The beating heart of the majority of commercial kitchens, combination ovens have revolutionised catering en masse, combining the functions of multiple pieces of equipment into a single unit. As technology has evolved, so has what we have to come to expect from these core cooking appliances - making them, undoubtedly, an essential heavyweight of any modern kitchen.
The reigning market leaders, Rational, have dominated the combination cooking sector for over 40 years, but can the relatively new kid on the block, Unox, prove to be a force to be reckoned with? Here, we take a look at both brands: the similarities, the differences and what they each bring to the market.
Founded in 1973, Rational has enjoyed relatively unrivalled market domination. Having continuously strived to develop and evolve the product range, they have become an indispensable addition to any professional kitchen. Boasting “more than 50% of the global market share for multifunctional appliances” (source: rational-online.com), Rational is truly a worldwide brand.
Employing stringent manufacturing standards and quality control checks, you are guaranteed high quality perfection with every purchase. Manufacture is split between Germany and France, the SelfCooking Center and CombiMaster Plus hailing from Germany and the VarioCooking Center based in France.
Focused on sustainability and efficiency, not only during the manufacturing process but also through equipment operation and performance, Rational has a number of awards and recognitions to their name, the whitefficiency philosophy playing a major role in all aspects of the company.
Based in Italy and founded in 1990, Unox has developed and expanded their product range to become a real contender in the commercial catering and bakery sector. Drawing on “ideas, passion and pure craftsmanship” (source: unox.com), Unox has unified core principles to create multifunctional cooking equipment that exudes intelligence, convenience, efficiency, performance and style. With a meticulous eye for detail, the team has created a range of combi ovens that work for the kitchen, not just in it.
Bringing the Cheftop MIND.Maps range with a choice of Plus and One model for comprehensive combination cooking, the Bakertop MIND.Maps range, again with Plus and One models perfect for bakeries and patisseries that demand perfection, the Bakerlux Shop Pro range for delicatessen and coffee shops, the Line Micro range for cafes and snack bars, and the New Bakerlux Speed Pro high speed oven for quick service operators to the market, this brand delivers advanced cooking solutions for any application. Add to this impressive range the Evereo hot holding cabinet (stackable with Unox combination ovens), aiming to make zero waste in the kitchen a reality, and you can complete any kitchen set-up.
In a relatively short period of time, Unox has established themselves as contenders for the combi oven crown, with 47% growth worldwide in the last year alone. Having won awards for innovation and attracted accolades for their sustainable manufacturing processes they’re quickly proving that they belong at the top.
Continuously striving to improve and innovate, Unox has their finger firmly on the pulse of the catering, bakery and hospitality industry. Confidently claiming that their equipment range is ‘Stronger. Harder. Faster. Better.’, they are really shaking up the combination oven market.
Rational Vs. Unox: The Comparison
These intelligent pieces of kit have so many different elements and facets that it’s no tall order to draw up a comparison. Here we break down each area to cover the basics with a focus on the Rational SelfCooking Center 5 Senses and the Unox ChefTop MIND.Maps Plus.
The Rational SelfCooking Center 5 Senses is designed and manufactured 100% in Europe and is ISO accredited, WRAS approved and Energy Star certified along with a whole host of other ratings, as you would expect from the leading combination oven brand.
Not only supplying the core equipment and all accessories Rational also produce their own range of cleaning products and chemicals to ensure that every business can employ expert maintenance procedures. Offering gas and electric models, the power preference of every kitchen can be met. Gas units have natural or LPG gas options, while electric models require a 3 phase power supply.
Designed with features that run through the entire range of equipment, businesses can benefit from side positioned fans to decrease the overall depth of the combi, a triple glazed door that gives a clear view of oven contents during cooking whilst effectively holding heat for added efficiency and high performance insulation to create accurate and consistent cooking conditions.
The intuitive, easy to use touch screen control makes operation simple, chefs being able to prepare a gourmet meal with little effort. The cavity illumination highlights the interior for visible monitoring of cooking progress and with individual lights for each level, signalling when a tray is cooked to perfection, consistent results have never been easier to achieve.
