When planning an industrial kitchen, many doubts arise that force decisions to be made that will significantly affect the future development of the work. A few months ago we talked about kitchen floors… today we are going to look at the worktops. What is the best material? What characteristics should we look at?
First of all, I must say that all the agents involved in the execution of the kitchen installation always give their opinion on this subject.
When in fact very few have all the information necessary to advise or decide what is best for a specific kitchen; it is necessary to know each and every one of the tasks that will be carried out within it.
To know how the use of one or another material can affect it, and to be able to decide which is the most appropriate for each case.
As is logical, each manufacturer defines its material as the best, generally based on its own criteria, and forgetting, in most cases, the characteristics that may be unfavourable to them.
Worktops are fundamental elements in any kitchen, as they are the surfaces that support the most work, and are generally not given due attention when it comes to defining their composition.
In my case, when I carry out a project, and after making contact with the property and the head of the kitchen, I carry out an exhaustive analysis of each work area, given that not all of them carry out the same task and not all of them are suitable for the same worktop material.
We must bear in mind that there are areas that must be resistant to sudden changes in temperature (near the cooking block and ovens).
Areas that must be resistant to knocks, cuts and scratches (preparation rooms) and areas of extreme hygiene where the food can come into contact with the worktop or where the dishes come into contact with the worktop, dishes that must later go out into the dining room.
Therefore, just as we differentiate the types of work by areas, we must specialise the materials in these areas.
Types of material for a countertop
It is true that there are requirements common to all worktops which are: waterproof, easy to clean, no joints and a certain aesthetic value (almost always forgotten in commercial kitchens… big mistake).
So, from my point of view, we have a range of materials suitable for each of these areas, which I will detail below and of which I will not mention trade names or manufacturers to make things more objective.
I’ll start in order from least appropriate to most appropriate and justify why:to make things more objective
I don’t think it’s necessary to even mention it, but I’ll do it anyway. Wood is highly porous, permeable, distorting, erodible and has no resistance to temperature… an excellent home for all kinds of microorganisms. So, totally out of the question.
It’s true that wood countertops are truly decorative, but they also need strict maintenance to keep that beauty intact.
That means that when we decide to choose wood as the material for our kitchen worktop you must be aware that we will have to brush, sand and varnish it once or twice a year if we want it not to deteriorate.
Marbles and granites
They are the immense majority porous, eroding to a great extent depending on the main mineral of their composition, dark colours not very favourable to hygiene, cold touch, with appreciable joints, but resistant to temperature.
For me they can be useful in dining room buffet decorations but not in industrial kitchens. And most importantly, if they break or crack, they must be removed.
Granite countertops have many more advantages than disadvantages. It is a material that does not scratch, can withstand high temperatures and requires little maintenance as it is easy to clean (just use soapy water).
As it is made from a natural material, each stone is unique, so it brings a touch of originality to our kitchen.
In addition, we can choose the finish of the worktop (polished, aged, satin, flamed, etc.), which broadens the range of possibilities in terms of aesthetics.
Another advantage is the price. Although it is not the cheapest option on the market, its durability and resistance to the passage of time make the quality/price ratio optimal.
They are all those based on masses made with tinted minerals, with a low degree of porosity; they are not 100% resistant to temperature, eroding to a lesser degree than marbles and granites, with appreciable joints and in the same way as the previous ones if they break or crack the whole piece must be removed.
They must be protected from high temperatures. Worktops made of compact material stand up to high temperatures very well, much more so than any wood, but less so than stone.
These worktops are made from resins and this means that high temperatures can deform or damage them.
So it is not recommended to place pots directly from the fire because you could damage them. Also, they are difficult to repair, when a resin worktop is damaged, it is very complicated to repair and above all too expensive.
It is one of the most appropriate materials for certain kitchen areas as it combines resistance to temperature and excessive friction. It is malleable, not erodible, with appreciable joints and it deforms with certain facility losing the initial aesthetics.
In spite of what is thought, steel retains numerous microorganisms on its surface, since it is polished or ground so that, when viewed under the microscope, it has a sawtooth shape that is very appropriate for housing contaminations.
It also has difficulty in cleaning to give it the ideal finish. Likewise, although more difficult, if it breaks or dents, the worktop must be thrown away.
Stainless steel worktops require careful and conscientious use for maintenance.
They’re the great unknown so far. Composed of minerals and resins that provide them with great hardness, they are not porous and do not resist high temperatures without protection.
They do not have joints, offering the possibility of making large worktops without noticeable joints as they are thermoformed in one piece.
The manufacturers also offer a wide range of colours in this type of material. Finally, the most important thing, if it breaks or cracks, only the affected area is repaired.
This is a material widely used for its aseptic properties in operating rooms or places of high hygiene. In my opinion it is the most recommended material for most of the worktops in an industrial kitchen.
We could talk about other materials such as glass, ceramic tiles and other compacts, but they do not deserve as much attention as those described so far.
In the very near future, I would almost say in the immediate present, we will be gradually shedding the classic and more common materials in most kitchens, to give way to avant-garde materials (new in the kitchen but which have been on the market for many years for other applications).