Choosing the Right Combi Oven
Combi ovens bring together two cooking methods into one piece of equipment, creating a total of three cooking options. Used predominantly in commercial and restaurant kitchens, combi ovens bring together convection cooking and non-pressure steam cooking that is a perfect addition to kitchens that prepare a multitude of foods. When considering the combi oven for your restaurant kitchen, size (both capacity based on pan sizes it may hold and the area of the kitchen it may occupy), boiler options, heat source and control options. Let’s take a look at those now.
The major consideration for size is capacity. Capacity is measured by pan size. Pan size is usually considered in one of four sizes for this application. 2/3 hotel pans, full size hotel pans, half size sheet pans and full size sheet pans. It is a good idea to understand the size pans you’d be using in the combi ovens to determine the right model for you. Your standard countertop models typically have a capacity of 3 to 10 pans. As you start moving more towards full sized flood standing models, the number of pans will increase. Floor sized model will have the capacity of 11- to over 21 pans, depending on the type of pan used.
Combi ovens can literally take the place of convection ovens, steamers, proofing cabinets, rethermalizers and other restaurant kitchen equipment. It can save a tremendous amount of space in the kitchen, though in a busy kitchen, you may want more than one unit, if you use multi-methods at the same time. The space it can occupy in your kitchen can be up to the size of your normal convection oven, so plan accordingly. They can range from countertop to full floor standing models.
Since the nature of this oven is to offer both the ability to roast or steam, the type of boiler it has will make a difference on your style of cooking. Boiler options will be different as you move from size to size. Smaller countertop combi ovens may not have the need to control steam levels the same way mid-sized to large combi ovens do. Smaller combi ovens, then, usually do not have a boiler option built in. Mid-sized to large sized ovens will have the need for a boiler, as the need for steam volume will be greater.
Combi Oven Heat Source
The most common combi ovens are electric. You can find gas models in either natural gas or propane gas, though you may still need to have a power outlet available to run the convection fan. For electric models, you will want to make sure you have enough power. Check the amps and the draw before you purchase. Countertop electric model start at 208 volts and larger ovens require 240 volts.
Combi oven controls can be very basic, with control knobs to control the temperature, fan speed and steam, or they can be digital with more control options. Digital controls can offer a programmable interface that can feature everything from easy time input to USB interfaces for recipe uploads. What determines the best option here is simply your menu. If you intend to use the combi oven for rather straight forward cooking functions, then perhaps the control knob option is best. But if you intend to offer up a diverse menu with lots of preparation styles, the digital option may allow you the exploration you need to be the master chef with the right tools.
Popular Brand Names of Combi Ovens
Top brand names of combi ovens include Alto-Sham, Blodgett, Rational, Groen and Southbend. They are available in many sizes and capacities, with both electric or gas options, solid or glass windowed doors, with controls at top, bottom or sides.