Cook-and-hold ovens are designed to preserve food quality while lowering costs. They can improve the serving quality of average cuts of meat by allowing them to retain much of their moisture while being prepared. In addition, because this moisture is not lost in the cooking process, food shrinkage is minimized, allowing for more servings from a cut of meat. Cook-and-hold ovens also provide a better distribution of workloads, since cooking, roasting, reheating and holding are accomplished in the same cabinet.
Types: One model of cook-and-hold oven utilizes “natural convection” — that is, without forced movement of air — to cook hotter and keep humidity at close to 95 percent. Another uses a slightly lower cooking temperature and moisture level, combined with a slow air current and levels of humidity ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent. The so-called “hot wall” cook-and-hold oven can use a heated metal wire element embedded in the inner walls of its cooking cavity to transfer heat.
Capacities/Footprints: These units have widths ranging from 18 ¼” to 28 ¾”, heights between 28” and 83” and depths of 26 ½” to 37 ¾”. A single oven typically has a capacity of 90 lbs. of food. Double-stacked units offer twice as much capacity. One model accommodates more than 300 lbs. of meat in 7-sq.-ft. of floor space. Depending on the model, pan capacities range from five 18” x 26” pans to 32 12” x 20” pans.
Energy Source(s): Cook-and-hold ovens usually run on electric power sources ranging from 208-volt single phase to 240-volt three phase. Because they can cook at lower temperatures, they typically use less electricity than conventional ovens.
Manufacturing Method: Ovens are made with heavy-duty stainless steel. Most cabinets feature dense insulation for maximum heat retention, and some interiors include porcelain. High-temperature ceramic magnetic latches for easy opening and security during transport are also available.
Standard Features: Many of the latest models offer standard features such as stainless-steel interiors and exteriors, wire racks and drip pans, removable interior side walls, a positive latch door, window doors, one-touch electronic controls, a removable top and heavy-duty casters. Cook time pre-sets are adjustable up to 24 hours. Electronic timers with digital displays indicate how much cooking time remains before a holding cycle begins. Also available are interior pan supports removable for easy cleaning, as well as locking casters, interior lights and stay-cool handles.
New Features/Technology/Options: Software designed to interface with electronic cook-and-hold ovens, and hot food-holding cabinets records temperatures. Documentation software automatically records the cooking and holding process in compliance with HACCP requirements. Some makers of these ovens offer a meat probe that monitors internal product temperatures and automatically switches a unit over to a holding cycle once a meal item reaches its pre-selected cooked state. Programmable menu buttons allow operators to store recipes into the oven's memory. At least one maker offers a heat recovery system that compensates for heat loss when the unit's door opens.
Key Kitchen Applications: Cook-and-hold ovens are most suitable for operations that serve a large volume of roasted meats. The ovens blend convected heat and radiant energy to cook slowly. These ovens' low temperatures also promote retention of natural juices and flavors. Other foods, including seafood, poultry, vegetables and frozen entrées, can also be prepared using them. Frozen items produced with sauces or gravy work especially well in these ovens.
Purchasing Guidelines: Cook-and-hold ovens are designed to preserve food quality while lowering costs. They can improve the serving quality of average cuts of meat by allowing them to retain much of their moisture while being prepared. In addition, because this moisture is not lost in the cooking process, food shrinkage is minimized, allowing for more servings from a cut of meat. Cook-and-hold ovens also provide a better distribution of workloads, since cooking, roasting, reheating and holding are accomplished in the same cabinet.
Maintenance Requirements: Because they have no special ventilation requirements, cook-and-hold ovens can be relatively mobile and flexibly repositioned. Many models have removable interiors or top-mounted control modules to support easier cleaning and maintenance.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: The lowest temperature at which these ovens can hold food and prevent bacteria from multiplying is 142 °F. Timers and electric probes should be used to help determine when products are done. Sheet pans should be routinely placed beneath cooking foods to catch drips. Smooth interior coved corners help prevent food buildup on some models.