Caterer and Hotelkeeper – 36068

03 May 2001
Caterer and Hotelkeeper – 36068

The first monthly guide to the essentials of food and equipment

Combi-ovens are three ovens in one. A convection oven for baking and roasting, a pressureless steamer to cook delicate foods, such as fish and vegetables, and, alternatively, an oven which can combine both blown heat and moisture.

Before buying a combi-oven, be clear on what cooking jobs it is needed for. Don't go for an expensive combi-oven to perform a cooking job that could be met by a cheaper single-function oven.

If there is a lot of steaming to be done, a combi-oven will meet this need - but it is better to buy a dedicated steamer. If there is a lot of baking to be done, buy a good convection oven. A combi-oven comes into its own if the kitchen has a lot of different tasks to perform, roasting meat and fish, vegetable cooking, baking frozen pastry and regeneration of chilled food. These all need different cooking environments and combinations of heat and moisture to present great food to the customer, so the multi-talented combi-oven is ideal.

Roasting of meat is a star attraction of a combi-oven. The blown hot air cooks items such as beef joint and chickens, but the addition of injected steam keeps the food moist, preventing drying out. Meat can lose up to 30% of its weight during dry roasting, with unwanted cost implications.

There are two principles for injecting steam in the oven cavity. In Northern Europe, the preferred way is to have an integral steam-generating water boiler. In Southern Europe, the popular system is for water to be sprayed on to the heating elements to generate the steam.

The argument against spray-on steam systems is that they are inclined to have maintenance problems and can leave water deposits in the oven cavity. The counter argument against steam boilers is that they represent a greater initial expense and have higher maintenance costs.

Never be tempted to install a combi-oven without fitting it with a water filtration system to remove suspended salts, which will clog up the water pipes in the oven and cause serious damage.

l Next month: Understanding frozen prawns.

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