Commercial ovens offer a range of multi-functional options

Chef cooking on an open fire
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By Nicole Di Tomasso

In the heart of every professional kitchen lies a culinary workhorse that has undergone a transformative evolution — the commercial oven. Once a humble appliance confined to baking and roasting, today’s commercial ovens are multi-functional marvels that cater to the diverse needs of chefs and restaurateurs. 

What’s Hot?

Recently, Oakville, Ont.-based GBS Foodservice Equipment Inc. entered a distribution agreement for the Canadian market with PizzaMaster, providing foodservice and retail-grocery professionals with access to the largest range of electric deck ovens in the world. With its manufacturing facility in Borås, Sweden, PizzaMaster offers 85 models with 120 configurations. The ovens are equipped with either traditional clay hearth stones or artisan stones.

“The most popular electric deck ovens are modular — 700, 800 and 900 series. The difference between the series is the depth of the stone cooking surface (70cm, 80cm and 90cm),” says Vlad Martinov, brand manager, PizzaMaster Canada. “There are two variations, standard temperature and extreme heat,” adding that the extreme heat deck oven, which reaches 500 degrees Celsius, is ideal for Neapolitan-style pizza because its temperature is similar to a wood-burning oven.

“Woodburning ovens require ventilation,” says Granett Douglas, VP, Foodservice, GBS Foodservice Equipment Inc. “And, gas ovens can be costly. There’s a big push for electrification in Canada. We’re currently seeing it with electric vehicle sales, so having an electric deck pizza oven that can perform the same as a gas-burning oven and more efficiently is a unique selling feature.”

In Toronto alone, 2023 proved to be a landmark year with a number of new pizza concepts popping up across the city, including New-York based Prince Street Pizza, which marked its first-ever location in Canada, Oswald’s Pizza, Afro’s Pizza, Diavola Pizza and more.

“Pizza is popular — it’s simply the nature of the category,” says Douglas.“Providing an appliance that lets restaurateurs create their own signature style of pizza, whether it’s Neapolitan, New York, Chicago or Roman-style, makes for more creative, nuanced offerings.”

Foodservice customers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) currently using PizzaMaster electric deck ovens include Maker Pizza, Pizzeria Badiali, North of Brooklyn Pizzeria, Liberty Pizzeria, FBI Pizza and more. 

Additionally, RATIONAL launched a new autonomous cleaning system for its iCombi Pro tabletop models called iCareSystem AutoDose.

“The self-cleaning feature is one that RATIONAL brought to market many years ago and it’s still a fan favourite,” says Danielle Forget, Marketing director, RATIONAL Canada. “AutoDose has made self-cleaning even easier. With the traditional iCombi Pro, an operator puts tabs in the units and presses a button for cleaning mode. With AutoDose, bottles containing cleaning chemicals needed for several months are inserted into the unit and an operator can program the unit to automatically clean.”

“The iCombi Pro’s care control is self-intelligent,” says Louis-Philippe Audette, president of RATIONAL Canada Inc. “Depending on what has been cooked, the unit will suggest whether it requires a light, medium or strong cleaning.”

Alto-Shaam introduced its latest innovation in the combi-oven category, Prodigi, in 2023 at the NAFEM Show. Joe Levesque, corporate chef at Alto-Shaam Canada says the new combis feature boilerless technology, zero-clearance design and ChefLinc remote-oven management to create, manage and distribute recipes to ovens through the cloud.

Offered in two versions, the Prodigi Pro and Prodigi Classic, Levesque says the Prodigi Classic is available at a lower price point and has replaced the company’s CTC Combi, adding that it’s more suitable for restaurants with basic menus. 

In 2022, Alto-Shaam first debuted its new Converge Multi-Cook Combi Ovens at the NRA Show. With up to three combis in one, Levesque says the ovens feature boilerless technology, Structured Air Technology and ChefLinc remote-oven management, allowing operators to steam, bake, grill and air-fry food items at the exact same time, in the same oven, without flavour transfer for expanded
menu potential.

Similarly, Alto-Shaam’s Vector Multi-Cook Ovens, available in countertop or full-size models, can increase food production while minimizing operating costs. The ovens are waterless and countertop models are ventless, allowing operators to prepare food items in any space. Levesque says the H4 Multi-Cook Vector Oven is 21 inches and ideal for tight spaces and its design eliminates the need for an exhaust hood. 

What’s Not?

A rise in the adoption of combi ovens by restaurants, hotels and catering businesses has replaced the need for a traditional convection oven. More broadly, Audette says single-purpose equipment, such as steamers and tilt skillets, aren’t worth the investment for most operators. 

“RATIONAL’s iCombi Pro and the iVarioPro replace a convection oven, a steamer, a high-speed oven, boiler and more,” says Forget. “Together, these pieces of equipment can replace up to 95 per cent of kitchen equipment.”

Forget continues, “Hood space is expensive, and operators are starting to re-think investing in large pieces of equipment that only do one thing. Many have already moved beyond that realm.”

What’s Next?

This spring, RATIONAL plans to introduce a new appliance category, which the company says will guarantee the shortest cooking times with the highest food quality due to intelligent and adaptive control of microwave technology. More details will be revealed closer to the launch. 

Additionally, Dan Frenette, territory manager and corporate chef at W.D. Colledge Co. Ltd. anticipates that Blodgett’s new combi oven, Invoq, “will take the industry by storm. The easy-to-use interface, expanding capacity and significant energy savings makes this oven a true contender to be the latest and greatest in the combi world.”

“The Invoq oven’s HybridSteam technology is a game-changer in the combi oven landscape,” says Rasmus Vingaard Larsen, president, HOUNO, a company that The Middleby Corporation acquired in 2006. “By seamlessly integrating direct steam injection and boiler-generated steam, it not only speeds up the cooking process but also ensures a consistent and precise steam environment. The lambda sensor optimization adds another layer of efficiency, reducing water and energy consumption without compromising
on performance.”

Larsen continues, “The Invoq oven re-defines versatility with the ingenious MultiRack inserts, offering unparalleled flexibility in operation. By accommodating different tray sizes simultaneously, including half size, full-size sheet pans and hotel pans, it maximizes throughput in a compact footprint. The extra rack capacity boosts efficiency by up to 20 per cent, proving that Invoq is not just a cooking appliance — it’s a space-saving, energy-efficient powerhouse designed to meet the diverse needs of the culinary world.”

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