KEY POINTS:
* There are many options to consider in determining which oven is best for your business
* Size and throughput should be dictated not only by space in your premises but also scope of your menu
* For a pub, bistro or café, a small footprint oven can sit atop the counter or bar to cook pizzas, toasties and other bar menu food
* Modern conveyor oven technology allows for greater adaptability and programmability, so these can be used for much more than just pizzas

COMMERCIAL OVEN technology is evolving at an exponential rate. Combining price affordability and ease of operation, today’s ovens typically feature faster cooking times and greater energy efficiency, and thanks to their innovative design they take up a smaller footprint in the kitchen.
All these changes have been driven by market demand. In the not so distant past, deck ovens predominated — requiring you to keep opening and closing the door to check how fast the pizza was cooking, and of course each time you did so the heat would escape. But today’s conveyor ovens can produce perfectly cooked pizzas speedily and without any deterioration of performance, no matter how many pizzas you put through.
With such a range of ovens on the market, there are many options to consider in determining which is the best choice for your business. To maximise the performance of your pizzas in the cooking environment, you need to choose the oven with the right features and footprint for the task. Here are a few pointers:
* The size of your oven should be dictated not only by the physical space in your premises but also the scope of your menu. Ask yourself how many pizzas per hour you plan to produce, and what other foods will be cooked in the oven? For example there are small footprint ovens which can produce pizzas in as little as 90 seconds, but their size means you can only fit one at a time inside. This may be ideal for a café or a bar menu in a pub.
* Another option for the smaller-scale operation is to go for a small footprint conveyor oven — this can sit on the counter or bar top and can be used to cook pizzas, toasties, croissants and even pastry items. The automated cooking process means all staff have to do is put the food in at one end and take it out of the other — there’s no need to stand and supervise the cooking.
* If you want to offer a traditional Italian woodfired oven pizza experience, this used to entail building a large-scale woodfired oven into the premises. But nowadays there are compact, portable woodfired ovens available which do the job almost as well.
* If you’re using pre-made or frozen pizza bases, this will require different cooking times for your pizzas than if you were using freshly rolled out bases. The latest conveyor ovens include adjustable and programmable settings to allow for this kind of variation.
* Modern conveyor oven technology is highly adaptive, meaning you can purchase a conveyor oven and use it for much more than just pizzas. Restaurants, bistros and clubs are now using them for steaks, chicken, fish and even breakfast items like eggs and bacon. So depending on the size of your operation, this kind of oven may be all you need.
* For extra flexibility, and if your operation is large enough, you can consider a double or even triple-stacked oven — this is basically two or three ovens built one atop the other. Each oven’s temperature can be independently set, so you can cook pizza in the top, steak or fish below. The beauty of this set-up is the footprint that the oven takes up in the kitchen is no bigger than that of a single oven — but it offers the productivity of two or three ovens, enabling you to maximise your menu options.
* It’s always important to ensure your oven is not only set at the correct temperature, but that the thermostat is accurately calibrated. This can be a problem with older ovens, so if you can afford to upgrade to newer technology, it’s an investment well worth your consideration.
Choosing the right oven
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