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Commercial Combi Oven Buying Guide

Despite being priced higher than other types of commercial ovens, combi ovens are becoming increasingly popular in restaurant kitchens. Part of the appeal of commercial combi ovens is they boast state-of-the-art technology that allows them to utilize both steam and convection heat cooking. Consequently, these units are capable of steaming, poaching, roasting, broiling, baking, and re-thermalizing a wide variety of different food. With this kind of unmatched versatility, combi ovens enable commercial kitchens to reduce labor costs while increasing efficiency.

What is a Combi Oven?

rational combi oven

Combi ovens are basically what you’d get if you combined a commercial convection oven with commercial steamer. Capable of steam cooking, convection heating, and a combination of both, combi ovens provide commercial kitchens and restaurants with nearly infinite possibilities. Most combi ovens have settings that allow chefs to store their favorite recipes and cooking preferences, enabling easy cooking in even the busiest environments. Here are just a few of the many other advantages offered by commercial combi ovens:

  • Combi ovens can be used in place of both steamers and convection ovens, which means restaurant owners won’t need to purchase each piece of equipment individually
  • Capable of being set at low temperatures, combi ovens are great substitutes for proofing cabinets, holding cabinets, and slow cookers.
  • Featuring extremely accurate controls, combi ovens cook food at an exact temperature and with a specific amount of steam. This gives chefs unrivaled flexibility and assurance that meals will be cooked according to their precise preferences.
  • Since combi ovens utilize both dry heat and steam, they are ideal for cooking a wide range of meats. The dry heat does the bulk of the cooking, while steam ensures minimum shrinkage and maximum yield of meat dishes.

Combi Oven Cooking Modes: Steam, Convection, or a Combination of Both

This detailed chart provides a quick and easy break down of combi ovens:

Cooking Modes:  Steam Mode Convection Mode Combination Mode
Heat Type: Moist Dry Moist & dry
Cooking Types: Steaming & poaching Baking, frying, roasting All of the previous in addition to stewing & braising
Good for Cooking: Veggies & seafood Pizza, cookies, & french fries Meat & certain breads

Gas or Electric

Whether a gas or electric combi oven is a better fit for your commercial kitchen depends on a couple factors.

A commercial electric combi oven might be a better fit if:

  • Your kitchen is located in at a high altitude—which hinders the performance of gas-powered equipment
  • You have less money to spend upfront since gas models are generally more expensive

A commercial gas combi oven might be a better fit if:

  • You want a more efficient combi oven that will save you money over the long run
  • You desire an open burner model that transfers energy directly and instantly increases temperature

Size and Chamber Capacity

combi oven veg

Since commercial combi ovens are available as floor models, countertop models, and double-stacked models, knowing the amount of space you have and the cooking chamber capacity you need will help significantly narrow down your potential options. Ovens specify how many and what size pans their chambers can hold. While some smaller combi ovens only hold 5 half-size pans, larger models have room for as many as 40 half-size pans.

If you prefer a gas combi oven, browse gas floor combi ovens, gas countertop combi ovens, and gas double-stacked combi ovens.

If you prefer an electric combi oven, browse electric floor model combi ovens, electric countertop combi ovens, and electric double-stacked combi ovens.

Manual or Programmable Settings

combi oven settings 1

A big advantage of combi ovens is that the majority of these commercial units have programmable controls that can memorize specific cooking preferences. These preferences include precise cooking temperatures and humidity percentages. While an oven that has more customizable options will likely be more expensive, it will also usually provide more consistent cooking results. Fortunately, the machines don’t require highly-skilled chefs and instead can be operated by nearly anyone. Especially useful in busy commercial kitchens and restaurants that are understaffed, programmable commercial combi ovens can help vastly improve productivity.

Boiler-Based or Boilerless Steam Generator

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Commercial combi ovens with boiler-based steam generators are better suited than boilerless units for preparing large amounts of steamed vegetables, dough-based desserts, and savory meats. Boiler-based models feature a hole at the bottom that’s known as a condensate drain. This drain disposes of any hot water made when steam condensates in the oven. Since health codes have mandates regarding how hot water can be when it enters public sewer systems, boiler-based combi ovens require a second water line to help cool off the hot water before it drains. As a result, water bills for these units are significantly higher than those of boilerless combi ovens. Boiler-based models are also more likely to require maintenance to remove mineral deposits—especially in areas that have high mineral content in water supplies.

Costing less to purchase, operate, and maintain, boilerless combi ovens produce dryer steam and utilize a self-contained water and heat system. Easily accessible, boilerless models are also simpler to clean than boiler-based units and tend not to break down as much from exposure to hard water. They are ideal for baking bread and roasting moist meats. The primary drawback of boilerless commercial combi ovens is they aren’t designed to produce large amounts of steam each day. This means boilerless units can’t handle the same volume of cooking as boiler-based combi ovens.

There is a wide variety of different boiler-based electric combi ovens and boiler-based gas combi ovens.

To explore boilerless combi oven options, check out both boilerless electric combi ovens and boilerless gas combi ovens.

Also Keep in Mind…

When investing in a commercial combi oven, ensure that your choice is a good fit for your restaurant’s menu. It’s particularly important to understand that while combi ovens can cook with convection heat or steam, these units cannot only steam and only convection heat food simultaneously. This means there’s no way to simultaneously steam vegetables and convection roast a steak in the same combi oven. To combat this issue, many restaurants owners use stacked combi ovens.

Proper Maintenance

maintenance man cropped

Regularly maintaining your combi oven will help ensure it operates at peak efficiency and saves you money over the long term. Be sure to reference the owner manual that came with your oven for proper maintenance procedures. Part of maintaining your combi oven is making sure the water that enters your unit has been properly filtered. To do this, utilize a water filtration system that will reduce mineral deposit build-up in the combi oven’s water lines. Water filters also lead to better-tasting food and help decrease scale buildup on an oven’s heating units, water probes, and cooking chamber. Make certain to choose a water filtration system that satisfies your combi oven’s requirements.