Charbroiled food, stone fire pizza, and barbecue specials are all seasonal favorites during summertime. That, coupled with the rise in front-of-house cooking, makes solid fuel cooking appliances increasingly popular among restaurants and other commercial kitchens. Pizzerias and BBQ restaurants are the most common establishments to have a solid fuel cooking operation. This type of cooking produces a tremendous amount of heat and grease, especially when cooking meat. If your commercial kitchen ductwork isn’t properly installed or maintained, rapid grease accumulation will create a hazardous environment leaving your establishment vulnerable to a fire.
What is Solid Fuel?
Solid fuel includes mesquite, charcoal, briquettes and hardwood as a means to cook and heat food. These fuel options provide a unique charred and smoky flavoring to food. From pizzas to smoked meat, this desirable flavor brings in more customers and allows restaurants a wider variety of cooking capabilities and flavors. Barbecue pits, rotisseries, grills and broilers are all common cooking appliances that tend to use solid fuel. However, due to the nature of solid fuel and how it burns, the rate at which these appliances collect flammable material increases. This increases the fire risk of these cooking operations and requires additional safety precautions as well as more frequent cleanings.
Solid Fuel Cooking Equipment Needs its Own Ventilation System
Proper installation and maintenance of a separate ventilation system is important for both health and safety reasons. In addition to the increased risk of fire, solid fuel cooking creates the potential for increased carbon monoxide levels within the restaurant or facility. This could become a serious health danger for those working or eating inside. Make-up or replacement air must be brought into the building from the outside with smoke and exhaust drafting up through the chimney. Unlike conventional cooking operations, solid fuel appliances use the air inside the restaurant as a means to support the fire being used to cook the food. The following codes and standards should be followed by all commercial kitchens that have a solid fuel cooking appliance:
- All solid fuel cooking appliances should be installed according to NFPA 96-14 and its related sections
- Spark arrestors must be installed to minimize the passage of airborne sparks and embers into the ductwork
- Exhaust for solid fuel must be separate from all other cooking appliances
- If a solid fuel cooking appliance is located under a kitchen exhaust hood, the duct for that appliance must be separate from all other exhaust hoods for other appliances
- Combustion chamber should be inspected weekly to ensure byproduct residue isn’t restricting the vent in any way
- The exhaust system for solid fuel cooking must be inspected and cleaned monthly
There are only 2 exceptions to the rule when it comes to proper ventilation systems for solid fuel cooking operations. Generally, you need to have a completely separate exhaust system for your solid fuel cooking appliance, EXCEPT:
- If your solid-fuel cooking equipment is installed underneath a water-wash hood and is considered equipment not requiring automatic fire-extinguishing systems.
- If the solid-fuel is solely used for flavoring purposes and not cooking purposes. For this exception, there is a limit to the size, amount and rate at which you use solid fuel in the particular appliance.
Creosote Buildup Must Be Removed
Creosote is a byproduct of wood burning. Creosote buildup is the main cause of exhaust system fires, a direct result of poor maintenance and irregular cleanings. For effective cleaning, you should be scraping the combustion chamber clean to its original surface material at least once a week. Regularly inspect the flue or chimney to ensure there are no blockages. Remove ash daily and spray it with water before storing it in an approved covered metal container placed at least 10 feet away from the building.
Your local Bare Metal Standard can provide you with professional inspection and kitchen exhaust cleaning services if you’re unsure whether your system is safe. Vigilant inspections are necessary for all solid fuel cooking operations to ensure the health and safety of your patrons. You can rely on the Bare Metal Standard brand for compliance, professionalism, and thorough knowledge of local fire safety codes and best practices.