cooking equipment

Bake, roast, grill, steam, poach or sear — today’s cooking equipment can do it all

When it comes to helping foodservice owners operate on an increasingly tight budget, maintain a commitment to energy efficiency and better manage food and labour costs, today’s high-tech, multi-tasking ovens and ranges are finding their way into more commercial kitchens than ever before. Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News recently spoke with leading manufacturers to hear about the latest trends and developments in innovative ovens and ranges that can help build a recipe and build a profit. Read on to hear what they had to say.


Claudio Baldinelli, Vice President of Canada & Latin America, Alto-Shaam

Phil Beauvais, Market Manager, Warewash Food Machines, Bakery and Cooking, Hobart Canada

Kevin Breton, Marketing Manager, Rational Canada

Chris Moreland, Ontario Sales Director and Executive Chef, Chesher Equipment Ltd.

What are some of the major trends when it comes to ovens and rages and why do you think these trends are significant?

Claudio Baldinelli: Restaurants, and all foodservice facilities, are needing to do more with less. Between labor costs, food costs and food waste, foodservice operators are looking for efficiencies. Improvements in technology are helping restaurants manage labor and hire workers with less formal training. Restaurants can do this with Combitherm® combi ovens with newer features like recipe storage and programmable cooking or with Cook & Hold ovens for overnight cooking.

Phil Beauvais: With Vulcan it is very important to provide equipment that is simple to operate, but equipment that is smarter and more intuitive. With combi ovens, the controls can be intimidating for operators when they first start using the device. The Vulcan ABC Combi, launched in 2015 kept the control simple but intuitive, reducing the complex controls typically associated with combi ovens to a control operators were more comfortable using. Vulcan did this by having the operator set the temperature and the time on the control and based on the two settings the unit automatically set the humidity level. This helped operators feel more comfortable with the new equipment they were operating.

Kevin Breton: Some of the major trends we are seeing in restaurant cooking equipment are smaller, more efficient and easier-to-operate appliances than conventional devices. Access to smaller, more compact commercial kitchen equipment can allow restaurants to make the most of their workspace and environment. In addition, investing in energy efficient restaurant equipment is a proven and effective way to reduce operational costs. We are also seeing more restaurant operators purchasing combi ovens as they are more versatile, easier to operate, add more flexibility and are more energy efficient. The RATIONAL combi steamer can bake, roast, grill, steam, poach and sear, all on a one-square-metre footprint which means it can replace multiple pieces of traditional equipment.

Chris Moreland: The biggest trend is “cloud”-based connected kitchen technology with the use of built-in WIFI. This gives multi-unit operators the ability to network their equipment across their business for sharing of recipes, standards and cooking processes. ACP Amana and Lainox Naboo both have fully embraced this technology and are the market leaders with ease-of-use solutions that take our most common interactive tool (the smart phone) and put the technology and convenience into their products. The second biggest trend is down-sizing — smaller equipment packed with features and benefits to allow for more efficiency in design of kitchens. Whether it is a compact combi oven or modular countertop equipment using refrigerated bases, the trend is to pack as much functional equipment into as small and functional of a space as possible.

What are the top factors a restaurant operator needs to consider when purchasing ovens and ranges?

CB: Let’s face it, restaurants serve many of the same menu items day after day. A combi oven helps automate theses repetitive processes. Units can be programmed with recipes containing multiple steps allowing staff members to prepare food with the touch of a button. Low-temperature Cook & Hold ovens can save labor by cooking overnight. If someone calls in sick, you are still ready to serve your customers. And an employee doesn’t need a high skill level to find their way around the kitchen.

PB: The top factors to consider are 1) Menu — will the new device allow the operator to prepare and cook the majority of the menu items already on the existing menu and also allow for expanding that menu in the future? 2) Ease of use — Is the unit simple to operate or does it require complex training? and 3) Cost of ownership — Is the device easy to maintain, clean and economical to operate?

KB: Don’t buy, until you try! There are so many ovens and ranges available in the market, it makes it very confusing for operators to judge the performance by just looking at a brochure or going on the internet. That is why RATIONAL offers CookingLive events where the operator can see the benefits of our appliance in action and to be able to taste the food. This way the operator can better understand how this can impact their business and how it can facilitate the workflow or even offer new food ideas.

CM: Customers need to first determine their desired menu offering, space available for kitchen equipment and anticipated business volume. This will help in determining the right equipment. Ovens and ranges come in a variety of available configurations, such as open burners, French tops, griddles, broilers and hot tops. Knowing the type of cooking you are going to do will provide you with the best fit for a smart design and an efficient operation. For the operator that wants to save space and increase the benefits of the kitchen foot print, the combi oven is the way to go.

