Deck Oven Buyers' Guide
Most authentic pizzerias and artisanal bakeries have at least one kitchen component in common: the deck oven. Baking with this class of equipment is the best way for most operators to imitate the results of cooking on a stone hearth. These ovens' stone or metal decks produce baked products with crispy, flavorful crusts that no other method can duplicate. Equipment like this is a big investment, and this guide will help you choose the right one for your eatery.
Number of Decks
Pizza deck ovens come in all sizes, so determining which will meet your needs is the first step in narrowing down your options. Ignore the oven's exterior dimensions for a moment and look at the size of the deck itself. Full-width decks average around 60 inches wide and 36 inches deep, while smaller models are available with decks roughly half that size or smaller, with a number of options in between. Knowing the size of the deck will let you know approximately how many of your pizzas or loaves you can bake per batch.
To expand capacity without requiring a larger footprint, many manufacturers offer their equipment in two- and three-deck versions. High-volume bakeries and pizza shops depend on these multi-deck pieces to bake dozens of loaves or pies simultaneously. The majority of two- and three-deck models have independent temperature controls for each deck, so the unit can be used to bake different types of products simultaneously.
Pizza Deck ovens are built to mimic the stone hearths of traditional wood-fired ovens that the pizza was developed on. The basic format is a flat, solid surface, but there are two variations available.
Stone decks - Stone decks are the closest to the original method for baking traditional breads and pizzas, and offer two main advantages. First, stone absorbs moisture to help impart a crispy and well-browned crust to pizzas and breads. Second, it heats evenly, so, while there may be some variation of temperature across the cooking surface, heat will be distributed more evenly than along metal surfaces.
Stainless steel decks - Stainless steel decks are a lightweight and affordable alternative to stone. The downside is that they do not absorb moisture or heat as readily as stone decks do. This means they don't develop crusts with quite the same authentic flavor and texture as stone, and may create hot spots along the baking surface that staff must learn to work with.
Built-in vs. Standalone Deck Ovens
If your oven will be visible from the dining room, you have an opportunity to build it into your guests' overall dining experience. You have a number of options for permanently installing an oven like this in your building, whether it's built into a brick wall or decorated with a simple stucco facade. Get in touch with our kitchen design experts at 1-800-541-8683 to start a project of your own.
Standalone ovens are an obvious choice for installations that will be concealed behind kitchen doors. This format is mounted on sturdy steel legs and either feet or casters, built for utilitarian baking and not for show. Standalone units come in a much more broad range of formats and sizes than their built-in kin. Perhaps their two greatest advantages are their lower prices and mobility.
When pizza isn't the main attraction of your concept but you'd still like to offer pies with crispy crusts, consider investing in a countertop pizza deck oven. These smaller-footprint options provide the capacity for a few pizzas, loaves, or bagels at a time to enable you to add those baked creations to your menu without committing the capital required to procure a full-size unit.
Deck Oven Features to Consider
Manufacturers offer a number of additional features either standard or at an additional charge:
- Gas flames provide the spectacle of an open flame within the baking chamber, enhancing the visual appeal of equipment installed within sight of guests.
- Brick-lined cooking chambers offer more thorough interior heating, not just from the bottom but from the sides as well. This advantage can be valuable for producing pizzas with evenly-heated toppings and for baking thicker breads.
- A Baffling system gives users the ability to control convected heat flowing through the sides of the baking chamber, giving them a better ability to quickly cook pies with thick toppings.
- Steam injection systems provide the ability to add humidity to the baking chamber, a step that's essential for achieving the ideal rise and crust on certain artisanal breads.
- Automatic starters do away with the need to manually light gas equipment.
- Direct vents can simplify the hood requirements you need to satisfy building codes to operate your oven.