Commercial convection ovens aren't new to the restaurant industry, but we find there are still a lot of questions about them. If that's you, don't fret—in this buying guide we'll walk you through what a convection oven is and why it might be suited to your needs. Since convection ovens bake and cook more evenly and in a shorter period of time than conventional ovens, many commercial kitchens are making the switch—and loving it! Perfect for roasting, baking, and even cooking frozen foods (like appetizers and pizzas)., convection ovens do just as well in the back of house or behind a bar. Not only that, caterers and food truck operators favor convection ovens since they're easy to transport.
Still not sure if a convection oven is for you? Read on!
As opposed to a conventional oven, which has a stationary heat source, a convection oven utilizes a fan that circulates hot air within the cavity. The fan and exhaust system helps to blow hot air around your food, not only decreasing cooking time but also minimizing the risk of hot spots, which is a common complaint of conventional ovens. This type of heating, which differs than just placing heating elements around your food, speeds up chemical reactions during cooking. Translation? Try flakier pastries or crispy chicken skin (with a juicy interior). Plus, food cooked in a convection oven often cooks 25% faster than that cooked in a conventional oven!
Since convection ovens cook items about 30% faster than their conventional counterparts, you'll also find that in most recipes you can lower the recommended temperature by 25 degrees. That's because the movement of hot air within the cavity increases the overall temperature inside, so foods not only sear faster, but cook at the same rate even at a lower temperature.
Consistency is the name of the game in commercial kitchens. Consistency ensures that food tastes the same no matter who is cooking it, keeping guests happy and reducing your food costs (No more throwing away burnt food!). Consider baking three racks of cookies in a conventional oven: undoubtedly the two racks closest to the heating elements will cook faster than the middle rack, causing uneven browning.
Also, some convection ovens feature digital and programmable options, making it easier than ever to replicate recipes no matter who is cooking it.
If you're looking for the perfect roast chicken, look no further than your convection oven. The higher heat helps render the fat and crisp up the skin more quickly than conventional ovens. The convection blower instantly sears the meat and locks in essential juices, making it a perfect cooking tool for chickens, roasts and more. Plus, since moisture can escape more evenly in your convection oven, your food will get browned instead of steamed.
A complete convection oven workhorse, you can use your commercial convection oven to do everything from baking and broiling to even roasting. Convection ovens make it easy for caterers to cook food on-site, while bartenders can add small bites to their menu like frozen appetizers or pizzas. Re-thermalizing is an option for some convection ovens, which is perfect for reheating product like crab cakes. Bakers will also like cooking desserts like pastries, pies and more in a convection oven. Since the heat melts the fat and creates steam more quickly, doughs get more lift.
Since convection ovens cook faster and at a lower temperature, you'll be using less energy overall. Not only will you feel better about your impact on the environment, but you can also save money on your next energy bill. Win, win!
Convection ovens come in a wide range of sizes (half size, full size, etc), features (manual or digital controls) and more. Finding the right convection oven for you is a matter of preference. Before purchasing any piece of restaurant equipment, you should always consider what you're cooking and how much of it. That will help you determine what size oven you require for your intended output. Also, who will be cooking? Would pre-programmed recipes ensure product is cooked properly each and every time? Read on to learn more about buying considerations for your oven:
Space and Sizing
Commercial convection ovens come in a variety of sizes, from quarter, to half-size and full-size. You can also find both floor and countertop models of convection ovens, with single and double oven variants to maximizing cooking within your space. Consider not only your physical kitchen space, but also what you intend to cook (and how much of it). Sizing up might not save you much if a smaller unit will serve your needs. Also, keep in mind that many gas convection ovens require enough clearance around the unit (several inches) for proper airflow.
Like conventional ovens, convection ovens come in both gas and electric options. Electric ovens make it convenient for caterers who anticipate a lot of on-site cooking, since most places can accommodate them. Gas models, on the other hand, require proper clearance (typically an inch or more) around all sides for proper airflow. Not only that, you'll need to check your local municipalities' fire codes about hood ventilation systems, flexible gas hoses, etc. Any cooking equipment within a commercial kitchen will emit grease-laden particles, which can be a serious fire hazard if they are not properly filtered from the air.
Commercial convection ovens come in either manual or digital control options. Manual controls are extremely easy to use: simply select your desired temperature and cook time, and that's it! However, for real "foolproof" cooking, try programmable digital controls. With digital controls you can preset cook temperatures and times, so that dishes come out the same each and every time, no matter who is cooking it.
Warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You'll often find a basic one year parts and labor warranty, with an additional 1 year warranty on the door, though some manufacturers offer even more than that. Always be aware of your unit's warranty, and consider your specific operation to make sure you don't unintentionally void the warranty once the unit is in use.
Like most restaurant equipment in your commercial kitchen, the best way to extend its life and keep your food tasting delicious is to keep it clean. As always, before cleaning any equipment make sure it is cool to the touch. Most manufacturers allow you to easily remove the door and inner shelving for easy access to the interior. Be sure to use a non-caustic oven cleaner and a soft rag to wipe the interior—if you find some residue is hard to remove, let the cleaner sit on a little longer to break it down.