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Roxanne Holt

Six Best Practices for Restaurant Range Cleaning

A commercial range isn’t just a piece of restaurant kitchen equipment; it’s an investment in your business. And as with most investments, taking the right proactive measures can ensure best returns days, months and years into the future. Topping the list when it comes to safeguarding your commercial restaurant range investment? Routine cleaning.

The good news is that maintaining your range is a simple and straightforward process. Read on for a roundup of six best practices aimed at keeping your restaurant range in tip-top condition.

1. Commit to daily cleaning.

In a perfect world, you’d deal with restaurant equipment spills as soon as they occurred in order to prevent burn-off, burn marks, and other casualties of kitchen overflows and accidents. However, any busy chef knows that an immediate response is not always possible. In fact, if your restaurant kitchen operates like many others, residue can remain on your range, grates and burner heads throughout an entire meal service and beyond.

Over time, this can accumulate and damage both the appearance and performance of your range -- which is why daily cleaning is imperative. Wiping down this essential piece of equipment can eliminate splatter, prevent bacterial growth, head off metal corrosion caused by food residue, and even improve heat transfer to cookware.

2. Avoid abrasives and other damaging cleaning materials.

Step away from the sodium hydroxide. Many commercial kitchen range cleaning practices involve pouring sodium hydroxide onto the surface, letting it sit, and wiping it off later. Unfortunately, this does more harm than good. Why? Because caustic solutions like sodium hydroxide can eat away at stainless steel ultimately ruining your range. Also on the no-no list? Alkaline solutions including borate and ammonia. Even every day cleaners, such as Dawn Dish detergent, can contain caustic chemicals and should be avoided.

Abrasive cleansers and scrubbers, such as scouring pads and steel wool, should also be avoided as they can dull the sheen of your metal range and leave behind a hazy, bluish cast. Not only that, but they can also cause small dings, dents, scratches and other surface imperfections -- even the smallest of which can trigger the corrosive process. These same restrictions also apply to cleaning your range's control panel and knobs as abrasives can remove graphics.

The best supplies for cleaning your range are actually the simplest ones: a non-abrasive cleaner, such as vinegar and water, and a cloth get the job done without causing damage. Just be sure to thoroughly wipe down afterward to head off rust formation. Want an insider’s tip? Rub in the direction of the grain for optimal shine. 

Thinking of pouring water on your commercial kitchen range and calling it a day? Think again. Flooding a hot griddle with cold water can eventually lead to both warping and cracking.

3. Conquer grease buildup.

Grease buildup isn’t just unsanitary, it’s also a fire hazard. Be sure to regularly empty the grease tray (also referred to as the crumb tray) in order to prevent buildup from accumulating. One word of caution to help keep burns at bay? Wait until the range has cooled off before removing and emptying the crumbs into a heat-safe receptacle. Avoid the same caustic, alkaline and abrasive cleaning materials when washing the tray in your dish sink.

If your range has a griddle, meanwhile, you’ll also need to clean the pipe connecting to the grease trough in order to prevent clogs. A pipe cleaner or stiff wire is handy for this task.

4. Don’t forget your cast iron grates.

At least once a year, you should plan on seasoning your grates. When you start seeing evidence of the breakdown of the carbonized seasoning -- such as rusting and flaking -- it’s time to season. Simply coat the grate with cooking oil and pop into a low-temperature oven for a few hours. (You can also season your cast iron grates at low temperatures on your burners.) The ultimate result? A non-stick surface ready to resume regular usage.

5. Clean while warm.

While cleaning red-hot kitchen equipment is ill-advised, warm equipment is less stubborn to clean as food residue and grease loosen better with heat. Do not, however, clean your range while it’s still on.

6. Accept the inevitable.

Cleaning your commercial kitchen range doesn't mean it will maintain its like-new appearance in perpetuity. Heat and smoke residue often leave behind a permanent black tinge on both ranges and the surrounding backsplash. While scrubbing can lighten these dark areas, it does not always completely remove it.

One last thing to keep in mind?  While these commercial and professional range cleaning best practices are recommended by best in class range manufacturer, Vulcan, some equipment may require alternate methods. Be sure to consult your manufacturer’s guide to confirm that the cleaning techniques you’re using are consistent with what’s recommended for your particular piece of equipment.

While a gleaming, hygienic and efficient commercial range is an important part of any commercial kitchen cleaning strategy, there’s another critical reason to start using these techniques today: doing so can help extend the life of your range and therefore further support your investment and overall bottom line.

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