Match Made in “Oven”

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Find the right pizza oven for your kitchen, space and menu to produce perfect pies all day long.

Pizza is all about choice. Crust size ranges from deep-dish to paper-thin. It can be round, square, rectangular or even a hand-rolled oval. While basic pizza sauces offer just the red or white, there’s also the trendy pesto pizza sauce, or no sauce at all. The choice of toppings is, of course, virtually endless, from veggies to proteins to myriad varieties of cheese. There are even dessert pizzas.

Technically, any dry-heat oven can bake a pizza. But the geometry of a pizza and the varied cooking demands of its bottom-side crust and top-side’s high-moisture toppings now require specialty ovens for the best pie possible. This need has fueled the creation of an impressive array of pizza oven sub-categories.

The first “pizza ovens” were open-hearth brick ovens, which could—and still can—be used to bake leaven breads and pastries. Next came deck ovens, which were somewhat smaller and kept the fire brick or ceramic cooking deck but lost the high-domed ceiling. It also went with (primarily) gas heat in lieu of wood, coal or charcoal.

When chain concepts embraced the pizza, they needed both speed and no-brainer simplicity. The conveyor pizza oven was the solution, as it eliminates the need to manually move pizzas (using a peel) or visually guesstimate cooking time. When full-service joints and even fine dining restaurants embraced the pizza, they opted for the hulking, fire-breathing brick ovens for visual aesthetic and drama.

Most brick ovens, deck ovens and conveyor ovens are colossal beasts designed to produce dozens of large pies every hour. But smaller and lower-volume operators require smaller solutions, so manufacturers have responded with new technology to speed cooking while preserving quality.

Conveyor oven
Products: ICO-1848 Countertop Conveyor Oven
Company: Bakers Pride
Lose the peel if you want to ensure consistency. Conveyor ovens apply factory automation techniques using a wire-linked conveyor belt for loading, travel and discharge of the cooked pizzas. Operators can set belt speed and temps for different sizes, crust thickness and toppings. No human intervention is required, so the results are consistent if the dough crust and ingredient prep is fairly consistent, which is why most pizza chains rely on conveyor ovens. The Bakers Pride ICO-1848 Countertop Conveyor Oven can fit into small areas and doesn’t require a ventilation hood. Bakers Pride says it can cook more pies per hour than a similar-sized deck oven. For even more output, you can stack up to three units.

More 411: Adjust belt speed and cooking temps. Cleaning is fast with a front cover latch system for access to the removable conveyor system and jet plates. As you might guess, the ICO-1848 has an 18-inch-wide-by- 48-inch-long conveyor and can be ordered with an optional 18- inch landing platform.

Brick ovens
Products: Stone Hearth Ovens
Company: Wood StoneCorp.
In addition to artisan cooking, traditional brick ovens also deliver theater. Because of their size and impact, they’re typically built into the design of the establishment with tile, brick or polished metal surrounds. Most have either no door or a castiron door that is usually left open for both chef access and patrons’ viewing. Wood Stone’s line of Stone Hearth Ovens includes the traditional near-round (10-sided) Mountain series; the compact square Bistro line; and rectangular Fire Deck models that offer wider door openings. All three lines share their monolithic (onepiece) cast-ceramic hearth, dome ceiling and spun ceramic fiber insulated construction.

More 411: The Mountain Series is available in four sizes, with a fuel source choice of gas-fired (rear of oven and under-floor option); wood-only fi red; wood with gas assist; and combination models that allow wood-burning with gas burners. Bistro Models are available in four sizes, in gas only. The Fire Deck Series is available in seven models.

Deck ovens
Products: Model 1048 & 1060 Pizza Ovens
Company: Blodgett Oven Company
Deck ovens are fairly basic, but then again, so is pizza. In the back of most neighborhood pizza carryout joints, you will fi nd a venerable deck oven turning out tasty pies year after year. “Built like a Blodgett” is a longused tagline for all Blodgett’s oven lines, and the slogan defi nes its iconic line of deck ovens. They are rugged, simple to use and last for years. The Model 1048 has a 48-inch-wide cooking deck and capacity for fi ve 16-inch pies. The 1060 Model has a 60-inch-wide deck and capacity for up to six 16-inch pies. Both models have a QHT Rokite stone deck for direct- contact cooking, but can be ordered with an aluminium-steel deck for cooking pan pizzas. Both models can be stacked (Double Models) for twice the capacity in the same footprint.

