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Whether it is creating the perfectly melted cheddar cheese on a hamburger or the browned cheese topping on a bowl of french onion soup, a specialized piece of kitchen equipment called a salamander broiler — or sometimes just a salamander — can be the perfect tool. Professional chefs use a salamander broiler for a number of purposes, such as broiling fish, melting cheese or caramelizing sugar. Sometimes, a commercial kitchen will use a long salamander broiler as "pass through" equipment between the kitchen and servers, with the chef preparing the dish on one side of the broiler and placing it inside. A trained server or assistant cook removes the dish from the other side and serves it to customers.
A typical salamander broiler is positioned above the oven, within reach of the cook as he or she prepares the dish. For preparation of meat and fish dishes, a shallow metal plate is often used in the broiler, then placed in a wooden holder or other heat-resistant holder for serving. Certain cookware, such as soup bowls, usually can withstand the heat from the salamander's upper burners, so they might go directly from the kitchen to the table. This is one reason why servers warn customers of a very hot plate — it might have come directly from a salamander broiler.
In cooking circles, the salamander broiler is considered to be overfired. This means that the heat source, which might be gas burners or infrared electric elements, comes from above. A kitchen grill, on the other hand, is considered underfired, because it receives heat from below.
There are often larger overfired broilers in a commercial kitchen, but many cooks prefer the controlled action of a smaller salamander broiler. Large broilers can be used to produce much larger quantities of food, but appearance and presentation are often improved by using the salamander broiler. Occasionally, a kitchen production line will also have an even more specialized piece of equipment called a cheese melter. The salamander broiler is considered more of a multi-purpose piece of equipment than a cheese melter.
Although most broilers are sold for commercial use, ovens with a salamander broiler attachment are available for homeowners who have a penchant for gourmet cooking. The traditional broiler for a gas stove is located below the oven chamber, and the elements for an electric broiler are attached to the top of the oven chamber. Neither is especially useful for quick cheese melting or last-minute browning of a single dish. This is why many home cooks prefer the energy savings and ease of use provided by a salamander broiler.