Natural Gas vs. Propane. It’s a debate that has roiled among those in the foodservice industry for decades. Each energy source has its proponents: Although natural gas is more popular and has long been considered the standard, propane has gained considerable support, as well.
Each material has distinct advantages and disadvantages, different physical properties, and different costs related to their usage. Natural gas and propane are often talked about as if they are interchangeable, but in reality, they are not. It’s important to explore all of those differences before deciding which one is best for you.
Natural gas is mostly composed of methane, but it can also carry traces of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, helium, and other gases. While it is classified as a non-renewable fossil fuel, this gas is considered a cleaner option than other fossil fuels because it produces fewer harmful emissions when it is burned. The infrastructure of many urban areas has been built with natural gas in mind. Many big cities are already fitted with natural gas systems that make using this fuel source very accessible.
Using natural gas is a great way to ensure consistency at speed. You have a more precise amount of control over the heat thanks to a knob that directly controls the flow of gas. When the gas is on, the flame is lit immediately, so there’s no lead-up time when you decide to cook.
Gas restaurant equipment also works faster thanks to the more spread-out design of the tools. The flame also goes out once the controls are set to off, meaning these units will emit less ambient heat and cool quicker than their propane-powered counterparts. Natural gas is also a cleaner-burning fuel and provides more heat per dollar for commercial kitchens. All in all, cooking with natural gas means you have fewer variables to worry about.
Propane is the result of refined crude oil and petroleum gas. It is a concentrated, high-output fuel that can be stored in small cylinders or bulk tanks. The portability of these storage options makes propane a wise option for more remote areas that are attached to major metropolises.
Propane’s qualities lie in its multifaceted efficiency. Since all the energy coming in is directly converted into heat, very little heat is lost due to runoff. Because of this, electric ovens are known to cook more evenly than gas-fired ovens. The equipment tends to come at a cheaper cost and is easier to install since much of the setup can be reduced down to putting a plug into a socket. (Some equipment may have to be hardwired into your building’s power supply.)
Propane is also safer in some ways. It is not as flammable as other gases are because the fuel is released from a pressurized tank as a vapor instead of a liquid. That’s not to say that propane is without danger. It is heavier in the air than natural gas, meaning that it will collect at ground level rather than search for a higher exit.
Natural gas and propane are both strong, cost-effective energy sources for cooking. Regardless of which fuel you choose to use, it is vital that you use the proper equipment for the resource, and that you employ a professional to set up said equipment. Now that you understand the benefits and deficiencies of each fuel source, you can now make an informed decision about which gas is best suited to your needs.