Many of these models are designed as countertop units that supplement other cooking equipment or allow smaller operations to add some cooking power. Despite their smaller stature, they offer output capacity higher than comparable models that rely on only one method of delivering heat. They're great for everything from corner coffee shops to chain pizza operations.
Considering the Combinations
The first thing to consider when you're shopping for one of these is which combination of cooking technologies you want. To make your choice, it may help to read over this brief primer on the different cooking methods you'll find in these ovens.
- Convection units employ a small fan inside the cabinet that circulates hot air around the food. That can help provide more even results, but its real strength is in speeding up the cooking process. Moving the heat helps eliminate cold patches in the oven that can envelop your foods and prevent them from cooking efficiently.
- Models that incorporate microwave technology produce electromagnetic waves that move through the cabinet and the food inside it. That movement bumps the molecules in the food around, which creates friction that heats the food from the outside in. Though this provides rapid cooking, it's famously inconsistent. Pairing it with one of the other types of cooking in this list not only further speeds up the process, it also helps eliminate some of the unevenness of using microwaves. For instance, a commercial convection microwave oven employs this method.
- Impingement is the newest method of cooking in this list, but the concept behind it is fairly simple. Units that use it force hot air through small openings, creating a powerful jet of heated air that busts through the “halo” of cold that surrounds uncooked foods. That speeds cooking by enveloping your foods in heat.
- Infrared radiants, which are more typically found on equipment like charbroilers and outdoor grills, may seem like an odd choice for one of these units. They're included to address one of the issues with cooking foods in a high speed oven, that being that they don't offer the browning provided by more traditional cooking. Infrared heat not only provides the browning needed for preparing foods like poultry, it also enhances toasting, which adds flavor and crunch to foods.
Because these high-speed ovens are all fairly new units, most of them will offer some sort of programmable control. That may range from the simple ability to store cooking specifics for a given dish to recipes that can be updated at every location of a chain through Wi-Fi or a USB flashdrive. That enables you to provide consistent results from week to week and location to location, without having to train staff on every new recipe. It also reduces the chance of product loss from operator error and frees up employees to work on other things as your items are cooking.
To further simplify use, opt for a model with icon-driven controls. They make operation as easy as pushing an image of a given dish or cook cycle. Not only does this further reduce the potential of operator error, it also makes setting the cook cycle faster, freeing up even more employee time.
Two of the other options you can choose from are as opposite as big and small, but they provide customization that should help you get exactly the right unit for your operation. The first is a compact design that can help you fit a high-speed oven onto even a crowded countertop. These units, best for low-volume operations, can handle things like sandwiches and trays of wings, warming them to a pleasing serving temperature.
The other choice you can make is about whether you want a conveyor unit. These make high-production virtually hands-off with the help of a conveyor belt that moves food through the cooking chamber. Inside, a souped-up impingement system cranks out heat even more efficiently than a standard impinger, which is already a rapid way of cooking.
Conveyor models offer their own special features that aren't found on other units in this category. For instance, you can opt for a ventless oven that has been UL-approved for use without being under a hood. However, you'll need to check with local codes and enforcement officers to ensure you'll actually be able to do that in your area.
There are also models with a split belt, with two sections that can be operated independently so you can cook foods that need different amounts of time in the heat at the same time. If you're using one of these to cook, for instance, eggs and meats at different speeds in the morning, you can set both parts of the belt to move at the same speed when lunch comes to cook pizzas.