More 411: Full width, springassisted solid stainless steel door hinges provide easy oven access and a handy staging, loading and landing surface. A burner door below the oven door provides easy access for lighting burners.

Small pizza ovens
Products: Sodir Countertop Pizza Ovens
Company: Equipex
With the popularity of pizza, many non-pizza restaurant operators want to add a pie or two to their menu. Fortunately, there are plenty of good small pizza ovens available. The countertop equipment pros at Equipex have a quartet of compact countertop options that are capable of cooking a fresh or frozen 16-inch pizza in three to six minutes (depending on the crust and toppings). All have electric quartz heating elements that deliver temperatures up to 660 degrees, and a fire-brick stone cooking deck for a perfect thick or thin crust bake. Separate thermostats control both top-mounted and under-deck heating elements.

More 411: The 26.5-inch wide models are available single and double stacked for 208/240- volt power, plus a 120-volt single unit. The PZ4302D Model is a bit larger at 35.25 inches wide, and it’s stackable with an optional kit. All models include a 15-minute timer, a hinged-down door with a viewing window and interior light.

Small-volume output
Products: The Fire
Company: TurboChef
Looking for a small countertop pizza oven that is both fast and sexy? Look no further than the TurboChef Fire, a compact cylindrical oven that is only 19 inches in diameter; can accommodate up to a 14-inch-thick or a thincrust pizza, and cook it in as little as 90 seconds. The Fire offers temperatures up to 842-degrees; has both top- and bottom-mounted convection fans; and has independent top and bottom temp controls.

More 411: The Fire incorporates a catalytic converter for ventless operation. These attention-grabbing cylindrical ovens are available in five high-impact colors: traffi c red, yellow-green, pure-white, jet-black and custom TurboChef blue.

Innovative pizza ovens
Products: Hot Rocks Series Conveyor Ovens
Company: Picard (picture on cover)
Specialty and hybrid ovens provide more options, so manufactures have modified brick ovens and deck ovens so the cooking deck rotates inside the oven chamber, thus eliminating the need to manually rotate pizzas. Other innovations add a ceramic or stone cooking surface to conveyor-style ovens. Conveyor ovens simplified production but couldn’t deliver the crust development of traditional brick or stone hearth ovens. Enter Picard, a Canadian manufacturer of retail, bakery and foodservice ovens. Its aptly named Hot Rocks Series offers high-production conveyor ovens with baking stone strips that cover the entire conveyor surface and deliver direct-contact crust results comparable to brick ovens. The forced air ventilation system ensures continual air flow for an even bake and offers impressive pizza bake times of less than two minutes.

Combi ovens
Products: The Vector Series Multi-Cook Ovens
Company: Alto Shaam
When kitchens are small or pizza is a small part of the menu, there are some powerful multi-function ovens to consider. Combi ovens are the obvious choice, followed by some of today’s fast-cook ovens for when budgets and space are really tight. Alto Shaam introduced its new multi-function, multi-chamber oven technology at The NAFEM Show 2017 in Orlando. Its Vector Series Multi-Cook Ovens are literally two, three or four ovens in one, with separate and isolated chambers inside a single 21-inch-wide footprint. Top-mounted controls set a different temperature, fan speed and cook time for each insulated chamber. Bake a pizza in one unit while cooking baked potatoes and roasting chicken quarters in the others.

More 411: Innovative Structured Air Technology delivers unmatched even cooking, according to the manufacturer. Vector Series Ovens have a ventless installation option that don’t require water and do not use microwaves to accelerate cooking.

Advanced oven technology
Products: SelfCookingCenter Combi Ovens & Accessories
Company: RATIONAL
After creating the combination oven-steamer (combi) category, RATIONAL does not rest on its laurels. Instead, it continually refines sensor and control technology, culminating in the development of its SelfCookingCenter advanced oven. It offers a suite of accessories that further expands combi cooking applications. The RATIONAL Grill and Pizza Tray is a patented two-sided, non-stick plate with a ribbed side for grilling and a baking side for pizza, perfect for browning freshly made or frozen product.

More 411: If a tight kitchen has kept you from considering a RATIONAL Combi Oven, check out its new XS Model 6 2/3, which is only 21.85 inches deep, 25.8 inches wide and 22.3 inches high. The XS Model is small but mighty with full SelfCookingCenter control technology, an integrated fresh-steam generator and a CareControl automatic cleaning and descaling system.

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