Combi-Oven: Is it right for me?

Ovens are central to any restaurant kitchen, but many oversee the potential in a combi-oven for their operations. When space is limited - and most restaurants can relate - the ideal piece of equipment can do the work of two or more traditional counterparts. By combining convection ovens and their steamer counterparts, combi-ovens have worked their way onto the list of one of the most influential and innovative pieces of commercial kitchen equipment. While no appliance is perfect, the combi-oven comes close.

Restaurant Hospitality - one of the many fans of combi-ovens - describes the combi-oven:

The combi oven offers three modes of cooking in one oven — steam, circulated hot air or a combination of both. The combination mode is used to reheat foods and to roast or bake. The steam mode is well suited for rapid cooking of vegetables and shellfish. The hot air mode operates as a regular convection oven for baking cookies, cakes, and pastries. The combi mode decreases overall cook times, reduces product shrinkage and eliminates flavor transfer when multiple items are cooked simultaneously.

The combination part of the oven is what makes it a perfect machine. Convection oven air typically blows air over items within the cavity, evenly browning items rather than having splotchy cooking patterns as is with typical ovens. The steamer portion of combi-ovens blows steams into the cavity as well in conjunction with forced-air cooking, ensuring that foods don’t dry out in the cooking process.

The benefits are seen in a variety of food items:

  • Meats: Typically, meats tend to dry out in ovens causing shrinkage. In combi-ovens, the steamer portion ensures that moisture is constantly injected into the cavity, keeping meats plump and juicy.

  • Bread: In standard ovens, bread also tends to dry out, leaving an unpleasantly flaky crust on bread that should be soft and squishy. The steam from a combi-oven helps to keep the crust of bread soft and chewy.

  • Leftovers: Frozen foods and leftovers that get heated in ovens tend to scorch or have uneven cooking patterns, leaving a frozen cube in the centers of pre-packaged items. The combi-oven forces hot air for even browning, and the steam keeps those items from overdrying.

From a design standpoint, the combi-oven frees up space that you’d normally occupy with several different pieces of equipment. Space saved not only helps your kitchen stay clutter-free, but it directly translates into cost-savings as well. Less equipment means fewer vents and hoods and less stainless steel.

While the combi-oven is a larger initial investment, the savings over time makes the purchase justifiable. Additionally, many companies are creating boilerless units to help save money, as these units tend to be cheaper. You can purchase countertop or floor-mounted and roll-in units, so evaluate your setup to choose the right design for your kitchen. While most units are electric, they also come in gas. If you’re using electric, be sure that your kitchen can handle the voltage. For instance., a 10-steam table-pan unit requires between 13 and 19 kilowatts.

If you do a lot of baking and cooking meats in ovens, your kitchen could probably use a combi-oven. Browse selections and see if the investment is right for you.

LENNY TELLER

Contract/Design/Engineering

CKitchen.com

E Friedman Associates

(917) 335-1127

lenny@efriedman.com

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