Trays are inserted lengthways minimising the door opening space necessary to access the cooking chamber.
The Unox Cheftop manufacturing base camp resembles a small city dedicated solely to the design, testing and manufacture of their full range of equipment. With 97% of the elements and components created in-house, they have created a hub of activity from which their product can be distributed on a global scale. Also producing their own specialist range of cleaning chemicals, they deliver the full package to guarantee any business can get the most from their equipment. Keen to minimise their environmental footprint, Unox uses 96% recyclable packaging and have installed solar panels to power their manufacturing site, putting 11% back to the grid. Being ISO accredited and Energy Star certified, they are quickly accumulating notable ratings and awards.
One of the core elements of the Cheftop combination oven is the boilerless design. Not only does this eliminate the possibility for scale build-up in the machine and lower running costs but also creates a reduced width in terms of dimensions. Fans are positioned at the rear of the oven which does add a little extra depth however is more economic with regards to the overall footprint in commercial kitchens where maximising space matters.
Producing ovens with both gas and electric power options, all business requirements are catered for. Gas having the option of natural or LPG power and electric units requiring a 3 phase hardwired supply, with the 3 and 5 grid models having a single phase option. All models are designed with triple glazed doors for enhanced efficiency and high performance insulation to ensure heat retention along with a host of other features to enhance performance, operation and energy efficiency.
Featuring a touch screen control panel, operating the Cheftop is easy and requires minimal training. Benefitting from an optional double door catch, user safety is a prime consideration: the chef being able to set the door slightly ajar to disperse steam before fully opening – a lot safer and more comfortable for the operator. Oven lighting is positioned on just one side of the cooking cavity. Whilst still giving constant illumination and clear visibility of contents, it increases energy efficiency. Once the current cooking process is complete, the whole cavity flashes to alert the chef that food is ready.
Gastronorms are inserted width ways, granting a more secure grasp of fully loaded trays and added safety for the user.
The SelfCooking Center combination oven has proven itself in a plethora of settings and is suitable for every application. Performing multiple cooking techniques and functions, all from a single piece of equipment, kitchens can condense multiple pieces of catering equipment into a single footprint.
Ideally suited for large capacity food production, chefs can almost ‘set and forget’ without continuous monitoring of progress, secure in the knowledge that the oven will give an alert when dishes have been cooked to perfection. Not only capable of performing tirelessly throughout service and indeed during preparation prior, the SelfCooking Center is also able to operate independently and unsupervised overnight, automatically switching to holding mode when the cooking process is completed, to ensure dishes are ready to serve the next day and that customers always get what they want.
Making high quality cooking a breeze, even complex recipes can be carried out with only minimal input from the chef. The system is able to hold and carry out cooking programs with up to 12 steps, intelligently raising or lowering the temperature and controlling humidity levels when required.
As any other combi oven, these units deliver convection cooking, steam mode or a combination of the two. Promising an even, consistent cook, Rational has side positioned fans with 5 air speeds, that work on a cycle basis, alternating periodically around the oven to deliver equal heat distribution. During steaming, water is heated in the boiler to create the required steam and then allowed to cool to the desired temperature before being forced into the cooking cavity. Producing hygienic steam, Rational promise good saturation levels even to temperatures as low as 30°.
Offering a worthy alternative, the Cheftop MIND.Maps is also designed to perform for any application and in any setting. Combining multiple cooking functions, the classic combi mantra of multiple pieces of equipment rolled into a single unit still applies to grant flexible functionality in busy commercial kitchens that demand versatility.
Again, employing intelligent cooking systems, mixed loads can be prepared with guaranteed excellence when it comes to the results. Holding multiple recipes, each with up to 9 steps, chefs can simply input the stages of a required cooking program using the touch screen or via the internet using Unox DDC app and just stand back, letting the oven do its thing. To guarantee the kitchen is always ready for service, the Cheftop also offers unsupervised overnight cooking. Getting the job done without manual input, the high quality results and overall excellence synonymous with the Unox brand are still observed.