What new innovations in cooking equipment are helping to improve efficiency and profitability for restaurant owners and chefs?

CB: Using our internal removable temperature probe takes the guesswork out of cooking. It makes a business’s products more consistent, which is the name of the game. Combis can also help staff monitor and easily adhere to HACCP and other food safety regulations. Combis can also keep track of records for you that can be downloaded and stored. So that means employees no longer spend time charting their food temperatures with clipboards.

PB: Vulcan’s next venture into the combi oven market is the ABC MiniJet. For operators with a full menu adding equipment into the kitchen is always a challenge, the ABC MiniJet Combi is a great solution to that problem in that it allows operators to improve speed of service and also can improve quality in  a small footprint, making it much easier to find the space on the line.

KB: If we use the RATIONAL combi-oven as an example, it can bake, roast, grill, steam, poach, sear and even clean itself automatically in one single appliance. Instead of purchasing three or more pieces of traditional cooking equipment and adding additional personnel, you have one appliance, operated by one person, which in return helps reduce operational cost, raw material and energy. How exactly are the developments helping? One good example is the RATIONAL Efficient CareControl feature which is an automated self-cleaning system that detects dirt, limescale and removes them at the touch of a button. The CareControl feature helps operator save on cleaning cost versus cleaning traditional equipment manually and it avoids using liquid chemicals that can spill or burn skin as it uses CareTabs which are solid chemical pucks.

CM: WIFI-enabled equipment with Cloud-based technology as previously mentioned is definitely helping with efficiency and combi ovens with versatility of function are saving on food cost, time, stress levels, energy and providing more consistent results which leads to customer satisfaction.

How are new cooking equipment models becoming more user friendly and allowing for a shorter learning curve for new employees? How does this affect overall business operations?

CB: The future of cooking technology will be products that can be used together to create an entire system that meets the challenges of a kitchen – whether staffing, food costs, or food safety.

PB: The ABC Mini Jet allows combi oven operators to cook the way they always have in the past: They set the time and the temperature they are cooking at and the ABC Mini jet automatically sets the humidity level. This keeps the learning curve short and still allows for shorter cook times than using a convection oven. The ABC Mini Jet has other features such as Top 12 favorite keys, which allows the operator to have at the push of a button the 12 most popular menu items. It also has over 80 preprogrammed recipes in its memory right from the factory.

KB: If you look at the RATIONAL SelfCookingCenter® combi oven, its control panel with twice the processing speed learns how the chef prefers to cook. The MyDisplay function allows the chef to store different cooking processes and save them in profiles. This saves on training time and expenses, because even untrained staff can quickly learn to operate the unit without errors.

CM: New control interfaces based on Android technology from smart phones is making it much easier for operators to learn how to use and program combi ovens. What used to be an overwhelming and daunting task is now easy and engaging. New employees, especially Millennials, are more engaged with technology and find the instructiveness of new technology trends to be easier to learn on and develop their own style of cooking.

What options or innovations are occurring with respect to multi-functionality of cooking equipment?

CB: Combi ovens are considered the “Jack of All Trades” oven. You can take one piece of equipment and do so many different things, from smoking ribs and roasting peppers to low-temperature steaming custards, and baking cakes. Everyone thinks of Cook & Hold ovens as a protein cooking oven. It’s great at that – with higher yields, no hood, precise cooking and overnight cooking – but it does so much more, including: Making any braised dish; culturing everything from butter to yogurt; cooking sous vide without the water; and baking custards and cheesecakes.

KB: Combi ovens give the ability to cook different foods at the same time without any flavour transfer. Instead of using three or four different kinds of traditional cooking equipment, chefs can now use one single combi oven to perform the same tasks. The RATIONAL SelfCookingCenter® can fry, roast, grill, steam, poach, bake, and much more. It does all of the monitoring and checking for you. It sets the temperature, humidity, and cooking time by itself. It monitors the cooking climate and the browning, and even saves you from having to flip or turn items, such as pan-fried foods.

CM: Combi ovens like the Lainox Naboo and Naboo Compact with WIFI and Cloud-based technology and high-speed ovens such as ACP Amana’s AXP22TLT are the newest innovations to multi-functional cooking equipment. The Lainox Naboo can be ordered with many options, such as the Solid Clean or Liquid Clean System, Smoke-grill & Aroma Injection, boiler or boiler-less versions and even four new compact model versions expanding the complete line to 10 sizes.