Convection ovens are a preferred way of cooking for many commercial food operations. Their circulated air flow speeds up the cooking process; an essential function when working in a commercial kitchen that revolves around speed. The internal fans in convection ovens not only speed up the cooking process, but also allow the oven to cool down faster (a must when going from high to low cook temperatures). There is, however, quite a variety of convection ovens on the market, and it can be tedious at times to find the right one. The following useful tips can make shopping significantly easier, and potentially cut the amount of time you invest researching ovens in half.
Selecting The Perfect Size
There are many reasons why it is essential to determine the proper size of your perspective convection. Aside from space they will take up, cooking turnover times and energy consumption are dependent on the size of the oven. Here are a few factors to look at when determining the right sized ovens:
- Footprint – First and foremost, it is important to decide on how much space is available. A convection oven takes up a large portion of kitchen, and though a double stack has the same width and depth, it is significantly taller. There are, however, countertop and half size (a single stack half size can fit on a countertop as well) convection ovens that can offer the same cooking power in a fraction of the space.
- Width – Full size convection ovens are wide enough to accommodate a full size sheet pan, left-to-right. Half-size and countertop ovens are meant to fit half size sheet pans left to right. If it is essential that your oven fit a full sheet pan, half size and countertop ovens are not an option.
- Depth – Some full size convection ovens are what is known as “bakery depth” models, which are called such because they are often preferred in bakeries. These bakery depth ovens are deeper than standard full size convections, and can fit a full size sheet pan front-to-back on each rack. This allows for more even cooking since the fan is blowing directly over the food product, and decreases the need to rotate pans inside the oven. Since they are deeper, however, they take up a slightly larger portion of floor space.
- Pan / Rack Capacity – Standard full size and half size convections usually come with five (5) racks, but have space for up to 7 at a smaller spacing. Countertop convections have four (4) or less racks per oven. The number of racks being used is important because the will directly affect the clearance space for each pan on the rack. If more racks are needed, but a large clearance space between racks is as well, a double stack oven will be necessary. Both full size (including bakery depth) and half size convection ovens come in double stack models.
Selecting The Right Model
Often times a single company will have many models of similar convection ovens. Here are some of the biggest distinctions you will find between models that may have appeared comparable at first glance.
- Gas or Electric – Most all half and full size convection ovens that come in gas will have an equivalent electric counterpart. There are plenty of efficient models in both gas (LP and natural gas) and electric, many of which are ENERGY STAR® approved. When shopping for convections, it should be noted that even gas ovens will require electricity to circulate air and run their fans. Most all countertop convection ovens, however, will operate solely on electricity.
- Fans – All convection ovens have fans, however different models have different fans. Standard models will generally have one fan that rotates in a single direction; however high-end convections can have multiple fans that auto-reverse every time the oven is opened. Dual fan ovens have better airflow, and cook more evenly, while the auto-reverse feature helps increase the longevity of the fan motor. Though these features are not necessary to the functionality, they can help an oven cook more reliably for longer periods of time.
- Construction – Another difference in most models will be the construction. Aside from the model depth, there are several other construction variables that will affect costs. Some models will have solid doors, and other models will have lights and single or double glass doors for product visibility. Additionally, the higher the price goes up, as does the construction quality of the oven. Typically higher-end convection ovens have superior interior construction, will warm up and retain heat better, and will cool down faster than base or standard models.
- TemperatureRange– Different models have different temperature ranges. If you will be using your oven at extremely low or high temperatures, it is important to examine the temperature range a model offers. Some models can go as low as 140°F and as high as 550°F, while others have ranges from around 200°F to 500°F, so make note of where your temperature extremes should be while shopping.
- Warranty – Different models and manufacturers will have different warranties. Though a convection oven has a relatively long shelf life when compared to other pieces of kitchen equipment, every large purchase should be made with the warranty in mind. Again, higher-end models will have longer warranties. Because of their superior construction, most companies will stand behind them for a longer period of time.
Combi Ovens And Humidity
Some convection ovens come with partial humidity control, which allow the typically dry ovens to cook with some moisture. All models that feature any form of humidity control require water lines, but here are a few examples that offer more than just partial humidity control.
- Combi Ovens – A combi oven is quite literally a combination between a steamer and a convection oven. They range in size from large countertop units to large standing models that can reach heights of around 78” high. Most combis have electronic or digital controls that allow temperature, humidity, and steam levels to be controlled. They can operate as both a steamer and a dry convection, or can be custom set with any combination of heat and moisture desired. They also usually come with rinse hoses, drainage, and some even have a built-in self-cleaning setting. They come in gas and electric models, as well as models that can be purchased with or without a boiler.
- Hydrovection Ovens – Hydrovection ovens are in essence a sort of combi oven. They have most, if not all, of the same features a combi oven has, but have the size and shapes of traditional convection ovens. They come in half size or full size, single or double stack, and gas or electric.