Traditional-style gas and electric ovens have been loaded with technologies to make them more efficient. Kathy Bowry reports
With all the recent focus on combis and induction as the way forward for commercial kitchens, one could be forgiven for thinking the days of the traditional oven were numbered. However, that would be a gross misinterpretation of reality.
For whatever reason, there is still a big market for the four- and six-burner range, making it worthwhile for manufacturers to get busy enhancing performance and energy efficiencies.
Heather Beattie, brand manager for Nisbets, supplier of the Thor gas oven range, advises those sticking with traditional methods: "Investing in larger and better-quality equipment will save costly upgrades in the future, and getting the right piece of equipment for the job can also help to improve energy efficiency. For caterers that offer food throughout the day, heavy-duty, powerful ovens with burners are essential."
She believes that Thor's four- and six-burner models, featuring heavy-duty cooking plates and burners as well as a flame failure device, offer a commercial quality, stainless steel oven at a great price.
The ovens boast double-skinned, pull-down doors (a mechanism preferred by many chefs, who find it easier to use when loading and unloading the oven), and solid-steel chunky control dials that are easy to grip and feel robust in the hand. Heavy-duty gas burner tops, with flame-failure devices, are designed to maximise the flame with no hot or cold spot, while the cast-iron pan supports are designed with vertical lines so pans can slide easily across - with surrounding space to rest pans off the heat. The Thor range also includes a model with a 12-inch griddle.
Over at Manitowoc, the Moorwood Vulcan MVR6 is available in either a four-, six- or eight-burner version and is an "essential, easy-to-use piece of equipment which will fast become the workhorse of any kitchen," says the company. The MVR6 is a robust, stainless-steel unit that features six high-efficiency burners semi-sealed to the hob, coupled with a single oven. The burners feature low turn-down and a flame-failure device to ensure consistent cooking and improved usability, while heavy-duty, cast-iron pan support boasts double-vitreous enamel for durability. The easy-to-clean hob is also hinged to aid servicing.
The MVR6's single, large-capacity, full-height oven accommodates two oven shelves, each able to take two 1/1 gastronorm containers. As with the pan supports on the hob, the interior of the range's oven is vitreous-enamelled.
Parry, in its turn, claims that the newest version of its six-burner P6BO unit offers "the very best combination of efficiency, capacity and value for money".
Despite external dimensions that are virtually identical to other six-burner gas ranges on the market, its internal 740mm x 500mm x 480mm statistics give it an oven volume that is almost 20% larger than its nearest rival, says Parry. And with a list price of just £2,217, Parry claims that its discount structure means the unit is likely to have a lower net price than many of its rivals.
Roger Flanagan at Universal Foodservice says: "Baron has completely refined its ovens under ranges over the past few years with gas versions, investing in new gas valves and more efficient burners to save energy and improve performance. Plus, the use of cast-iron base-plates helps to retain the heat and consequently uses much less gas than before. Baron's electric units now have top and base elements to increase even cooking, and new thermostats to control the electric usage.
"Where power is a problem, we can mix gas tops with electric ovens, and where space is tight, ovens can be mounted under griddles and worktops as well as ranges."
Lincat Opus 800
Simon Frost, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association
Ovens are being tweaked to make them more energy-efficient in an effort to reduce running costs. While combi steam ovens are making inroads, there is still demand for the range cooker.
Many chefs like to work on traditional range cookers because they can be space-efficient, with both oven and contact-cooking processes in one footprint.
Ovens are among the biggest energy-consuming appliances in the kitchen. Given rising energy prices, it's well worth paying extra for a more energy-efficient model; it will certainly repay the investment through lower running costs. Since the introduction of fan-assisted ovens, traditional range cookers can also cook quickly, saving energy.
Despite such technological advances leading to more eco-friendly ovens, when it comes to efficiency, the question is more about the volume of product being prepared. Small volumes made on the gas top of a traditional range cooker will be more efficient than those cooked in a combi. However, large quantities cooked simultaneously in a combi steamer will give more consistent results, as well as saving running costs.
What needs to be considered is the flexibility of the kitchen, the needs of customers and the volume requirements. Both combi steamers and range cookers complement one another to provide a fully functional system.
Simon Frost, www.cesa.org.uk
Moorwood Vulcan MVR6
New kids on the block
Falcon has just launched its new F900 Series of professional catering equipment, including ranges, boiling tops, griddles and chargrills. "There's an increasing demand for equipment that not only delivers on performance, but is also aesthetically appealing," says Lawrence Hughes, sales director at Falcon, who points to the trend for open kitchens where there is a need for quality appliances that can handle the busiest kitchen environments, but also look attractive and are cost-efficient.
He believes the hob is the heart of most commercial kitchens, and says the F900's hob typifies this 'form with function' design ethos. "Manufactured in 2mm Scotchbrite stainless steel, it is laser-cut to allow edge-to-edge joining, so it's robust, looks great and is easy to keep clean," he says.
Among the F900's innovations is a virtually seamless link between appliances, giving the flexibility of a modular system, with the looks and hygiene benefits of a one-piece island suite - without the price tag associated with one-piece tops, says Hughes. The F900 is designed for both the UK and international markets, with features such as interchangeable jets making it compatible with a variety of gases and fully export-ready.
Another popular manufacturer, Lincat, has announced that it will be launching its Opus 800 range of prime cooking equipment, including a selection of different cook tops and ovens, at the Host exhibition in Milan (23-27 October).
Opus 800, says Lincat, will be larger, heavier and more durable than the previous Opus 700 range, on which the newcomers are built. The range will be launched in the UK in the New Year.
In the meantime, bridging the gap between Opus 700 and Silverlink 600, Lincat's medium-duty ovens offer performance and value for money and comprise a six-burner range, and two general purpose ovens, one of which is double-stacked. All are gas models.
Two-Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford has been using an oven with a difference at Midsummer House for some years. Taking cooking right back to basics with flames and smoke, albeit in a modern manner, he relies on no fewer than seven Big Green Egg barbecue units of differing sizes to wow his customers with anything from roasted pineapple to scallops, to baby beetroot, all baked on open coals.
So fascinating is the concept for diners that a Mini Egg is wheeled to tables on a custom-made cart and the dishes served straight from the barbecue.
Daniel Clifford with a Big Green Egg barbecue unit
Old habits die hard
Steve Hobbs, director at Grande Cuisine, says: "For some time now the equipment industry has been heavily focused on the steady increase in the use of induction cooking equipment, but to suggest that the traditional six-burner range has had its day would be both untrue and naive. There is still huge demand for entry-level products and the six-burner is perfect for that.
"At Grande Cuisine we have products from both categories in our product portfolio - induction courtesy of Athanor and Adventys, gas from Capic. The latter allows us to cater for clients looking at a like-for-like replacement, while the former are ideal for those wanting to improve on an existing cook line/cook suite and for whom a straight replacement isn't always the best option."
Hobbs explains that the main issue with a traditional six-burner is that it only ever allows you to work with a maximum of six pans at one time, which is fine during prep time, but limits the number of pans during the busy service period. "Based on our experience, chefs should consider having a mixture of open burners and solid tops as this will allow them to work with large pans during prep time while offering them greater flexibility during service when they need to use a large number of smaller pans.
"The disadvantage with both of these items is that they throw out heat into the kitchen, which makes for an uncomfortable working environment. If this is an issue, then consideration should certainly be given to induction - especially multi-zone and multi-point induction, which will accommodate both large and small pans. Reducing the number of open burners in favour of solid tops and direct cooking appliances will reduce both the number of pans required and the amount of 'pan traffic' in the kitchen."
Big Green Egg