The Broiling Point

Steak, chicken, fish, burgers—all of these are menu staples, and all of them reach flavor perfection when broiled. That’s why the broiler has become an indispensable piece of equipment.


From below

In an under fired broiler (sometimes called a charbroiler), the heat radiates upward from under the grill or grate. The “striping” from the grate bars helps brown and sear the food, adding an attractive crosshatch pattern. Most under fired broilers are powered by gas, but electric and even charcoal models are also available.

These days, under fired broilers are often  being moved to the front of the house for visual excitement. Manufacturers are now making them in sizes ranging from 15-inch countertop models up to massive 72-inch wide, 13-grate broilers. Many contain a drawer with a separate element that functions as a salamander or cheese melter.

As with any gas-powered cooking appliance, the pilot lights need to be easily accessible in case relighting is necessary. Many manufacturers have moved toward electronic systems that re-spark in case the flame is extinguished. Garland’s High Efficiency Broilers feature an electronic ignition that automatically attempts to refire the broiler.

Some under fired broilers, like the Vulcan VCRB Restaurant Series Gas Charbroilers, have reversible grates, with one flat and one slanted side. Using the slanted side allows for foods to cook slightly further away from the heat source—aiding in grease collection.

From above

High-Volume operations may opt for an over fired broiler, in which the heat radiates from an element positioned above the food. As with under fired broilers, the hot grid provides grill markings and helps conduct heat to the food. The majority of these models are free-standing, with cooking areas ranging from 36 to 45 inches wide. In most models, the cooking grates can be raised and lowered to adapt to the thickness of food.

With the large amount of product these broilers can handle, the grease-catching tray is an important consideration. Make sure it runs the complete width of the cooking area and is easily removed for drainage. The large-capacity grease drawer on the Montague Legend series of broilers is front-mounted for convenient cleaning.

From both sides

Conveyor broilers combine over fired and under fired broilers, with a belt that moves food through the unit quickly. The bigger “straight-through” models have been used for years to broil a quantity of hamburger patties quickly, but today’s large conveyors, like the Nieco MPB84, can handle steaks, chicken and kebabs, too.   Some of the smaller countertop models can broil burgers and toast buns as well; their “front-return” design brings the food right back to the line and keeps everything within a small footprint. Marshall Air’s FR1515S broiler has the bun-toasting feature, and can cook up to 150 hamburger patties per hour.