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The finer points of buying an oven

With so many oven types, sizes and heating technologies available, buyers should focus on their menu first—what’s going in the oven—then look at volume requirements and kitchen or operational constraints. There are some smaller points to consider as well.

Even browning: Before buying, operators should work with the manufacturer to test product-browning patterns with standard 18- x 26-in. bake pans in multi-rack ovens. Even with their built-in fans that circulate heated air, convection/combi ovens may require 180° pan rotation. Conveyor ovens heat from above and below and move product to ensure even browning. Deck ovens usually require product movement with a peel to get even cooking, but that’s part of their old-world charm and often part of an open-kitchen show.

Door design: The oven door gets a real workout. Doors with windows allow a sneak peek at cooking progress but radiate more heat. Solid doors radiate less heat when closed but dump heat when you take that quick peek. Some combi model doors swing open, then slide back along the side. This disappearing door design is great for tight kitchens. Range ovens and deck ovens have hinged-down doors that can serve as a loading platform. They need to be extremely rugged. Some deck oven doors may even stay open during cooking.

Cleanability: Oven cleaning is a big issue for back-of-the house staff. Oven interiors are typically enameled steel or stainless steel, to make cleaning easier. Many combi ovens require regular steam generator deliming, and all require compartment cleaning. Some combis provide or offer water spray hoses, deliming systems and even semi-automatic compartment wash-down hardware, to make cleaning a bit easier and reduce labor. One convection oven manufacturer now offers a removable bottom catch pan to corral crumbs and grease.

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