This type of oven is simultaneously one of the most useful and underused pieces of cooking equipment for the commercial kitchen. While it's popular for baking pizzas and toasting subs, it provides quick and efficient heating for a number of menu items, from appetizers to desserts. With the same heating power as other ovens, some kitchens use them for baking pastas, putting the sizzle on fajitas, and even broiling steaks. More
The true strength of a conveyor oven lies in its simple and customizable operation. Temperatures and the speed of the belt are adjustable, which ensures complete and even cooking. It also means all the operator needs to do is send one dish after another through the conveyor pizza oven, then receive them at the other end. This makes them popular in chains and in kitchens where worker turnover is high - places where consistency and simplicity are essential for success, but may not always be achievable with the variables of new employees.
The conveyor belt is the fundamental component in this type of oven. The dimensions of the belt will determine the volume of food the oven can produce in a given time, and the length of the belt will determine how many products can be sent through at once. Similarly, a wide belt will allow several pans of product to be sent through side by side and baked simultaneously, or accommodate larger diameter plates or pizzas. Wide belts are especially useful if you're baking high volumes of the same product, like pizzas or chicken wings.
A split belt is essentially two belts that can be operated at different speeds, so they can each be loaded with products that need different cooking times. If you need to send through larger items, just set each belt at the same speed and it will operate as a single-belt unit.
Digital controls offer precise regulation of time and temperature. These are often paired with microprocessor components that provide for the most reliable control available. These afford operators the ability to program cook times and temperatures for individual items which can be recalled on demand for foolproof operation. Still, many operators prefer the simplicity and economy of manual controls, and you'll find ovens with those as well.
Because they must be accessed from both sides for loading and unloading, these have special space considerations that other types of oven do not. Be sure to allow a few feet of clearance on either end of the oven so that employees can get to them safely. Keep in mind as you shop that the length of the oven is determined from one end of the belt to the other, while the width measures it from side to side as you look at the unit from one end of the belt. Many ovens include the option to reverse the direction of the belt if it needs to be moved to a different part of the kitchen or if your operations change.
For conserving space in a cramped kitchen, consider a unit that can be stacked double, one on top of the other. Consider buying one of these even if you only want one oven initially, that way when your business expands, you'll be able to purchase a second and put in within the same footprint
Ovens are available that combine traditional microwave oven technology within a conveyor oven to increase the overall cooking speed. Others incorporate impingement, a powerful type of convection heating that forces hot streams of air over food, providing fast, even cooking.
Ventless Conveyor Ovens
If you have a small kitchen or don't have room under your hood system for one of these units, consider a ventless system. These come with a baffle system to pull grease, smoke, and steam out of the air that comes through the oven. That means that you may be able to operate these without costly hood work.
Units that truly qualify to be called “ventless” should have a UL certification denoting such. That's something you'll typically be able to find at the end of the spec sheet. However, it is important to remember that assurance is not a guarantee that you'll be allowed to operate the equipment without ventilation in every part of the country. Certain jurisdictions may still require a hood, so check local codes or talk to the enforcement officer to be sure before you choose one of these models without ventilation.
This could especially come into play if you'll be using your oven to cook very greasy foods, like well-marbled steaks or shrimp scampi. Those dishes are likely to produce more heavily grease-laden vapors, which can affect the health of kitchen workers and provide a buildup that invites a dangerous fire.