Oven Evolution

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More multi-tasking, faster cooking and smaller footprints are all paving the way for a new era in restaurant ovens.

The chef ‘s trusty oven has been going through a metamorphosis in recent years. While still performing their main tasks of baking, roasting and broiling, the newest models can multi-task; cook more menu items in the same footprint; and can now squeeze into small tight areas where older models never dream to fit. Overall, they can cook foods faster and provide more uniform results.

Product: Mini Rotating Rack Oven (OV310)
Company: Baxter
A leading trend among manufacturers is to produce “mini me” versions of their existing ovens for use in smaller kitchen areas. One such model is the Baxter Mini Rotating Rack Oven (OV310) that does everything a full-size model does but with a smaller footprint (48 inches wide by 38 inches deep). This oven is all about versatility, says Michelle Bridges, manager of baking and culinary support at Baxter.

The oven can handle a wide range of products (meats, poultry, seafood and baked goods) in less floor area, which also allows chefs to quickly try new dishes and respond to changing tastes. The OV310 is also one of few at this size with a rotating interior rack for an even bake, for everything from breads and pastries to meats and casseroles. Features include programmable digital controls that can store 99 recipes, and a steam control system that varies steam throughout the cooking process for perfect asparagus, baby carrots, rolls and even bagels, Bridges says.

Models are offered in 6-, 8- and 12-pan configurations. In models fueled by natural gas, propane and electricity, a 16-pan proofer is offered as an option.

Product: CombiMaster Plus XS
Company: RATIONAL
A smaller version of the CombiMaster Plus was unveiled last spring by RATIONAL. The XS model has the same features as the larger model, including dynamic heated air circulation and a built-in fresh steam generator. But it measures only 25 3/4 inches wide by 22 inches deep by 22 1/2 inches high with a 7-cubic-feet oven cavity. It’s not only ideal for cooking inside the kitchen but also in the front-of-house area within cooking and station units live, says Markus Glueck, executive vice president of RATIONAL North America.

Product: eikon e2s
Company: Merrychef
Innovative placement of magnetrons and use of air-curtain technologies has resulted in the Merrychef eikon e2s to offer the highest cooking speeds in the narrowest footprint (only 35.5 centimeters wide). According to Phil Radford, Merrychef vice president and managing director, this oven provides restaurants opportunities to run their operation more effectively in several ways.

First, the eikon e2 can be installed in almost any location where one would want to serve fresh, hot food on demand. It has a number of simple lifting features enabling the installer or customer to lift and locate the oven as they require, and it does not need an extraction hood nor space gaps at the side or rear, Radford notes.

Features of the eikon e2 include an easyTouch icon-driven touchscreen to program cooking operations. It can be configured to automatically turn itself on every morning so it can be ready when it’s needed. At 45.3 dBa in standby mode, it is one of the quietest high-speed ovens on the market, purposely designed so as not to intrude on the environment of customers.

Using less energy than other high-speed ovens, the eikon e2s combines tuned impingement, microwave and convection heat technologies to uniformly heat and brown foods. Cooking is up to 20 times faster than conventional ovens.

Tasks the oven can perform include toasting sandwiches, subs and bagels; regenerating and finishing breaded, crumbed and battered items; cooking potatoes and potato-based recipes; cooking hamburgers or cheeseburgers from raw or frozen in one multi-stage program; cooking raw fish to a very high standard; baking pastries and cookies; frying raw or reheating pre-made eggs; cooking soufflés, puddings or cakes; and baking pizzas.

The Merrychef eikon e2s is designed so all service activities can be completed in under 30 minutes, thus helping users keep maintenance costs to a minimum, says Radford.

Product: Double Batch oven
Company: TurboChef
Another trend in ovens is incorporating more oven cavities in the same unit, which allows the machine to cook different menu items simultaneously. Earlier this year, TurboChef introduced the Double Batch oven, which has two independent oven cavities that circulate impinged air at speeds up to 50 mph to create high heat transfer rates while reducing cooking times. The oven employs variable speed blowers, oscillating racks and a catalytic converter, resulting in minimal energy input, uniform cooking of foods and ventless operation.

Each oven cavity has its own intuitive touch controls with multilanguage user interface and the ability to store 400 programmed recipes in each oven cavity. Wi-Fi compatible, the oven can link with the TurboChef Connect menu management Web portal. A builtin self-diagnostic program monitors oven components and performance to alert users to troubles before downtime occurs. While the Double Batch oven can cook a broad selection of menu items, it is especially designed for quick baking of 16-inch pizzas.