An additional feature, unique to Unox is the MIND.Maps aspect that gives this range its name. Although advanced intelligence of today’s combi ovens is on the whole a positive thing in terms of productivity and efficiency, chefs may sometimes feel that their creativity is hindered and stifled by simply programming via a touch screen. The MIND.Maps feature gives control back to the chef. Rather than work on the basis of time, temperature and humidity settings throughout the course of the cooking program being input by simply choosing pre-programmed options, Mind.Maps allows the chef to draw a graph directly onto the touch screen which details the change in cooking conditions required. All 9 steps are programmed in seconds and the chef gets to assert a degree of individual flair and style to the dish.
Delivering the cooking functions expected of any combination oven, the Cheftop utilises a fan rotation system to distribute air throughout the oven chamber. Fans rotate first clockwise and then anticlockwise rather than alternating from all sides on a cycle. This configuration reduces cooking time and increases efficiency for even cooking and colour every time.
When it comes to steam, Unox employs a boilerless system which not only eliminates potential scale build-up but could also save 9kW per hour in running costs and is capable of delivering steam on demand in 20 seconds. The patented steam system comprises of a fan blade at the rear of the oven cavity designed with a special lip which, as water droplets pass through, turns them to ‘cold steam’. This ‘cold steam’ is then pushed through a heating element which can be set to the desired temperature. This ingenious injection system which has been subjected to rigorous independent testing has been proven to deliver more accurate steam temperature and approximately 2.2% more steam saturation than other combi ovens on the market at temperatures above 35°C.
As a leader in the combi oven market, the Rational SelfCooking Center 5 Senses is undoubtedly packed with advanced technology. Each element is rigorously tested to guarantee that precision performance, reliability, consistency and convenience are delivered as standard. Able to sense, detect, think, learn and communicate, this product demonstrates heightened intelligence.
iCooking control is able to detect the size of contents, the load quantity and the condition of the products, the intelligent systems automatically adjusting when necessary in order to achieve the desired results. Accurate sensors take around 60 measurements every minute to make sure foods are cooked to exact specifications.
Capable of intelligent multi-level cooking with ilevel control, mixed loads can be prepared all at the same time regardless of different time constraints for ultimate productivity. Each level is individually monitored and, once the desired results have been attained, an alert complete with visual illumination of the specific rack signals that the tray is done. A countdown timer giving details of each level is clearly shown on the display, with the ingredients on each level specified and allocated an individual countdown which shows the length of time left for each until cooking is complete.
Also boasting a ClimaPlus feature for accurate steam function and HiDensity control to monitor and adjust cooking performances, guaranteeing even temperature distribution, as well as energy saving modes that keep chefs fully informed of energy usage, these advanced systems make cooking high quality dishes simple and more importantly, repeatable.
The SelfCooking Center can also be scheduled to carry out preheating programs meaning that the combi is ready to go and at optimum temperature by the time the chef even enters the kitchen in the morning.
Offering the opportunity to enjoy connected cooking, the USB port allows easy transfer of information, recipes and even HACCP data, and, thanks to the app, support is always on hand whether you need advice or inspiration. Facilitating simple management of the equipment and the ability to control programs and settings remotely via the app, Rational has got you covered.
The Unox Cheftop MIND.Maps isn’t without its own high level of advanced technology. Having tried and tested each feature and program, Unox has created a complete cooking solution that any professional chef would be proud to have in their kitchen.
Using Adaptive.cooking to ascertain the properties of the oven contents, including quantity, condition and size, this combi knows exactly what it’s working with and can get to work calculating the best possible program to ultimately achieve the desired results. Unox has perfected onboard algorithms to continuously calculate, determine and update the cooking time depending on the present variables, whether that’s the quantity being cooked, if the produce is fresh or frozen and even takes into consideration the length of time the door is open and the temperature or heat that is lost as a result.
