As summer wanes and outdoor barbecues are stored away in garages and basements, more Mainers will be cooking inside.
For restaurant professionals, that means a season of sizzle and savings.
Dozens of Maine restaurants are moving to convert to natural gas, discovering what thousands of individual homeowners have: that Summit Natural Gas provides an energy source that outperforms on quality and price.
For some of these restaurateurs, saving on costs was the primary driver to converting. Ron Stephan, owner of Ricetta’s Pizzeria in Falmouth, said the conversion process was easy, and the 30 percent savings on energy costs has made a big difference in his bottom line.
“The switch went very well,” Stephan said. “The big thing is the price difference. We’ve been spending 30 percent less on our energy bills since switching, so that’s huge.”
Stephan said Ricetta’s has always used a wood-fired oven for its pizza but that natural gas has proven superior to propane, which is what he formerly used for cooking in the popular Route 1 restaurant.
“We do a lot of our saute and Fryalator work, our baking, with conventional sources, so gas has been a great switch,” he said.
Just as a kitchen sells a house, natural gas appliances sell a kitchen, and many Maine restaurateurs say natural gas provides a better source of heat for cooking.
Some of those establishments include Arby’s in Waterville, Amato’s and Dominos in Augusta, Cappza’s Pizza in Waterville, Dancing Elephant in Fairfield, and Bueno Loco and Foreside Tavern in Falmouth.
Professionals at these and other Maine restaurants say the quality of their product is often enhanced by being able to use the adjustible blue flames created by a natural gas rangetop.
Cooks also recognize natural gas offers even heat, excellent temperature control, and instant on/off settings for cooking and baking when compared to electric.
The heat from a gas flame heats the sides, as well as the bottom, of pans, cooking food faster.
Cooks can change temperature rapidly, and they can immediately remove the heat when the flame is turned off. “You can still leave food on the stove to rest without continuing to cook,” Stephan said. And there’s less ambient heat to the rest of the kitchen.
Today’s natural gas ranges, ovens, cooktops and grills also feature high efficiency, easy cleaning and reliability. Many of the new models of natural gas cooking equipment use electronic spark ignition, rather than a continuously burning pilot, a feature that can save as much as 30 percent on energy costs.