Commercial combi ovens – the definitive buyer’s guide
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Commercial combi ovens – the definitive buyer’s guide
It goes almost without saying that a commercial combi oven is one of the most versatile tools in a professional kitchen. While restaurants can vary dramatically, from quick service restaurants with a focus on providing good food at good value, to the pioneering establishments with Michelin stars to their name, the beauty of a combi is that it is just as at home in either setting.
While its versatility is second to none, there are a host of features and functions that chefs and operators may not be aware of. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about professional combi ovens, including:
What is a commercial combi oven?
As you would expect from the name, a commercial combination oven – most commonly known as a combi oven – combines multiple different types of cooking in one piece of equipment – typically convection, steam, and a combination of the two.
A truly state-of-the-art combi oven can also deliver the productivity benefits of wireless communication with other devices such as blast chillers. Naturally, this is incredibly helpful when it comes to menu development.
In its purest form, a combi oven uses mains water to provide the steam element, and then electricity or gas (LPG or mains) to power a fan for the distribution of dry heat throughout the chamber. The steam setting is perfect for cooking fish and vegetables without diluting the flavour, while the traditional convection mode facilitates traditional roasting and other high-heat demands.
Where the technology comes into its own though, is the combination setting, which allows operators to precisely control the humidity within the oven. As such, humidity settings can be quickly optimised for different functions, such as baking (removing the need for a traditional water pan to get a great crust). They can then changed to dry frying mode – a healthier equivalent to deep fat frying – at the touch of a button.
With kitchen footprint at an all-time premium, the fact that a combi oven can take the space of just one piece of equipment means it can offer enormous scope when it comes to developing a menu. From traditional functions, such as roasting and baking, through to more specialist uses, such as making mulled wine or sous vide duck rillettes, there really is very little you can’t do with a combi.
Electrolux Professional’s new SkyLine PremiumS combi oven features a brand new touch-screen user interface. Operators are able to select from manual, pre-programmed and automatic cooking modes; while the most commonly-used functions can be grouped together on the new SkyHub homepage on the interface for fast access.
What really sets the Skyline range apart from anything else on the market is its connectivity. Not only can it directly communicate with the newly-launched SkyLine ChillS range of blast chillers, but all data – from running costs through to recipe programming – can be remotely monitored 24/7 via Electrolux’s OnE online portal.
The simple answer for most chefs is yes; however, as with any new piece of commercial cooking equipment, it’s important to think about how a combi oven will help to streamline processes and ultimately make life easier for operators.
It may sound simple, but combi ovens equipped with a multi-timer function are great for this, allowing operators to simply shut the oven door, select the correct programme and move on to more time-intensive tasks. The SkyLine PremiumS combi has been designed to help do just that. It has the ability to monitor cooking times for up to 20 different products.
How do I pick the right combi oven for me?
Different operators will use a combi oven differently; the fact the there are lots of functions available allows an operator to choose the ones they need, and disregard the ones they don’t.
Ultimately, the most important thing for everyone involved in the process of buying a commercial combi oven for a commercial kitchen – be that specifiers, chefs or distributors – is to be really clear what their individual requirements are, before committing to purchase.
There is no hard and fast rule to sizing a commercial combi oven. It will largely depend on the type of establishment, be it a school, hotel, hospital or restaurant; the number of services a day it will be catering for, and the number of covers for that kitchen.
However, the beauty of a combi oven is that – just as it can offer a variety of different cooking techniques – it can also be configured in a number of different ways. From a typical six grid combi oven, which can sit on top of a counter, or be stacked in series with another combi or a blast chiller, through to a full-size 20 grid combi oven, the set-up can be easily tailored to the kitchen’s output.
A self-clean function would be the minimum we’d expect for any combi oven. The SkyLine PremiumS combi features the unique SkyClean function. This delivers fast, efficient and highly flexible cleaning technology; while also allowing operators to choose the best chemical solution for their needs, from a range of solid, liquid or a new ‘green’ 96% biodegradable enzymatic options. A built-in Green Spirit mode can also reduce water energy and chemical consumption by up to 30%.
How energy efficient is a combi oven?
Energy efficiency has always been at the heart of our own R&D process. For example, the SkyLine PremiumS combi includes the new OptiFlow function. This is a revolutionary air circulation system which guarantees uniform heat distribution and constant humidity and temperature within the cooking chamber. It also features a new Lambda sensor to provide ultra-precise, real-time humidity control across 101 different settings.
Heat loss is minimised during the cooking process thanks to enhanced chamber insulation, optimised cavity design and an optional triple glass door. The new ‘plan and save’ function optimises the cooking processes which could save up to an additional 13% energy consumption.
How much does a combi oven cost to run?
While cost is often the operative factor, it should go without saying that the capital cost isn’t always reflective of how much an oven is going to cost over its full life cycle. With that in mind, it’s always worthwhile to be aware of the various other factors. These can range from energy usage through to cleaning costs, and can add up over time to really affect whether a particular oven will be a sound investment.
Ultimately, a commercial combi oven can be the lynchpin of a commercial kitchen, offering unrivalled flexibility from a compact footprint. From Michelin-starred restaurants to hospital canteens, a good combi oven can cover a host of different cooking functions, and free up a chef’s time to work on other tasks.
While there are a host of combi oven manufacturers on the market, chefs should be cautious in their approach and not rush the decision making process. Work closely with your equipment distributor and really drill down into what you need your combi to do for you. Once you have those priorities established, you can make the most informed decision.