Whatever the size of your kitchen, there’s always room for improvement. Whether you’re a penned-in chef trying to make the most of your tiny prep-areas or your staff are running miles between cabinets and appliances preparing single dishes, you’ll likely have some idea of what could make your kitchen more productive.
Often, the solution is to invest in some versatile cooking equipment: buying some single appliances which can do the work of many, saving you time, increasing output and making your preparation process more efficient.
Versatility has been all the rage for quite some time, with one of the most basic examples being:
The Range Oven
Commercial ranges are cooking workhorses and can be found in millions if not billions of kitchens, whether commercial or domestic, around the world.
With a built-in convection oven and an integrated solid top or hob burners, Range ovens have long allowed users to cook a variety of dishes using a variety of methods all in one place: with one of these, you can bake while you fry, and roast while you boil; you can mix an electric oven with a gas hob or have hot plates up top with a gas oven below. There’s no wonder why they are so popular and there’s no wonder why they come with our stamp of approval…
For small kitchens, that is. Commercial kitchens usually need something a little more complicated, a little more capable, a little more versatile, to meet demands:
The Combination Oven
These versatile ovens can be pricey but they are worth the investment for any food business.
Combination ovens (or combi ovens) are able to cook with three different methods -- convection, steam and a combination of steam and convection -- meaning that they save you having to buy an individual steamer and a separate convection oven. This single appliance will bake your bread, steam your rice and use a mixture of convection and steam cooking to produce succulent meat which bursts with flavour.
What’s more, these intelligent pieces of kit, the very best that the market has to offer, also come with a stellar set of sensors. These allow you to accurately set temperatures from the very low - making your oven a slow cooker or a holding cabinet where you can leave your pastry to prove - to the very high. And they allow you to control the humidity of the oven with great precision.
On top of that, the best combination ovens are easily programmable, and so also allow you to set specific temperatures, humidity levels and cooking times to produce large quantities of identical dishes time after time.
If you’re a food business looking for an ideal oven, you don’t need to look much further.
With so many to choose from, however, let us point you in the direction of the best of the bunch:
The Rational brand has been, since 1976, at the forefront of combination cookers, producing appliances which are highly efficient, cost-effective and guarantee premium results.
Rational’s Self-Cooking Centres are designed for ease of use. Easily pre-programmed, they allow you to simply select the results you want rather than fiddling around with temperature and humidity controls. Once you’ve done that, you can leave them to it while they cook up your food. Ideal for staff with a huge list of tasks on their mind, Self-Cooking Centres also monitor their cleanliness, detecting the build-up of lime-scale and telling you when they could use a good scrub.
For a greater variety of cooking styles, however, Rational’s VarioCooking Centre is the appliance to choose. Combining the functions of tilting pans, boilers, ranges and deep-fat fryers, these flip-up cookers save you tonnes of space in your kitchen while allowing you to cook overnight, under pressure or in the moment.
The Unox brand, incorporated in the 1990s, is a little younger than Rational but their combi-ovens, geared towards quality and simplicity, are tough competition. Their ovens are some of the most efficient on the market (saving the planet while they save you money on energy bills) and are also just as easy to use as Rational’s.
Unox’s Cheftop combination ovens are the cornerstone of the brand: the result of a collaboration with professional chefs from around the world, they are designed with close attention to detail to produce a wide variety of quality food with ease. Producing large quantities of food, all to the same exacting standards, superior results are achieved consistently over multiple shelves and repeatable with every load. Desirable features range from well-lit shelves to help you properly check on your dishes to the equivalent automatic temperature and humidity controls and cleaning functions also seen in a Rational oven.
For an in-depth look between these two combi oven titans, take a look at Rational Vs. Unox: Clash of the Combis.
While technology, advanced features and versatility is a major factor for kitchens, remember that good old build quality is still a winning feature when choosing your equipment. All the enticing bells and whistles are redundant if the machine isn't up to job and able to withstand the stresses and rigours of a commercial kitchen.
Whichever combination oven you choose, you’ll be investing in a versatile appliance which will save you space and time by combining the functions of multiple machines while, with those snazzy high-tech sensors and touch-screen controls, keeping your kitchen right up to date and able to cope with modern demands for high quality plates time after time.