Spec Check: Deck Ovens

Deck ovens and pizza operations go hand in hand. Although these ovens have no motor and create natural convection using baffle systems, the units typically offer higher Btu than convection ovens. This provides unique browning for preparing a wide range of menu items, such as chicken, fish, casseroles and, more often than not, pizza.

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Consider the Volume to Determine Size
From an end user standpoint, it is important to calculate how many pizzas the operation will produce per hour before determining the appropriate size deck oven. To best accomplish this, look at the amount of seating in the restaurant and consider a typical pie takes between six and 10 minutes to cook. Average size ovens, which are about 3 ft. long by 3 ft. wide, can bake six large pizzas simultaneously.

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Footprints range from 18-sq.-inch countertop deck units for those operations providing pizza slices, individual-size pies or minimal pizza service to 84" x 51" deck ovens geared for high-volume restaurants. Foodservice operators can also stack deck ovens to increase capacity and production.

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Deck height, or the area from top to bottom inside the unit, represents another important consideration. Generally, deck heights range from 6 to 10 inches. Keep in mind that ovens with higher deck heights retain less heat. If pizza is the only menu item staff will prepare in the oven, a greater height may not be necessary. However, if staff use the oven to cook larger items, such as a whole chicken, a unit with a taller opening may be necessary.

Generally speaking, deck ovens are large in size. When specifying a deck oven for an existing operation, confirm the unit will fit through necessary doorways into the kitchen. Some models require removal of the legs to fit through narrow spaces.

What Type of Pizza Will Be Produced?
Because different deck ovens produce different results, pizza operators need to determine what type of pizza they intend to make prior to choosing a model.

This is of particular importance when it comes to the pizza dough. Will staff use freshly made dough, par-baked or frozen? Also, determine the various pizza toppings and the end result the operator wants to achieve.

Deck ovens with fully lined brick cooking chambers produce a hearth-baked, old-world-style pizza. These units offer exceptional heat retention and fast bake times.

Par-baked crusts are best prepared with a cordierite deck, which is a high-temperature material. This provides different crust results in terms of flavor and texture than brick-lined ovens. For operations utilizing dough with high sugar contents, a lower temperature deck oven that retains less heat may be a better fit.

Ensure the Availability of Adequate Utilities
When specifying a deck oven, utilities are important to consider. As most of these units are gas-operated, there should be an adequate supply available for the unit. A single deck oven generally operates on 80,000 Btu, with larger models utilizing up to 320,000 Btu. A typical deck oven uses five water columns of gas pressure. If adequate gas pressure is not available the unit will not perform to its capacity.

In addition to gas, these units also are available in electric versions as well as wood- or coal-burning models.

If stacking, make sure to manifold the ovens together. This provides a single-point utility connection, which simplifies installation.

Unless the unit is a countertop deck, it needs to be under either a standard or direct hood to ensure proper ventilation.

Specify the correct thermostat level. Deck ovens operate at high temperatures, typically from 650 degrees F on average up to 900 degrees F for wood-burning units. This is quite a variance from standard ovens, which typically cap out at 550 degrees F.

Because deck ovens take time to heat up and are operating constantly, chamber insulation is an important factor to consider in terms of heat retention.

When it comes to durability, one of the most important aspects of a deck oven is the door. Because it will be opened and closed frequently and likely slammed a majority of the time, heavy-duty oven doors and hinges are key components. If these aspects of the oven are compromised, it will affect the performance, heat retention and longevity of the unit.

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