Offering a unique Mise en Place program, chefs can simply select the ingredients they want to cook from the menu of pre-programmed dishes. This selection appears as a list on the touchscreen display with an individual countdown timer allocated to each. The oven gives clear, easy to understand instruction to make sure the user knows exactly how the cooking process is progressing. The longest dish to cook goes in first, which results in a change in colour of this item on the display screen signalling that this step is complete. The next dish will be highlighted, the oven informing the user when it’s time to go in via the countdown and an alert. This process continues until all dishes have been placed in the oven. As heat is evenly distributed throughout the oven, trays can be placed on any level regardless of whether cooking fish, meat or veg. At the end of the total countdown, all dishes are ready at once and cooked to perfection, all at the same time and ready for plating up – completely intuitive and a welcome time management tool for busy chefs.
Boasting a Climalux control to monitor and adjust cooking performance, optimum cooking conditions are guaranteed. Add to this the opportunity to schedule a time that the oven is required, this range will automatically preheat to the perfect temperature, ready for action when the chef is.
Connected cooking options are available which grant infinite storage of useful information, from details about what was cooked, at what temperature and how long for, to comprehensive overviews of how the oven is running and performing on a day to day basis. Internet connected models have the added benefit of allowing Unox experts access to the equipment where they can analyse usage and crunch the data to tailor recommendations and offer valid suggestions based on actual usage. Recipes and updates etc. can also be sent straight through to the machine, meaning an expert is always on hand without even needing to attend site.
Designed for use in conjunction with the Unox app, chefs can easily transfer information between equipment and sites, especially useful for chains of restaurants where chefs may need to communicate. This multi-site connection allows individual kitchens to view others programs for added consistency through multiple venues nationwide. Data driven cooking systems permit chefs to control their combi oven via the app, even giving informational updates on energy usage. As standard, the MIND.Maps Plus models will even give details of how much it cost to cook a single dish allowing chefs to budget effectively.
The Rational SelfCooking Center is available in a range of models with differing sizes and capacities to cater to the demands of every scale of business and level of food service. Available as both countertop and freestanding, floor models, there’s plenty of choice.
|Dimensions mm(HxWxD)||567 x 655 x 555||782 x 847 x 776||782 x 1069 x 976||1042 x 847 x 776||1042 x 1069 x 976|
|Gastronorm Capacity||6 x 2/3 GN||6 x 1/1 GN||6 x 2/1 GN||10 x 1/1 GN||10 x 2/1 GN|
|Position||Floor Standing||Floor Standing|
|Dimensions mm(HxWxD)||1782 x 879 x 791||1782 x 1084 x 996|
|Gastronorm Capacity||20 x 1/1 GN||20 x 2/1 GN|
Multiple compatible ovens can be stacked using the Combi-duo system to increase cooking capacity whilst minimising equipment footprint.
The Unox Cheftop MIND.Maps range also offers a varied selection of models to meet the demands of all kitchens. Again, available in countertop and free standing, floor designs. As is clearly shown here, there is a wider selection of dimensions and capacities to choose from. This means that businesses have more scope to tailor their equipment to their level of food production.
|Dimensions mm(HxWxD)||538 x 750 x 773||675 x 750 x 773||843 x 750 x 773||843 x 860 x 1120||1010 x 750 x 773||1163 x 860 x 1120|
|Gastronorm Capacity||3 x 1/1 GN||5 x 1/1 GN||7 x 1/1 GN||6 x 2/1 GN||10 x 1/1 GN||10 x 2/1 GN|
|Position||Countertop from the ‘Compact’ range||Countertop from the ‘Compact’ range||Countertop from the ‘Compact’ range|
|Dimensions mm(HxWxD)||649 x 535 x 662||649 x 535 x 862||984 x 535 x 862|
|Gastronorm Capacity||5 x 2/3 GN||5 x 1/1 GN||10 x 1/1 GN|
|Position||Floor Standing from the ‘Big’ range||Floor Standing from the ‘Big’ range|
|Dimensions mm(HxWxD)||1875 x 892 x 1018||1875 x 892 x 1257|
|Gastronorm Capacity||20 x 1/1 GN||20 x 2/1 GN|
Whereas Rational offer the option to stack up to two compatible ovens, Unox can accommodate stacking suitable for up to 15 grids, that could be 3 separate combis. The maximum of 15 grids is recommended in order to retain a comfortable and safe working level.
