What Is a French Top Range and How Does It Work?

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french-top-range

What is a French Top Range?

The French culture is renowned for its delicacies and elegant cuisines, which takes true culinarian talent to develop. Perhaps because so many of these flavorful foods are accomplished by carefully simmering that the French top acquired its name. Regardless, the French Top was developed from the concept of cooking by hanging cast iron pots and pans over an open fire, and adjusting the amount of heat by its location to the heart of the flame. The modern French Top eliminates the need for hanging and instead places a large cast iron or rolled steel plate with rings on top of a high-powered gas burner.

french-top-ringsHow does a French Top range work?

There is no adjusting temperature on a control knob with a French top; once turned on, the French top will take anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes to thoroughly heat the plate due to the density of the cast iron. With a high-powered burner underneath the center ring of the French top, the highest temperatures are achieved in the center. The heat then continues throughout the rest of the cast iron plate, dissipating as it travels further away from the center ring and the hidden burner. The outside rings and corners have the lowest temperatures.

After the French Top is fully heated, then you are ready to begin cooking on a versatile space that accommodates several pots and pans.

viking-french-top-rangeBenefits of a French Top

Best for cooking delicate foods that tend to scorch easily on direct heat, the French Top uses indirect heat on a flat surface, ranging from high temperatures to delicate simmering temperatures. The center ring can be removed (with a tool provided by your range manufacturer) and the exposed flame can be used for wok cooking. Keep the center ring in, and you can boil water while simultaneously simmering a delicate risotto on the outside areas. This high versatility also means you can intuitively slide pots and pans around without ever having to lift the cooking vessel or re-adjust heat manually.

The real reason most chefs love the French top though is for its simmering capabilities. Since it uses indirect heat, it doesn’t evaporate as much moisture as direct heat from an open flame burner would. This allows for better developments of flavors, and is excellent for delicate dishes such as risottos, robust sauces, and savory soups.

The French Top is also excellent for keeping food warm without overcooking, or once you turn off your French top, you can even consider putting racks on top of it, and using the residual heat to keep food warm until ready to serve.

Maintaining a French Top Range

la-cornue-french-top-rangeThere is regular maintenance that goes into a French top though. Just like a griddle, it will need to be seasoned often with peanut or vegetable oil, preferably before or after each use to maintain its functionality and luster. Since there are pots and pans going directly on top of the cast iron plate, it will also be necessary to clean the French Top with water and detergent to remove excess oil, and stains.

Be sure to use proper ventilation in your kitchen as well, since the French top is a source of heat, making warm kitchens even hotter, especially in warm weather climates. Also, be aware of your French top, staying safe while it is heating up, when it is on, and while it is cooling down that way you or any children in your house don’t come into contact without direct or residual heat.

Shopping for a French Top Range

Not many manufacturers produce ranges with French top configurations, due to the extra needed cooktop space. French Top options paired with open gas burners can typically be found in 48” ranges or higher. Some models include Viking’s Tuscany Series 48” range, ILVE’s Majestic Series 60” ranges, and several La Cornue models.

Have any more questions regarding appliance features or inventory availability? Feel free to contact us to speak with an appliance specialist!

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