Are you looking for a kitchen salamander? If so, take some time to familiarize yourself with what this piece of equipment does, and the best things to look for when you're buying.
What Is A Salamander?
One of the first things to know about the kitchen salamander is that its name does come from the fabled amphibian that, according to esoteric magickal sources, is supposed to be able to control the element of fire. Chefs who are into medieval lore or elemental tattoos or any of that will appreciate this bit of mystical wisdom. The second thing to know is that a salamander is like a broiler, but slightly or even more significantly different in some ways.
Salamanders, Broilers and Cheesemelters
First, it's helpful to get acquainted with the various types of equipment that resemble the kitchen salamander, so that you can tell them apart. Some of the terminology becomes tricky, because all of these machines do very similar things, in ways that are tailored to a particular use.
The broiler is generally a shallow oven that is made to cook the whole food, with a special emphasis on heating the top. This is the traditional idea that you see represented on your legacy oven dial. The salamander, though, in many cases only heats the top with a quick blast of heat that's composed of a high intensity of BTUs. Salamanders may heat up to 10,000 BTUs just for a short time, which will accomplish that browning or roasting of the top-side surface, without really cooking what's underneath to any real extent.
A cheesemelter, then, is designed to provide a lighter touch that will just unlock the gooey goodness of your chosen fromage by using a radiant heat that's localized to the top of whatever you're putting in there. So to recap – in looking at the BTUs and the voltage or amps of your piece of equipment, you can figure out to what extent it heats the top of something, or the whole piece, depending on how long you set it for. This is where you have to have intuitive controls and an easy manual for operation!
Infrared, Gas or Electric Kitchen Salamanders
Another big difference with kitchen salamanders is the type of energy that they use for this quick-flash type of broiling. Some of the most state-of-the-art models use infrared heating elements, which heat up quickly. This can be a life-saver in a fast-paced kitchen environment. Others are gas operated, and many kitchens have easy gas hookups, so they like to make everything a gas-fired appliance, from the range top to the kitchen salamander to the oven. Other types of kitchen salamanders run on conventional electrical energy, which can be a slower way to accomplish the same thing. These models may need additional warm-up time or have other limitations, and may not be considered “top of the line” in their segment.
Griddle and Countertop Kitchen Salamanders
Here's another major thing to consider when you're shopping for one of these neat kitchen appliances. Essentially, people are building kitchen salamanders in ways that make them more ergonomic for a chef. These particular builds can also shave seconds off of a specific dish preparation, which can make a big difference when you're doing a busy table service. Think about whether your people are going to be using this equipment many times every night, for many nights in a row. Does it make a difference whether they have to bend down or reach up each time they fire a dish? Most people would tell you it does.
So how are these ergonomic models built?
Some kitchen salamanders have a griddle on top, so that you can cook and then broil or brown the top without moving most of your body. Others have multiple salamanders stacked on top of each other, for additional capacity. Some of these units sit on a countertop, meaning that you can colocate them with ranges and ovens.
Another important factor in buying your kitchen salamander is the way that you intend to handle your plates, because with these types of kitchen equipment, you have options. In some cases, chefs may want to finish a dish when it's already on the plate or in a bowl or ramekin. One of the best examples is the crème brûlée, where a custard gets a high heat to the top, for a crispy caramelized layer that you break through to get to the creamy custard underneath. With that in mind, some kitchen salamanders accommodate putting plates and other dishware inside to heat the food. But then the plates will be hot. You'll need to have staff training for this, and also use proper plating so that the plates don't crack or degrade under the heat. With the proper attention to energy sourcing, placement, and micromanaged heat settings, your kitchen salamander can give you years of excellent service! For much more, take a look at our full catalog at Chefs’ Toys. Our people are managing a business that is “for chefs, by chefs,” and because we have spent time in busy kitchens, we value your experience, too! Drop us a line with any questions. We want to be a full-spectrum restaurant kitchen equipment provider to leverage our kitchen skills and help the next generation build cuisine.