What oven do I buy for my restaurant ?

  • What oven do I buy for my restaurant ?

Buying the Right Oven – by Dan Bendall

In most foodservice operations, you need at least one type of oven, but the trick is to be sure that you match your cooking needs to the proper oven type and size. Here are some of the oven types that will likely fit your needs.

Deck Ovens. The standard deck of a deck oven is built of steel and made to hold baking pans. Most are also available with a stone hearth for baking breads and pizzas directly on the deck. A good deck oven can run from several thousand dollars to well over $20,000. It provide superior browning for items such as chicken, fish, casseroles and, of course, pizza. Footprints range from an 18” square countertop deck unit to 84” x 51” deck ovens geared for high-volume restaurants. Operators can also stack three to four oven decks to increase capacity and production.

When specifying a deck oven for an existing operation, confirm that the unit will fit through necessary doorways into the kitchen. You may have to remove the legs on some models to fit through narrow spaces.

Convection Ovens. The convection oven adds forced-air movement to reduce cook times. Convection ovens can often be operated at a lower temperature than traditional deck ovens while cooking more evenly. In operation, the results are consistent temperatures throughout the oven, meaning pans usually do not need to be shifted or turned during cooking as is often necessary in a deck oven. Also, several tiers of product can be cooked in the same convection oven cavity while achieving an evenly baked product throughout..

Low Temp and Cook & Hold. Low-temperature roasting is usually done at 200°F to 225°F for long periods to reduce shrinkage. These ovens are often not required to be under a hood and they can be purchased with casters so they can be wheeled around.

Some other things to consider about low-temp ovens: Some are available with smoker attachments, convenience foods can be prepared well in cook and hold ovens and frozen prepared items are often well suited for low-oven cooking.

High-Speed-Ovens. Many high-speed ovens use hot-air jets to strip away the cool layer around food better than a traditional convection oven where air is only blown across the surface to be cooked. The process is able to bake a pizza or other thin items in less time than conventional means. Batch ovens, which also cook at high speed, are usually countertop units with doors about two feet square. They generally do not require hoods, and often use microwaves as an additional energy source to penetrate the product and cook food even faster.

Also consider conveyor ovens, which are available from countertop models to stackable floor units. Countertop models have narrow conveyor belts of 14” to 18” wide, good for one platter or pizza. The counter top and floor models are often stackable.

Things to consider when purchasing an oven:

• In most areas of the country, gas is less expensive to use compared to electricity, but availability of utilities and local fuel costs should be a determining factor in the fuel source decision.

• Exhaust hoods are usually required over gas and electric ovens. A true wood-burning oven will always require a hood and fire protection and may have other local restrictions.

• Have gas oven burners calibrated on a regular basis for optimum fuel efficiency and best product heating. Electric ovens should also have the elements checked and have the temperature calibrated periodically.

• If using electric ovens, high voltage units are often less costly in terms of energy usage.

• Stainless steel exterior surfaces are often worth the extra cost in increased life and easy clean up.

• Purchase only an NSF listed oven for sanitary features and AGA certified gas equipment and UL listed electric models. Look for ENERGY STAR electric and gas convection ovens.

Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He can be reached at dbendall@foodstrategy.com.

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