Product: Vector Series Multi-Cook Oven
Company: Alto-Shaam
Alto-Shaam goes one better with the Vector Series Multi-Cook Oven, which provides two-, three-or four-oven cavities in the same small floor footprint. “Each oven chamber can be operated separately at different temperatures, convection air speeds (from 10 percent to maximum speed) and times,” says Tim Murphy, Vector product specialist with Alto-Shaam. “You can, thus, cook chicken at 550 degrees in one chamber and bake cheesecake at 250 degrees in the other. This results in chefs being able to cook up to twice as more food than in a traditional convection oven.”

Developed by Alto-Shaam with Appliance Innovation Co., Vector ovens in convection mode move heated air from top to bottom in each chamber, which more fully envelopes the food for more uniform cooking while reducing heat loss when oven doors are opened. Each oven cavity has its own controls, which chefs can program for frequently cooked meals; this means staffers need only press one pad to initiate the right cook cycle. And when one oven door is opened, the computer controls measure how long it was open so it can then adjust the cooking times in the other cavities to account for the escaped heat, according to Murphy. Vector ovens are also ventless, which eliminates the need for exhaust hoods, he adds.

Product: WOW2 conveyor oven
Company: Middleby Marshall
Designing existing ovens to cook a greater variety of menu items is another ongoing trend. The WOW2 Conveyor Oven marketed by Middleby Marshall not only bakes pizzas faster than earlier models but also can be used to bake chicken and fish, broil steaks, and cook other menu items that previously required a griddle or charbroiler. As a result, the ovens are expanding from their original base in chain restaurants to independent chef-operated restaurants offering a broad selection of cuisines, including seafood and even German dishes, says Mark Sieron, president. WOW2 ovens bake pizzas up to 30 percent faster than earlier models due to the use of gas-fired burners rated at up to 120,000 btu (compared with 70,000 btu in traditional conveyor ovens) as well as advantage VAF impingement technology that evenly spreads air from top to bottom for consistently uniform results.

Users also can vary the heated airflow in the baking chamber, along with the baking temperature on time settings to achieve desired results. Traditional conveyor ovens operate all day, including the 70 percent of the time when no product is moving through the cooking chamber. But the WOW2 has an Automatic Energy Eye, which puts the oven in sleep mode when it detects no product in the chamber. When new product is placed on the conveyor, only then does the oven return to cooking temperature in as little as three seconds. This trims energy use of the oven by 30 percent over traditional models, Sieron says. The company also offers accessories for cooking standard restaurant fare, such as Mexican or Italian cuisine.

Product: SelfCooking Center
Company: RATIONAL
Some all-around ovens are designed to perform nearly every task a restaurant kitchen may require. Introduced more than a decade ago and regularly updated, the versatile RATIONAL Self-Cooking Center can bake, roast, grill, steam, braise, blanche and poach all types of foods without having to program complicated cooking instructions into the oven. With earlier models, chefs simply selected the type of cooking and desired level of doneness and browning before activating the oven. Sensor controls sized up the load to automatically set cooking time, temperature, convection air speed and internal oven climate to produce the desired result. These abilities were improved over the years.

White-fficiency models boosted cooking uniformity while trimming cooking time by up to 30 percent through more efficient heated airflow. They also boasted the simultaneous cooking of a variety of foods by offering the ability to control the cook time on individual racks. With the Self-Cooking Center 5, the oven became an “intelligent cooking system” that’s capable of not only making decisions by itself but also learning the cooking habits of the user while communicating its actions to the chef.

The latest innovation from RATIONAL is Connected-Cooking, a cloud-based networking solution that enables foodservice operations to view all cooking operations at any time from a central location and all branch stores. The remote data collection aids in ordering foods based on current demand, monitors overnight slow cooking of roasts and briskets from home, and relays error notifications through computers, smartphones, and Internet- linked tablets. The system also saves HACCP information, says RATIONAL’s Glueck.

To maximize the abilities of the SelfCookingCenter, RATIONAL offers a broad selection of cooking accessories. The CombiFry basket can fry potatoes and other foods without high-fat oils. Versible plates enable the grilling and roasting of meats, fish and vegetables, including one that produces the diamond grill marks on steaks that are associated with traditional steakhouses, and another for baking the crisp crust of Chicago-style pizza. The VarioSmoker holds wood chips on the floor of the oven to turn it into a smoker. A Tandoori Skewer enables cooking East Indian-style meat and poultry dishes without a tandoori oven. Assorted baking racks, trays and transport trolleys for baking breads and pastries are available as options. Larger models can accept special racks for roasting whole lambs and pigs, or up to 96 chickens at once.

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