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What’s the fuss about BTU’s?



All too often when someone is looking to purchase cooking equipment the question comes up: How many BTU’s does it have? This is a valid question to pursue an answer on, but it is only one benchmark on how the cooking equipment will work.

Let’s start with the actual definition of BTU’s. A British Thermal Unit is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water (at or near 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. Basically it is the amount of heat generated by one lighted match stick. A typical open burner on a restaurant series or heavy duty range varies between 26,000 and 35,000 BTU’s per burner to put this into perspective.

At first glance most chef’s would say give me the most amount of BTU’s. We need to determine what the design of the equipment is and how the BTU’s are used to really understand if the equipment is getting the most out of the heat. To make a practical comparison; just because a man is 6’-6” and weighs 350 lbs doesn’t mean that he can play NFL football. It is how you use the power you have most efficiently rather than size.
Look for some of these factors to help with BTU’s:

Ranges – Do the burners use aeration bowls to protect and guide the flame?
Can the burners clog easily?
What is the physical size of the burner?

Fryers – What is the temperature of the flue heat?
What size is the fryer tube?
How many times does the heat move thru the oil?

Ovens – Size of the flue?
Air flow pattern in the cavity of the oven?

Griddles– What is the griddle plate made of?
What type of thermostat does it use?
What type of burners are used?

Charbroilers– What materials are used for the burner and grates?
Are radiants used? What are they made of?
Are the flames able to be zoned?


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