Commercial oven buying guide
Catering Appliance Superstore stock a large number of commercial oven models across many different categories. Our oven buying guide aims to help you narrow your buying options quickly so you can concentrate on comparing a smaller number of appropriate models for your business.
Don't forget to use the compare products feature on the Catering Appliance Superstore website to quickly assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of different commercial ovens.
Gas, electric or dual fuel
One of the first things you should establish is whether you need a gas or electric oven, or perhaps both fuel types. Ignoring specialist ovens like pizza ovens, conveyor ovens or atmospheric steamers for the moment, most ovens are more or less the same in format - an insulated oven compartment below either a flat worksurface for positioning a countertop unit on, or a fitted set of between three and eight burners or hobs. So, you can undertake more or less the same cooking functions with any oven. The type of fuel used in cooking, however, affects running costs and performance.
In very broad terms, and at the time of writing, it generally costs a little more to run an electric oven than a gas equivalent. There is often no great variation in power usage between comparable models, so the cost difference comes down to energy prices. Be wary of this, however, and pay attention to your specific energy supply - if you use propane gas rather than mains fed natural gas for example, you might find electric prices are cheaper. Your billing information should provide you with a price per kwh (kilowatt hour), and you can apply this to the kw rating of gas and electric appliances to give you a more useful cost figure for comparison.
Even then, Catering Appliance Superstore does not recommend you make your commercial oven purchase decision based solely on running costs - energy prices can change, and most catering businesses will be looking for an oven to last ten years, in which time a lot can happen. Some predict increasing electricity costs due to green energy legislation, others predict the end of North Sea gas. None of us are fortune tellers, so decisions on fuel type should also be made on the basis of cooking performance of different fuel types.
Opinion is divided on the absolute best fuel type for commercial ovens. At one point most commercial kitchen workers might have said gas - generally it is quicker to achieve temperature in both ovens and on hobs, and traditionally gas cooking appliances were easier to achieve precise results with. Gas temperature changes are very quick to take effect, and the use of a flame make cooking more intuitive (you can easily see what the heat to a pan is). For example, finding a simmering point with a gas burner is extremely easy, but with an electric hob with set heat positions it can be much more difficult.
On the other hand, gas ovens can be a little more temperamental than their modern electric equivalents. If they are uneven, or if all burners are not in perfect working order, heat distribution can be uneven within a poorly maintained gas oven, causing under or over cooking. Electric ovens can provide more consistent heat, and generally come with a fan as standard to help circulate hot air even better, whereas not all gas ovens do (there is often no electrical connection at all). Electric are also generally easier to clean.
It should be noted, however, that at the top end of the oven range, these differences begin to narrow considerably. Premium gas ovens are likely to include air circulating fans and be designed with detachable oven shelves, liners and floors for easy cleaning, whereas buyers looking for premium performance in an all-electric solution might be advised to opt for an electric oven without a built in hob and add high performance counter top induction hobs. Even if you don't think you need such precision and performance, a high end electric oven with built in hot plates will have very good, rapid heating hot plates and may even come equipped with features like simmerstat control, navigating past the drawbacks traditionally experienced when using electric hobs.
If there is any concensus to be had at all, it is perhaps that some of the best commercial ovens are dual fuel ovens, combining the intuitive temperature control and cooking speed of gas burners, with the clean, more consistent cooking environment of a fan assisted electric oven.
Equipped with an understanding of the pros and cons of different fuel types, you can take a closer look at the types of commercial ovens available.
Standard gas or electric ovens with or without hobs
Gas and electric ovens without burners or hobs are good options if you want to combine other appliances with the oven on your cookline. Some models like the Lincat LMD9 are also two-tier, so you can maximise oven capacity within a small footprint. Alternatively, you can use the worksurface space for countertop units like bain maries, fryers, or rice cookers. For best fitting results when mix-and-matching, choose models from within a consistently-specified product range, such as Lincat Opus 800.
If you do want integrated boiling tops or burners, choose the right number and capacity of hobs or burners for you. Commercial oven models are available in three plate, four plate or six plate electric, or four burner, six burner or eight burner gas hob tops - although this also determined the size of the oven! Look carefully at the hob design - will you be able to make full use of the hob, are there any flues or other obstructions at the rear of the oven that will prevent you locating large pans centrally on rear burners or plates?
For maximum hob capacity, you might want to consider buying a commercial oven with a solid top, available in gas and electric. If you have opted to buy a commercial oven without built in hobs but still want a small amount of hob space (for example, if you want a large sized oven but only need four burners), look into high performance stand alone induction hobs, or general purpose two hob countertop units in gas or electric.
Dual fuel ovens
We've already mentioned that dual fuel ovens are considered by some to combine all the best features of gas and electric ovens. Purchasing a good quality dual fuel oven more or less guarantees you'll get good cooking performance on the hob and in the oven, without having to buy a standalone commercial oven and oven-top appliances separately (which may be less cost effective anyway). They do require both an electrical and a gas connection, so your installation cost might be a little higher (depending on whether the unit is hardwired or plug in), and the cost of the unit vs equivalent single fuel models is generally higher because of the increased complexity of manufacturing. The money will feel well spent, however.
Convection ovens are high performance ovens especially good for baking bread, pastries and cakes, or for other baking, roasting and broiling where precise temperature control, consistency of temperature and atmospheric conditions are required. Cooking with commercial convection ovens involves a certain amount of re-learning of recipes and methods, so we've produced a separate buying guide just for this type of appliance with a few tips on features to look out for and how to get the most out of your purchase when in use.
Pizza ovens are more specialist still, constructed specifically to create the perfect environment for pizza cooking. Essentially, a good pizza oven needs even heat distribution, precise temperature control and a heated based made with a material such as firebrick that allows the base of the pizza to crisp nicely without burning, or without going soggy. Catering Appliance Superstore stock pizza ovens in gas or electric, and as single deck or twin deck models if your pizza forms a significant part of your food sales mix (some of the pizza oven models are also stackable to maximise capacity even further).
Conveyor ovens are appropriate for production line cooking environments like large scale bakeries, factory kitchens or for catering operations with extremely high volumes of baked goods. Generally these are large units but countertop conveyor ovens are also available. Settings for baking or grilling mean these can be used for a variety of foods, even high volumes of breakfast produce, but their main application is as commercial baking equipment in catering environments where consistency and high volume are key.
If you want a really great commercial oven for healthy, fresh and nutritious food then it is also worth taking a look at our atmospheric steam ovens.
When you have identified a fuel type and format of oven (as well as any countertop units you want to go with your oven, if it does not have built in hobs), identifying construction quality and any features that make for easy cleaning and maintenance will help you select from the remaining models (keeping an eye on relative price, of course). The rugged qualities of commercial ovens are one of the main differences between them and their domestic cousins, and manufacturers who fully appreciate the amount of wear a commercial kitchen appliance receives and have put thought into design and build quality will have a product range that stands out. UK manufacturers such as Lincat and Falcon are certainly recommended in this regard.
Look for ovens lined with vitreous enamelled steel, and removable shelves and shelf brackets, oven linings and floors - the more can be removed from the oven the better your deep clean regime will be.
On the hob top itself, look for cast iron (if a gas burner), preferably enamelled, and check the description to see whether construction in general utilises flush fittings, fully welded or pressed steel forms - the closer everything locks together, and the less interruptions in the surface, the easier it will be to keep clean.
Finally, take a look at the standard warranty offered with the product - a lot can be told about a manufacturer's confidence in a given product from the amount of time they're willing to guarantee it for, and whether this includes parts or parts and labour too.