Ovens cover a broad range of equipment pieces and include combi, deck, cook and hold, microwave and convection.


Combi Ovens 101

Combi Ovens are multipurpose cooking tools with numerous functions, such as smoking, roasting, frying, steaming and baking.

Combination steamer-convection ovens can be used in all types of foodservice operations’ cooklines, from white-tablecloth restaurants to schools. Known as combi ovens, this chef-driven equipment combines hot air with heated steam, balances humidity, and provides convection oven capabilities.

Because these versatile ovens take the place of multiple pieces of equipment, including convection ovens and steamers, the units save back-of-house space. When used at low-heat settings, combis can also replace cook-and-hold cabinets, proofers or slow cookers. In addition, these ovens decrease cooking times by up to 60% compared with conventional cooking methods.

On the line, this cooking process helps preserve flavor and nutrients, while hot air and added moisture provide fast cooking. With the combi moving air around the product being cooked while adding moisture, operators can better control foods’ moisture levels and increase product yield.

Combis can be used in a variety of applications. For example, in banquet operations or circumstances where food needs to be cooked in advance, these ovens can be part of a cook-chill line and serve as a rethermalizer or for pre-cooked convenience items. When solely steaming items, combis provide more consistent temperature control and flexibility than a traditional steamer. Ovens that use convection modes without steam produce dry convective heat to roast, bake and finish off food.

Combi ovens are offered in various sizes for different applications. The most common on cooklines, floor models have 20 shelves that accommodate either 20 sheet pans or 40 hotel pans. Tabletop units, which can be placed on stands, hold half-size sheet pans and full-size hotel pans on 6 to 11 shelves. Mini combis are available with six shelves for holding between three to five pans.

Operators can choose from gas and electric combi models. Gas combis cook with Btus ranging from 45,500 to 170,000-plus, while most electric units are 208V or 240V.

Combi ovens are available in boiler and boilerless types. One traditional method utilizes an enclosed box or steam generator that boils water and produces steam, which is piped into the cooking cavity continuously at a measured rate. Other units include a heat exchanger onto which water is sprayed to create steam in the cabinet. Advanced boilerless units preheat water using the combi heat to run the water through a tube system. Water is preheated before it is injected, which results in faster recovery time and energy savings.

Control panels range from low tech to the more sophisticated. With automatic electronic cooking controls, a humidity feature with digital instructions in multiple languages is provided. Programmable controls are an option that provides memory capabilities for more than 200 cooking cycles with various cooking steps. More advanced systems cook overnight and hold food at optimal temperatures until serving.

A number of other combi options are available, depending on the model. Ventless combis include more advanced technology and don’t require a ventilation hood for versatile use. Browning controls add color to food. Smoking capabilities incorporate real wood chips. Ovens with a UPC code scanner utilize preloaded cooking instructions to automatically set oven controls. Other units offer HACCP documentation with and without kitchen management software. For cooklines handling large amounts of protein, combis with grease-management options pump excess grease out of the unit into a stand-alone canister for recycling.

Some models include a steam release mode, while self-cleaning units provide push button use. If the cleaning cycle is interrupted in these units due to a power outage, the combi will automatically go through a long rinse that eliminates soap residue in the oven. There are combis that enable operators to add food during the cooking cycle, which automatically adjusts to ensure proper cook times.


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