Thanks to the boilerless design, Cheftop combis have a narrower footprint, however, as the fans are positioned at the rear of the oven cavity do have slightly increased depth. The Unox 7 grid 1/1 GN oven is a popular choice with many kitchens due to the additional shelf awarded within roughly the same footprint (less width but slightly more depth) as the Rational 6 grid equivalent.
One of the main draws of any advanced combination oven is the automatic cleaning function and Rational’s SelfCooking Center doesn’t disappoint. As one of the core, most used pieces of cooking equipment in any commercial kitchen, combi ovens have the potential to quickly look a little worse for wear, so a good cleaning system is vital. The efficient CareControl program inbuilt as standard with every SelfCooking Center, automatically cleans and descales itself, assessing the level of soiling and ascertaining the most appropriate cleaning program to implement. Complete with a handheld shower head with automatic retraction that neatly recoils, added cleaning power and total precision can be applied to areas with particularly tough levels of soiling.
Rational combi ovens require detergent and rinse aid tablets to achieve that pristine, hygienic finish demanded of a commercial piece of catering equipment. These tablets are manually unwrapped and inserted into the machine, so protection is recommended to prevent coming into direct contact with any cleaning chemicals. Costing an estimated £1.50 for a clean and descale, keeping cooking equipment in hygienic, pristine conditions has never been so simple.
Unox’s Cheftop MIND.Maps Plus ovens also deliver excellent levels of automatic cleaning, meaning that at the end of a busy service, chefs don’t need to concern themselves with a deep clean of their kitchen workhorse. Utilising a liquid cleaning system, there is never any possibility of direct contact with the skin. Simply unscrew the lid and attach the bottle of cleaning fluid to the chemical tray by screwing it in. Automatically dispensing into the machine, achieving pristine cleaning has never been easier or safer.
Using Sense.Klean, the oven can suggest the most appropriate program based on the type of cooking that the equipment has performed and the actual usage it has carried out. Cleaning programs can also be manually scheduled as required, with varying length and frequency, at any time of the day, working around the natural flow and timing of the kitchen for total convenience. What’s more, the hood automatically cleans itself on every 7th wash. The cost of cleaning ranges from as little as 70p on a quick wash to around £4.50 for a long, intensive clean, meaning it doesn’t have to break the bank to achieve superior levels of hygiene and cleanliness.
While the core equipment is vitally important, the accessories available can complete the whole experience of using a SelfCooking Center combination oven. Rational produce a full range of additional extras that can take this outstanding piece of equipment even further in terms of versatility, flexibility and convenience. Offering stands, pans, trays, shelves, trolleys, hoods, fat drains and cleaning products, plus much more, all manufactured to the same exacting standards as the combi oven itself, every business can create a catering kitchen that truly meets their every demand.
Unox understands the importance of a combination oven to any successful food service operation and have strived to create a whole range of accessories to further enhance the user experience, concentrating not only on quality but also practicality and convenience. The Cheftop MIND.Maps combi ovens are supplied with a half complement of wire grids as standard to kick off operation for any business.
For those that want to equip their kitchen with other essentials, there are trolleys, hoods, stands, pans, trays, cleaning products, cooking fat collection systems and cabinets available ensuring chefs are fully set-up for any cooking scenario. Unox also manufactures the Evereo holding cabinet and the Slowtop cook and hold oven, each fully compatible with the Cheftop to further enhance kitchen productivity.
These comprehensive pieces of kit look spectacular on paper, however, can only be truly appreciated in action, up close and personal. Rational SelfCooking Centers appear at CookLive demonstrations at selected venues around the country allowing chefs to experience Rational excellence for themselves.
Full, in-depth product training is carried out by a Rational expert after purchase, the team remaining available for ongoing support ensuring all sites enjoy and make full use of all of the advanced features.
