Foodservice Equipment: Oven Innovations

Manufacturers balance food quality with speed in latest batch of rollouts

The evolution of c-store foodservice would not be under way were it not for advancements in cooking equipment. The patents lining the walls of manufacturer HQs are what allows your customers to get a hot, fast and delicious meals--and come back for more.

But before investing in a new fleet of ovens, it's important to consider your current and future menu. This, along with space and staffing, should drive your purchase decisions.

The spike in fast-casual made-to-order pizza concepts wouldn’t be possible without some impressive improvements in cooking technology. Producing artisan, hearth-style pizza, the TurboChef Fire gets up to 842 degrees, which allows it to make 14-inch fresh-dough pizzas in as little as 90 seconds. The small countertop oven weighs less than 80 pounds and can be placed virtually anywhere without the need for ventilation.

Ovention won its second consecutive Kitchen Innovations award this year for the Shuttle, a conveyor variation on its revolutionary Matchbox oven that is ideal for operations where one menu item, such as pizza, drives the majority of orders. The patented Precision Impingement allows operators to control time and blower speeds for each item, and an improved conveyer decreases cook times. Features of the unit include a touch-screen system that holds 1,000 cook settings, vent-free installation, speed without the use of microwaves, and the ability to switch from conveyor mode to shuttle mode.

As c-stores continue to get more serious about foodservice, operators can’t ignore the high-tech properties of combi ovens, especially for batch or commissary cooking. Alto-Shaam’s CT PROformance with EcoSmart technology boosts energy efficiency by 40% over conventional cooking technologies, while using 80% less water, according to the manufacturer. This Energy Star-rated combi oven operates up to 20% faster than other combi ovens and up to 80% faster than conventional technology with a new PROpower “turbo” mode.

Manitowoc has also put the spotlight on advancements to its combi ovens, particularly its Convotherm 4, including new aesthetics for front-of-house use. Tweaks include the choice of easyTouch touch-screen controls or easyDial dial controls, and a disappearing door and sure-shut door function. The Advanced Closed System+ promises a consistent cooking environment, and a number of special functions include Crisp&Tasty,

BakePro and HumidityPro. The unit replaces convection ovens, kettles, steamers, fryers, smokers and dehydrators with one unit—that’s the beauty of combi ovens.

Bringing advancements to the toaster category is Star Manufacturing’s Holman Impingement Conveyor Toaster. It combines radiant heat with impingement by recirculating heated, high-speed air over bread and other products for faster, efficient and more even toasting.

For operators considering broiler applications, a new system from Nieco Corp. creates faster and more energy-efficient execution. The BroilVection features a burner system that captures waste heat and blows it back down on the products being broiled, using both radiant heat and forced convection for faster cooking and up to 40% gas savings, according to the company.