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Bringing the Campfire into the Kitchen

By: Stephen Waltz, FCSI, LEED AP
Senior Associate – Ft. Lauderdale

Mmmm…who doesn’t love the smell of a backyard barbeque?  The natural wood flavor, previously only available in your backyard or at the local BBQ, is now a growing popular trend in fine dining.  Chefs want to provide fares packed with flavor by offering wood grilled meats and seafood along with wood fired oven roasted vegetables.  Good planning is always necessary with the arsenal of cooking equipment necessary in a kitchen but careful planning with strict adherence to special code requirements is paramount when dealing with wood fired equipment such as wood fired grills and ovens, considered solid fuel fired equipment.

At the beginning of the planning and design process the team must review the specific requirements related to solid fuel cooking equipment. The trend is new enough that the team needs to understand the special requirements and potential challenges related to the special equipment. The MEP team should review the NFPA-96 Code Section 14 Solid Fuel Cooking Operations.

One of the first considerations needs to be where the wood will be sourced and where it will be stored at the facility. Commercial firewood dealers typically are located in states that grow the desired woods used in solid fuel cooking equipment. The size it is cut and split can be negotiated but the more special the requirements, the more costly it will be.  Some jurisdictions require that the wood be Kiln Dried so that all insects are eliminated and won’t infest the facility. The stored wood will also be required to be stored in a fire rated container; the easiest solution is a fire rated shipping container.  Calculations for the amount of fire wood necessary are determined by the size of the grill, the hours of operation and the use of chunk charcoal.  Chunk charcoal assists in maintaining high heat and the firewood enhances the flavor. The ashes need to be cleaned out of the appliance daily and NFPA Code states that only a single day’s worth of wood can be stored in the area of the wood fired appliance.

The exhausting and fire suppression system needs to be carefully planned.  Venting wood fired equipment requires a dedicated exhaust system and cannot be shared with regular cooking equipment.  The exhaust system needs to be engineered carefully so that the exhaust captures all of the smoke and fumes but doesn’t have an air flow velocity that makes it howl like a jet engine.  The exhaust system will require a spark arrestor either at the filter or at the duct collar.  Large wood fired grills may have a spray mist spark arrestor in the duct collar that will knock down the sparks and also cool the exhaust.  Restaurants in city locations or as part of a resort may require a pollution control system to filter out the smoke and odors.  This system adds a significant expense to the project.

The position of the wood fired grill must be considered as wood fired grills put off a lot of soot and smoke.  The containing walls should be either a dark brick or stone or a black iron. Light colored finishes and metals are not ideal as they will discolor quickly.  Of course all finishes need to be fire proof.

The fire suppression system will need to be engineered for solid fuel and depending on the size of the wood fired grill, a hose may be required nearby as an emergency fire control option.

Wood fired food offerings continue to increase in popularity thereby necessitating the integration of wood fired grills and ovens in the kitchen.  Taking the time for careful planning in the beginning helps this process go smoothly and saves a lot of time in the end.

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