Consultant Q&A: Dan Bendall, principal, FoodStrategy, Inc., Rockville, Md.
FE&S: What are the biggest benefits of cook-and-hold ovens?
DB: Cook-and-hold ovens are designed to preserve food flavor while lowering costs. These units can improve the serving quality of average cuts of meat by providing additional moisture retention during cooking. 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.
FE&S: Is this equipment complicated to operate?
DB: These units are easy to use and can typically be custom-programmed for whatever dish is needed. Operators can prepare meats overnight since the product cooks slowly. Once the cycle is completed, the oven automatically goes into a holding mode. Hours later, the meat is perfectly cooked and heated for immediate serving.
FE&S: What types of ovens are available?
DB: There are a wide range of models, but many of the differences are in the controls. These include manual and computerized units, the latter of which has all the bells and whistles. Operators need to consider the application and budget when choosing a model.
FE&S: Are there certain applications these ovens are particularly suited for?
DB: Cook-and-hold ovens are great for rethermalizing product that’s refrigerated or frozen because the temperature is low and can be easily controlled.
FE&S: What are the space requirements for these ovens?
DB: There are a variety of sizes to choose from, and the units don’t have a big footprint. Operators can choose from upright and undercounter ovens.
FE&S: How can operators ensure that product is cooked and held at the proper temperatures?
DB: Many cook-and-hold ovens have temperature probes that can be placed directly in meat or in a steam table pan of food so when a preset temperature is designated, the unit will automatically go into a holding mode. There is virtually no way to overcook in these ovens due to the programming capabilities.
FE&S: Are there other benefits to cook-and-hold ovens?
DB: Unlike with convection or combi ovens, these units don’t need to be located under a ventilation hood. For this reason, the ovens are less costly to operate throughout the back of house.