At the heart of any professional kitchen you will generally find a commercial combination oven.
This will be capable of delivering bulk cooking alongside the precision generally associated with individually prepared dishes.
Typically central to busy operations, this one piece of equipment will become the main hub of activity for the large majority of the menu.
Often carrying a hefty price tag, it's vital to make an educated investment from the start.
Get up to speed on combi ovens and what you should be looking for here.
Combi Oven Basics
- What is a Combination Oven?
- Key Areas to Consider
- Power Options
- Extra Features
- Cleaning and Maintenance
- More Information
As the name suggests, these ovens combine multiple cooking processes, increasing both the versatility and flexibility of the equipment.
Offering the option of cooking with convection (circulating dry heat), steam (adding water) or both together (allowing cooking at higher temperatures without risk of burning) you are essentially investing in three ovens in one.
The beauty of combining multiple cooking units into one compact item is that valuable kitchen real estate is saved for other uses. The variety and range of dishes that can be created is increased whilst high quality results and convenience are guaranteed.
Whatever cooking method you wish to employ, a combi oven can cater for; whether that’s roasting, baking, grilling, poaching or a host of other functions. When the steam mode is employed the temperature never exceeds 130˚C meaning that vegetables can retain their important nutrients, vivid colour and distinctive taste. The hot air convection cooking system is the perfect tool for baking. Delivering even heat distribution, foods are cooked thoroughly and uniformly. The combination mode is the perfect option when roasting meats. While the convection heat cooks, the steam heat dramatically reduces the level of moisture loss guaranteeing the most succulent finish possible.
Combi ovens are available with both power options, so there is always something for every business. Your final decision will often be determined by the existing power supply and fittings you have available. Chefs may also have a preference over which format best suits their cooking styles, so if you are in a position to choose, get your chef in on the decision making process. Commercial combi ovens will also require a drainage facility and access to a water connection.
This decision will obviously be dependent on the size of your kitchen and the expected level of use. Where space is limited, a countertop model, or even built in unit, is a great choice whilst larger kitchens with higher demand will need something with greater capacity. With a range of styles and sizes in both countertop and freestanding designs there is plenty to choose from.
Combination ovens are designed to accommodate gastronorm pans ensuring that larger quantities of foods can be prepared simultaneously. Whether you require 2/3 GN, 1/1 GN or 2/1 GN capacities will often depend on your intended level of use and the space you have available; larger pans will need larger units while smaller pans are better suited to operations with lighter demand. The number of covers you typically serve in an average shift will determine the size of the oven and the GN capacity you require.
Opting for manual controls leads to a more hands on approach for the chef. While temperatures and humidity levels are still precise, it falls to the user to make sure settings are correct. More intelligent systems with clear touchscreen controls are available which automatically monitor and control cooking conditions, however these obviously come with greater expense. Complex menus will often call for more sophisticated technology, capable of making intelligent decisions regarding the cooking process. Consider your intended menu and then decide which style of control will allow you to achieve the best outcome.
The number of cooking processes able to be programmed into the equipment should always be considered. Some models can store up to 1200 multi stage recipes – that’s an entire menu for some businesses. As the perfect temperature, desired outcome and cooking duration are already inputted, foods can be prepared to the same high standard at the touch of a button, saving time and guaranteeing repeatable, consistent results. Remember that every cooking process not stored in the memory will need to be inputted manually every time leading to longer operational times and inevitable minor variations.
Always look for any additional features that your intended equipment may offer. While quality performance is guaranteed with every model it could be the little extras that really set your operation apart from the rest. Look out for self-teaching operation; this system actually learns a chef’s preferred methods and habits and is able to implement changes when appropriate to achieve the best results. Some combi ovens will also provide a precise core temperature probe. This not only enhances food safety but also allows the unit to register when cooking is complete. A USB port may also be present allowing data and operational information to be quickly transferred.
When your equipment is in regular use it will inevitably need a good clean after each service. Luckily the advanced technology typical of a combination oven is backed up by quality cleaning features. While some models offer menu guided cleaning, more advanced units incorporate a self-cleaning feature, meaning time consuming manual cleaning, using pure elbow grease is a thing of the past. Many units will also offer an integral hand shower to quickly rinse down the oven cavity whenever necessary.
It is undeniable that combination ovens of all specifications are pricey pieces of kit with a high initial outlay. While this equipment may take up a large amount of the budget, it is worth bearing in mind that this unit can perform multiple cooking tasks and will quickly become a core piece of equipment to any successful operation. If price is an issue, have you ever considered a leasing option? You get your ideal combi oven whilst spreading the cost.
Some manufacturers provide a whole host of information and support services to back you up both before and after making a purchase. You may want to take advantage of a live Rational Cook Live demonstration to experience first-hand how their SelfCooking Centre could revolutionise your business; this is a free service and you are under no obligation to buy. On-site training after purchase can also be arranged to make sure your investment is operating effectively and efficiently for your individual business needs.