Combi ovens can take the place of other pieces of equipment, including convection ovens, steamers, cook-and-hold cabinets, proofers and slow cookers, saving money and kitchen space.
Combi oven technology can allow the consolidation of the kitchen, streamlining production through menu versatility, enhancing speed of production, expediting service and reducing overall space necessary for equipment in the back of house.
Combi ovens combine hot air and heated steam. Operators have the ability to control foods’ moisture levels and increase product yield since air circulates around products during cooking and the unit introduces moisture into the cooking cavity.
In the back of house, combi ovens are typically an essential component of cooklines. This equipment is known for its versatility as it can broil, roast, steam, sous vide, poach, blanch, braise, bake, retherm and oven fry. Units with an integrated smoking capability produce both hot- and cold-smoked foods. Combi ovens can also play a role in cook-chill operations.
Floor combis have 20 shelves to accommodate 20 sheet pans or 40 hotel pans. Tabletop units, which also can operate from stands, have 6 to 11 shelves for half-size sheet pans and full-size hotel pans. Mini ovens have six shelves and hold 3 to 5 pans.
Combi control panels range from basic to the more sophisticated, and advanced systems allow operators to use these units as cook-and-hold ovens. Most combi ovens include core cooking probes that monitor internal food temperature, which can play a role in ensuring a food-safe operation. Other units provide HACCP documentation with or without the use of kitchen management software.
Operators can choose between units with a boiler and those without. To create steam within the cabinet, some combi ovens utilize a heat exchanger onto which the unit sprays water. Other types may employ steam generators or an enclosed box to boil water and produce steam. The oven then continuously pipes steam into the cooking cavity at a measured rate.
Combis continue to utilize smarter technology, and a number of options can enhance the use of these ovens. These options include automatic electronic cooking controls with a humidity feature that provides digital instructions in multiple languages. Optional programmable controls can provide memory capabilities for more than 200 cooking cycles. Operations with protein-heavy menus can incorporate combis with grease management options that pump excess grease out of the unit into a separate canister for recycling. Units with UPC code scanner capabilities apply preloaded cooking instructions to set oven controls automatically.
Other combi options include ventless systems that allow versatile placement of units, browning controls that add color to food and smoking capabilities with wood chips. A steam release mode is available with some ovens, while others allow operators to add food during the cooking cycle, automatically adjusting to ensure proper cook times. If the cleaning cycle is interrupted due to a power outage, self-cleaning combis will automatically go through a long rinse to eliminate any soap residue within the oven. An automated grease extraction system provides an alternative to grease trap maintenance and safer grease removal and disposal.