Again, while any chef will appreciate the proposed benefits of the Cheftop from a website or catalogue, the potential can never be fully experienced until witnessing the Unox MIND.Maps in action. Believing that everyone deserves a unique showcase of the cooking capabilities, tailored to individual styles and requirements, Unox can provide personalised onsite demonstrations where they come to you. Alternatively, chefs interested in what the range has to offer can also visit a Unox site for an individual cooking experience.
Complete training and personal set-up from a member of the Unox team come as standard when investing in any oven ensuring every business can make use of all of the advanced features and guarantee that the equipment works for the chef.
Almost as important as the equipment itself, the warranty and service aspect of owning a Rational SelfCooking Center is just as vital. Rational deliver a full 2 year parts and labour warranty as standard, giving peace of mind that should the unexpected happen and a problem occurs, the team are there to offer support every step of the way, whenever they’re needed. With wide ranging service partners on call around the country, an estimated 80% of service calls are resolved within the same day, meaning that businesses are never left without their core cooking appliance for long. Where connected cooking is implemented, service partners can even remotely take a look at the equipment before they’ve even attended site.
Rational recommend that a site survey is carried out before any purchase to determine the most suitable piece of equipment for the individual site requirements and that all necessary power supplies and utilities are present and correct. As a water softener isn’t required, a water test won’t need to be carried out regardless of where the site is located in the country. Installation packages are available.
Every Unox Cheftop MIND.Maps combination oven is supplied with a 1 year full parts and labour warranty as standard, however, where an installation service is chosen, carried out by Unox engineers, this increases to a full 2 year warranty. To extend this further, Unox will provide a 4 year warranty when a connection package, to either ethernet or wifi is opted for.
Should an issue arise, engineers will typically attend site within 24-48 hours, however, if operating a connected oven, the majority of problems can be diagnosed remotely. If the problem needs manual intervention, the attending engineer will always come equipped with the right tools for the job.
Looking for a Unox oven service PIN for the Cheftop, Bakertop or Bakerlux ovens? Give us a call, we might be able to help you out.
A site survey is recommended prior to purchase. During this visit, the attending Unox representative will carry out an independent water test. This highlights the type of water in your area. In hard water areas, a small filter may be required however there is a built-in scale inhibitor on every model which should suffice for models up to a 7 grid capacity. Where salt and chloride etc. are present, a reverse osmosis system may be recommended.
Rational SelfCooking Center prices start from approximately £3894*
Unox Cheftop MIND.Maps Plus prices start from approximately £3024*
|No. of models available||7||11|
|2/1 and 1/1 models|
|Gas and Electric models|
|Cooking steps held||up to 12||up to 9|
|Multi level cooking|
|Intelligent cooking||with core temperature probe|
|Shelves included||Half complement of shelves|
|Method of cleaning||Tablet||Liquid|
|Doesn’t require water softener|
|Demos||At selected venues||On-site|
|Warranty||2 yr full||1 yr full with optional upgrade|
|Price*||starting from £3894||starting from £3025|
Both combis deliver exceptional performance. Packed with intelligent features and able to create precision conditions for whatever cooking function you desire, both Rational and Unox guarantee cooking versatility, operational convenience and most importantly, exquisite results that are both consistent and repeatable.
Ultimately, your combi oven top pick will come down to your individual requirements and the budget you have available to spend. Both have their own advantages and are closely matched and both are a game changing addition to any commercial kitchen or catering operation. Rational are exceptional pieces of kit, as proven by their popularity with the professionals, ongoing premium status and their position as clear market leaders, however, as an up-and-coming brand, Unox is not to be overlooked. Offering a few unique design features and all at a lower price point, they’re the biggest threat to Rational’s reign and definitely ones to watch.
There are many aspects to consider before making your ultimate choice however this article along with our ‘At a Glance’ quick guide should help you to reach the right decision. If you’re still undecided on where you should be investing for your next combi oven, get in touch via email or give us a ring on 01455 894416. We’re ready to help.
*prices correct at time of publication.