These units are multifaceted but also an investment; operators using a combi oven solely as an oven or a steamer should purchase a traditional convection oven or steamer as these units are not as pricey and require less maintenance than a combi oven.
Each combi is different in terms of capacity, and there are different options available. When choosing a model, operators should ascertain the type and quantity of food that will be produced to ensure the menu items and volume can be accommodated. Similarly, size is a key consideration when choosing a combi for a cookline. The unit needs to first be sized for the space, with clearance requirements taken into account for installation.
Combis are designated for specific pan sizes. Ovens that accommodate half-size pans are ideal for operations with smaller footprints. Having the correct size and number of racks is a consideration with roll-in units; in addition, an area should be designated for stacking these racks when not in use in the oven.
It’s important to verify the utility availability to ensure the combi can be properly supported. Electric ovens vary from single- to three-phase with different voltages, while gas models use either natural gas or propane.
The operation, menu and staff skill level will help determine what type of controls are needed. Among the many types, there are varying degrees of complexity with both digital and manual controls. Programmable types are preset and work automatically, so they are easier to use, while manual controls are preferred by chefs wanting more control over the cooking process.
It’s recommended operators check local codes to confirm venting requirements prior to purchasing. Because combi ovens create steam, these ovens typically require an exhaust hood by code. Combis in some regions may need exhaust ducting, while others will necessitate fire-rated grease ducting.
Operators can choose whether a boiler or boilerless oven is indicated. This comes down to how fast a recovery is needed. While traditional combi ovens create steam with a built-in water boiler system, boilerless units have fewer parts and tend to require less maintenance and service over time. Steam generators produce steam more on demand and recover quicker, which is best suited for banquets and other operations that have higher volume and rely on speed of service. It’s important to note that units with steam generators are typically more costly.
Water filters are a key combi oven component that is frequently omitted or specified incorrectly. Prior to choosing the filter, a water quality test should be performed. This ensures the correct type is used.
There are a wide range of combi options operators can choose from. Many units incorporate programmable cooking cycles and settings for quick defrost, rethermalizing, poaching, gentle steaming, warming and smoking. Some also offer a self-cleaning option, while combis with a side-mounted hose and sprayer simplify cleaning.