How Braising Pans Work
The braising pan is perhaps the most versatile piece of commercial cooking equipment available. A braising pan looks like a large flat griddle with 7- to 9-inch side walls. It is typically made of stainless steel over aluminum block, or a steel griddle base. There are three types of braising pans: table models, floor models (mounted on a set of open legs or a cabinet base), and wall-mounted units. The cooking capacity of a braising pan is rated by its manufacturer. Table models range from 10 to 15 gallons. Floor models typically range from 19 to 40 gallons.
The braising pan is also known as a tilting skillet, fry pan, and braiser (as well as many other names). It can braise, boil, simmer, griddle cook, fry, steam, thaw, poach, blanch, heat canned foods, act as a proof box or oven, and store hot bakery products. This flexibility is valuable in a commercial kitchen, where labor and floor space are limited and a menu item can be prepared entirely in this single pan. Cooking with a braising pan, a food operation can realize a 50% or greater labor savings over conventional top or stock pot methods (mostly because of reduced cleaning requirements). The value of a braising pan is even higher in new kitchens where it can substitute for numerous other pieces of kitchen cookware.
The pan can be tilted a few degrees to drain fat away from food as it cooks, such as in griddling or braising meats. Boiling about an inch of water in a covered braising pan can be used to steam food held in special perforated pans or racks. Proofing can be done similarly by using hot instead of boiling water.
There are three types of braising pans: table models, floor models (mounted on a set of open legs or a cabinet base), and wall-mounted units. The cooking capacity of a braising pan is rated by its manufacturer. Table models range from 10 to 15 gallons. Floor models typically range from 19 to 40 gallons.
- Electric and gas braising pans have virtually the same preheating capabilities, with both reaching a cooking temperature of 300°F in about 10 minutes. However, electric braising pans have several advantages over gas models:
- An electric braising pan unit costs an average of 20 to 25% less than similar gas models.
- Electric braising pans use less energy than their gas equivalents. The average efficiency of electric models is about 80%, while gas model efficiency is just over 50%. This higher efficiency translates into less heat into the kitchen, which lowers cooling requirements from the HVAC system.
- Electric braising pans are much easier to clean and maintain than gas models.
Comparing Electric vs. Gas Braising Pans
There are many factors to consider when selecting a braising pan: initial cost, food preparation productivity, ease of operation, heat generation in the kitchen, and whether electricity or gas is used as the energy source. However, consider that energy only accounts for 3 to 5 percent of a typical food service establishment’s total costs. Therefore, while one fuel may be less expensive in a BTU to BTU comparison, the best choice in cooking equipment is the one that minimizes total operating costs, not just energy costs. Features that reduce labor costs or result in higher food product yield will nearly always outweigh any energy considerations. Make sure that you include all of these factors in any equipment evaluation.
Therefore, when comparing gas and electric models, compare equipment that is similar in all ways except the energy source.