April 23, 2019 Foodservice Innovation
Deck or Conveyor…Which Commercial Oven is Right for You?
It is an age old question…should I have a deck oven or a conveyor oven in my kitchen? Of course the answer lies in what your needs are, what kind of food you are serving and how fast do you need it. Let’s take a look at what the differences are between the two. In a traditional, sit-down restaurants, you’ll usually find the kitchen is using deck ovens as they are essentially the modern version of cooking equipment used in the old days when family restaurants and sitting down to a nice dinner were more common. In today’s “need it on the go” society, conveyor ovens are more commonly found in establishments where food is delivered fast and they have to produce a lot of it quickly. Neither of those options are perfect for all uses, but each one has its own advantages in different categories.
Commercial Deck Ovens
Most deck ovens take a classic approach to cooking. While the food takes more time, you have more control of the cooking. Inside, a deck oven can be made of metal, stone, brick or ceramic tile to allow the deck to easily transfer heat to food and allows the food to heat and brown evenly. Deck ovens are also known to give food more of an authentic and pleasing taste.
In a kitchen with experienced chefs, the deck oven is more adjustable and gives greater control of the cooking process. It also enables you to cook a wider variety of food than when using a conveyor oven. The smaller footprint of a deck oven may make it a better option in a crowded kitchen and many businesses actually dress up their ovens and put them on display for customers to see them while they are cooking. Deck ovens are also typically easier to clean and less expensive to repair.
Some people don’t like deck ovens because it is much more difficult to keep up with a rush of orders. In addition, because of the cooking options, they can be more difficult to use and can have longer recovery times which can slow down your food production. Cooking with a deck oven also requires greater skill by the operator and almost constant oven tending. You can’t multi-task as easily when using a deck oven.
The advantages of controlling the cooking translates into more time having to pay attention to the item you are cooking. When deck ovens are managed properly, a chef can determine how well cooked nearly any menu item is, often cooking several different products simultaneously. A deck oven is easy to keep clean if you keep up with it daily. Just be sure the stone deck clean of debris and food by wiping it off as it occurs and giving it a final scrub before you leave for the night.
Deck ovens have greater ambiance for applications requiring display cooking in open kitchens. Deck ovens are now offered with stone, brick and tile facades, arched openings and visible open-flames. Deck ovens can become the center piece of restaurants providing a great attraction for customers.
Commercial Conveyor Ovens
If you have less experienced cooks in your kitchen and need to turn out a lot of food quickly, a conveyor oven may be the best choice for you. It requires far less skill to operate, and in turn reduces labor costs and gives the owner access to a greater, less expensive labor pool. Owners find that they save money by reducing training time and hiring less expensive employees.
Since turnover is ongoing in the foodservice industry, getting the right person trained quickly continues to be a challenge in most restaurants. Because there isn’t as much training to use a conveyor oven, you can get food started quickly and to your customers faster. All you do is put your food product on the front of the oven conveyor belt and the belt moves the food through the oven to cook it. This allows you to produce a lot of food in a shorter amount of time since it makes cooking easier and self-sufficient as you can put the food in and walk away to do something else while it is cooking. Once the food is cooked, it is waiting on you on the other side of the oven. This ease of use in high volume operations with limited menus helps to get the food out on time and on budget with a consistent product every time.
One drawback to a conveyor oven is that it has a lot of moving parts which could translate into more maintenance or repair costs to keep it running. You also need to have a larger footprint in your kitchen, because you need to have room on either side of the oven as you put in the product and then where it comes out. They can also be noisier than a deck oven.
Conveyor ovens can also be a bit more difficult to clean, but you can keep ahead of the cleaning by doing a daily wire-brush cleaning of the conveyor and the “fingers.” Once a month, the entire oven needs to be taken apart and thoroughly cleaned based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you are using any raw food or meats, you should do this detailed cleaning more often. Some ovens even break down so that you can take the parts to a sink or outside for more thorough and easier cleaning. There are OEMs who have developed products that help reduce the time to clean and make it an easier process which can also prevent future issues from occurring.
In summary, a conveyor oven can have its drawbacks, but even with the negatives, the benefit of minimizing labor costs, using less skilled labor, reducing training requirements and producing consistent results have given operators reasons to embrace their benefits.
Deck or Conveyor?
Now that you have a better idea of the advantages and limitations of each oven, deciding which one works best is your environment is now up to you!
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