Gas water heaters require ample combustion air to operate at full efficiency, so do not store items in positions that block equipment room air openings.
  • Water heater thermostats usually can be turned down to the lowest temperature setting overnight and on days the unit is not in use; however, the unit’s heat recovery capability first must be determined to establish the feasibility of such a practice.
  • Exposed hot water pipes should be insulated to improve the unit’s operating efficiency and thus save energy.

The Gasket Guru
American Gas Association
Environmental Protection Agency

grasshoppers taking a break from a busy day at the tahi restaurant to sip some green tea with the master

Samurai Appliance Repair Man cast these pearls at 13:19 ET.  [permalink]
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