Cook, Hold, and Prosper

Gone are the days when chefs had no choice but to prepare each entree to order, struggling to keep up with the demand for a nightly special or lunch deal. From prepping burgers and prime rib to poaching eggs and baking cheesecakes, cook and hold ovens can trim hours of labor costs from each meal service and pad kitchens against the pain of daily rush periods.

A number of companies offer their version of the cook and hold oven, but one of the most sophisticated is Winston Industries’ CVap oven. Short for “controlled vapor,” CVap is a technology developed by Winston Shelton, whose aim in developing the cooking method was to figure out how to keep food at its “just cooked” best for as long as necessary to let operators cook food ahead of time and serve it when ordered. The result is an oven that maintains precise temperatures and humidity levels to hold food at the desired temperatures without drying it out or continuing to cook it past its desired doneness.

To learn more about the technology, we spoke with Chef Barry Yates, Winston Industries’ Director of Innovation, about his personal experience with CVap and how it can revolutionize the way kitchens operate.

Barry Yates

KaTom: Tell us a little bit about how you got started as a chef and what life was like before you started using cook and hold ovens. What are some of the frustrations you had that cook and hold solved?

Barry Yates: It’s pretty classic. I started as a bus boy in one of the top restaurants here in Louisville, Ferd Gristani. Ferd actually ended up mentoring me and being my first mentoring chef.

Before cook and holds in general, you couldn’t leave a roast unattended. Convection ovens were pretty much all that were available to us, and they cooked at higher temperatures. The way I was taught to roast was high-temp sear, turn it down, but then if I didn’t get to the roast at the right time, it could overcook. So you always tended to undercook and hope to let it ride to the temperature that you wanted.

The cook and hold oven came in with a setting that would allow you to adjust that better and send it into a hold cycle, but there still was a bit of guesstimating on the endpoint until CVap. The CVap allows you to set the end point that you want and it goes straight to it, then automatically goes into holding mode and keeps it there with optimal yield so there’s no overcooking.

K: What’s your favorite dish to cook in a CVap?

BY: What I like about CVap the most is its versatility. It doesn’t just act as a roasting device. I can do any type of roast like a brisket or a prime rib or even a Boston butt or something like that. I can turn around the next day and use it as a high-volume sous vide device. There’s no other cook and hold that can do that. I’d say the versatility is what I like most, not a specific dish. I can turn right back around and use it as a steamer, and then the next day I can turn around and make a perfect cheesecake or créme Brule. It’s just a highly versatile oven.

K: What are some of the things that people are surprised to learn that they can cook with a CVap oven?

BY: Poached eggs is a really big one. It saves them time and energy. For anybody that has a large brunch program, that’s a very labor-intensive process. And then, I think another thing that people are surprised to learn is that you can bake in it. People think that because it has water vapor that it’s not a baking device. You can bake cookies and do muffins, brioche, and yeast rolls. You can do just about anything baking-wise, except maybe croissants or a high-end artisanal bread.

K: What do you say to folks who are on the fence about whether they should invest in a CVap?

BY: It depends on what type of operation they have. We have operators talk about how it frees up an employee for better production. And in other operations it’s more of a yield-savings on the actual roasting process. You can have anywhere from a 10- to 30-percent increase in yields, depending on who you’re comparing it to and how much labor you put into it. That return on investment is pretty easy to demonstrate.

Then there are others who save on food waste because it doesn’t overcook and you waste less food in the actual preparation. Depending on the operation, with those three things, it’s usually pretty easy for me to seal the deal.

K: Is there anything else you’d like to say about how a CVap can dramatically change the way a kitchen operates?

BY: There’s two points that distinguish a CVap cook and hold from a traditional cook and hold. CVap is much more versatile. There’s no other cook and hold that can poach eggs or steam fish or cook the precision type of cooking that we do. So it’s not just a cook and hold, it’s the fact that it’s a CVap cook and hold.

The other thing is that it allows you to do things you’ve never done before. Anybody can poach an egg, but you can’t hold it. You have to poach it and serve it. In a CVap, you can poach 100 eggs and hold it through breakfast service. It’s the opportunity for you to do things that you’ve never even considered doing.

Another example of that would be that people are really into doing sous vide right now. The immersion circulator is fine, and that technique has been refined to a point that a lot of people are improving the quality of food through that process, but it’s very limiting in that you can only do a few pieces, whereas with a CVap you can do a hundred individual servings of sous vide salmon as opposed to ten in an immersion circulator. It gives you the opportunity to do a higher volume of food with full control.

Then the last thing that we’ve been out there demonstrating is its ability to precisely maintain a temperature. We’ve been able to create a process that we call CVap staging. That’s where you can take small proteins like a chicken breast, a chicken wing, a hamburger, a steak, or a filet and take it to a precise endpoint and hold it there, and then when you get an order, it reduces the cook time to finish that order by about 70 percent.

An example would be if I cook a mid-rare steak straight from thaw, it takes about 12 minutes and it has to be attended. If you use CVap staging, you can set the temperature, we recommended for mid-rare – about 130 to 135 – and it stays suspended in that state. Then when you get an order for a steak you can finish it however you want. You can finish it on a grill, you can pan sear it, you can put it under a broiler, and instead of it taking 12 minutes it takes two. So it gives you consistent, high-quality food in a much shorter time.

Visit our Winston Industries page to shop all CVap ovens available from KaTom. If you want to learn more about how to choose a cook and hold oven, visit the Cook and Hold Oven Buyers’ Guide in our Learning Center.

Tanner West
Tanner West

A dedicated festival-goer, Tanner West has seen more bands perform live in the middle of hay fields and city parks than most people have probably heard of. Raised on beans and taters, he recently renovated a home and three vintage sheds in the back woods of East Tennessee that serves as a quiet retreat for reading and ready base for hiking and camping trips. Despite being able to craft 500-word descriptions of restaurant equipment, Tanner is a man of few words who described the best meal he ever ate in one word: Coffee.

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