Review What’s New With Speed Ovens

In this equipment comparison on high-speed ovens, we share what to consider if you're in the market for a new model.

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High-speed ovens can prepare menu items for any daypart. Some newer models use radio frequency technology for precise control of heat energy. Courtesy of IBEX.

High-speed ovens have become ubiquitous in sandwich shops, coffee bars and convenience stores, where the equipment quickly cranks out menu items. But for operators seeking creative ways to ramp up production, this equipment is finding its way to the back of the house as well.

New markets opened up as manufacturers improved on the equipment—prioritizing speed while improving food quality. In the past few years, multiple high-speed ovens have earned innovation awards. The recipients boast new features and technologies that bring additional value across many foodservice areas.

Today, you can find high-speed ovens on carts and countertops in pretty much any operation including casual dining, fine dining, universities, hotels and resorts, and senior living facilities thanks to the equipment’s ability to cook a wide variety of products quickly, with easy-to-use interfaces.

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User-friendly touch screens can convey statuses and communicate in several languages. Courtesy of ACP.

IMPROVING ON QUALITY

By using a combination of cooking methods, high-speed ovens cook food fast without skimping on quality. Most ovens use microwaves to get the speed, while a mix of convection and impingement heat ensure the pastries are browned and pizza crust is crisp. Both convection and impingement spew hot air into the cavity, but while convection circulates air throughout the entire oven, impingement cooking forces air through a plate with holes of various sizes for more direct heat. However, one maker has released a new addition to the energy mix.

Introduced in 2022, radio frequency capabilities allow for more control over the heat energy going into products in the oven.

Radio frequency technology, which is most often associated with medical applications and satellite communications, also is finding its way into foodservice equipment. One manufacturer’s high-speed oven, introduced in 2022, includes RF capabilities to allow for more control over the heat energy going into products in the oven. Both RF waves and microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, microwaves pulse on and off and bounce all around the oven’s cabinet, whereas RF technology is easier to control. With RF technology, energy can be emitted into the oven at different power levels—anywhere from 20% to full power—throughout the cooking process.

In addition to sending heat into the oven, the manufacturer combined the RF technology with computer components and an algorithm that assesses the absorption frequency of the item being cooked every 10 seconds. This allows for real-time adjustments in heat power to provide even cooking throughout the product. High-speed ovens equipped with RF technology can cook practically anything, the manufacturer says, transforming frozen croissants into perfectly flaky, browned products and producing high-quality roasted vegetables or meats such as salmon, chicken breast and lamb.

The ability to cook a wide range of food expands the production value for high-speed ovens. For example, operators using a mise en place style of production can roast vegetables to prepare for meal service, making use of what used to be a dead time between breakfast and lunch.

FLEXIBLE COOKING OPTIONS

The introduction of multiple cooking cavities or compartments also improves the production abilities of high-speed ovens.

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Consider cavity size, as dimensions vary by model. Courtesy of Merrychef.

In one line, you find two cooking cabinets both using the same type of cooking process. Each is independently controlled, which can more than double the production value. For example, if you put something that takes nine minutes in one, and cook three batches of three-minute products in the other, you have four items cooked in the same time it would have taken to produce one item in a one-compartment oven.

Another option for multiple batches in one oven comes with a different approach. Rather than two cavities with the same cooking technology, one manufacturer offers an oven with multiple compartments—each an independent cooking center. Each uses a specific cooking type, which can be either high-speed convection, impingement, or microwave and impingement combined.

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Select models feature multiple independent chambers using different cooking technologies. Courtesy of TurboChef.

Operators can choose which type of oven when specifying the equipment, which comes with a choice of either two or three compartments. For example, a three-compartment oven could have one of each type, or one high-speed convection and two microwave and impingement compartments, or any other combination. The different types of cooking allow operators to produce entire meals out of one high-speed oven.

Options like a panini accessory, available on select makers’ models, also add flexibility. With this option, operators no longer need to invest in a separate panini press to offer customers specialty sandwiches, quesadillas and flatbreads. The accessory is easy to install in its compatible oven, without requiring a permanent installation that would limit use of the oven in the future.

MAKING EASE-OF-USE A PRIORITY

All of the different types of cooking and new technologies in high-speed ovens might make the category sound like one that is complicated for the end user, but in fact the opposite is true. Touch screen control panels make operating the equipment as easy as working a smartphone. Some manufacturers have upgraded user interfaces to allow operators to upload personalized pictures.

Most of today’s high-speed ovens allow operators to upload menus easily with a USB stick or through Wi-Fi or ethernet connections. With the capability of storing anywhere from a few hundred to over 1,000 customized recipes, it’s easy for the end user to create consistent foods with a touch of a button. As the labor market remains tight and operators find it challenging to hire highly skilled foodservice staff, the picture-driven menus and multiple language options of high-speed ovens make it easy for anyone to produce high-quality, consistent food.

Maintenance and cleaning are another aspect where high-speed ovens are offering innovations that improve productivity and make labor easier. In late 2022, one manufacturer introduced a high-speed oven with Wi-Fi and ethernet capabilities which not only aid in uploading menus, but also can monitor performance. Alerting an operator to the need for scheduling a service call or cleaning the air filter can help avoid bigger problems and reduce downtime. And to aid in daily cleaning tasks, one manufacturer will be introducing a removable lining system covering the walls of the oven in early 2024. Rather than having to reach inside a small compartment, employees can take the liner out and put it in the dishwasher for a spotless oven each shift.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT OVEN

While all high-speed ovens produce small batches of quality food fast, choosing among the many different sizes, features and options can be difficult. The first step is to have a clear knowledge of the volume of your operation and your menu—both the types of cooking and what foods you’ll be preparing. One manufacturer even has a product selector on its website where you specify the environment and the menu, and it provides a best-case option. Even with this knowledge, makers urge operators to seek out a manufacturers’ rep. They will work with you to explain all the options, and many even have on-staff chefs to work through different recipes to find the best fit at the best price point.


Ask Yourself

Questions to consider before purchasing a high-speed oven include:

  • What types of heat will be best for my menu?
  • How easy is it to program recipes?
  • What training tools are available?
  • What power source is needed?
  • How much space do I have available?
  • What type of warranty is offered?

Clocking In

Fast-cooking, programmable and ventless, these four makers’ newest high-speed ovens are ready to work.

 

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