What Chefs and Home Cooks Alike Should Know About Kitchen Ventilation

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen – whether as a home cook or as a professional chef – proper ventilation is paramount to your health and safety. It’s designed to keep airborne byproducts from accumulating on surfaces and in crevices on your walls, stove, and other areas. Here’s what you need to know about kitchen ventilation to keep your workspace free of grime and other problematic particulates.

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What You Don’t Want to Be Breathing

No matter how you cook or for how long, you’re bound to produce airborne chemicals. A gas stove produces nitrogen dioxide, which can lead to respiratory problems or worsen conditions like asthma. Gas stoves can also produce carbon monoxide.

Further, even the most minor splatter effect from oils, sauces, and other ingredients will eventually build up and cause a grimy, sticky film all over your counters and range burners. This is not only an eyesore but also a contamination hazard, as this residue can quickly accumulate bacteria, especially if you handle raw meats on a regular basis.

Types of Ventilation Systems

One of the most important aspects of keeping your kitchen (and your home or workspace more broadly) free of airborne particles is to have a functional HVAC system. This will help ensure the building keeps air circulating appropriately instead of confining hot, dirty air to one space.

Additionally, you should consider the following types of kitchen-specific ventilation systems:

  • Ventilation Hood. Ideally, any ventilation in your home or commercial kitchen should ventilate to the outdoors through a duct in the wall. Another type of ventilation hood is the ventless hood, which filters the air and moves it back into the kitchen. These are placed inside an interior wall and will need to have the filter cleaned or replaced intermittently.
  • Range Hood. A range hood is a fan placed above the stovetop. It should remove 100 cubic feet per minute of every 10,000 BTUs of burner output, which means it should be no more than 24 to 30 inches above the stovetop. Its size will differ depending on the stove, so a commercial range will have a much higher burner output than a home-sized stove. When in doubt, choose a stronger vent rather than a weaker one – especially if you plan to do a lot of stir-fry or Asian-style cooking.
  • Exhaust Fan. Finally, an exhaust fan will help disperse the hot air and grease produced from cooking. A downdraft fan is easier to install and clean, but it’s less efficient than an overhead exhaust fan. As hot air naturally rises, an overhead exhaust fan will suck up the air and smoke, and then send it outside or filter it back into the kitchen.

Ventilate for Health and Safety

Whatever you decide to install, it’s critical to have some kind of ventilation in your kitchen, whether you’re a casual home cook or a career chef in a large institutional kitchen. Protect yourself against harmful cooking byproducts by ensuring your kitchen remains clean, sanitary and breathable.

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