Mary Lou Henry's K-12 Convection Oven Wisdom

Convection Ovens

This month, I wanted to share information on convection ovens. Convection ovens are the most widely used appliances in the foodservice industry. These are the workhorses of the commercial kitchen, with a wide variety of uses from baking and roasting to warming and reheating. In addition to traditional uses, convection ovens are used for nearly all types of food preparation, including foods typically prepared using other types of appliances (e.g., griddles, fryers, etc.). They are a general-purpose oven that cooks food by forcing hot dry air over the surface of the food product. The rapidly moving hot air strips away the layer of cooler air next to the food and enables the food to absorb the heat energy, thus resulting in faster cooking time. The air flow through the oven chamber allows convection ovens to cook large loads and multiple racks effectively. Modern units have oven chambers insulated on all six-sides, providing peak energy efficiency. Solid state thermostats precisely control temperature, with cooking times digitally displayed for easy monitoring.

Most electric convection ovens preheat to a typical operating temperature of 350°F within six to ten minutes. Comparable gas ovens are generally slightly slower coming to temperature.

Keep in mind when purchasing a convection oven, the ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR are about 20 percent more energy efficient than standard models. Depending on your desires and needs, there are a wide range of options, from manual to digital control panels, number of shelves per oven, interior and exterior finishes, door types, cavity lighting, programmable recipe cook times and self-cleaning. The ovens come with all the bells and whistles or may be very simplistic.

Gas and electric oven manufacturers continually improve oven insulation and controls, heat transfer effectiveness, and heat recovery. These improvements yield higher efficiency and shorter preheat times. Many newer designs also maintain a more uniform temperature in the oven zones.

Tips for Purchasing A Convection Oven

Before purchasing a convection oven (as with all kitchen equipment), it is important to know what is available and have a clear understanding of what best fits your needs, before writing specifications. The following is a list that will assist you in making specifications meet your needs and clearly define your expectations and provide for more concise pricing.

  • Match oven size to production volume.
  • Know what features you want and need for your operation.
  • Know where you plan to locate the oven, so you will know if astatically it is important to have the more expensive stainless sides.
  • If replacing existing oven/ovens, check door openings to ensure that removal and replacements will fit through door openings.
  • Do the employees using the oven prefer easy manual controls, or are digital controls preferred?
  • Are solid doors or a door with a viewing glass preferred?
  • If both gas and electric are available in the facility, evaluate which is most efficient in operation.
  • If electric is needed be sure to specify the correct voltage and phase needed. Cost may vary for certain voltages.
  • Clearly specify installation expectations (who will be responsible for what part of the install)
  • If the oven is needed within a specific time frame, be sure to include a must be installed by date.

  • Tips for Efficient Operation

    Ovens are often the largest consumers of energy (which means energy cost) in a food service kitchen.

  • Identify when the oven will be used and turn it on just long enough before use to allow for preheat. Sometimes employees simply go down the line each morning turning on all equipment for the day regardless of what time the equipment will be used.
  • Turn off oven/ovens when no longer needed, or if there is at least a two hour laps of time between uses. For each hour of time saved by turning the oven off when not needed you will save $40-$400 per year per oven, depending on the oven. Ovens consume considerable energy when left on, even if no food is being cooked. Energy is lost through the oven walls and leakage around the door opening. These losses can be a significant operating expense, so turn all oven equipment off or lower temperatures during non-operating intervals. This saves energy, reduces cost, and increases oven life.
  • When a food service production does not call for a full sized oven, consider a half-size oven that may operate at much lower cost. The efficiency of ovens depends upon how well they are constructed, plus insulation levels and quality are significant factors. Consider this in purchasing decisions because some inexpensive ovens have little-to-no insulation in the oven door and will cost more to operate.

  • For more information on convection ovens, visit our website or call customer service. We can assure you the best products at the best prices.

    Mary Lou Henry
    School Specialist,
    KaTom Restaurant Supply