I'm hoping for some help - we are busy building a small bakery which we will only be baking pastry based items. Up until now, we worked the farmer's markets, using our 2 regular convectional ovens, from our home kitchen We have gotten too big, hence the upgrade. We were going to install larger convectional ovens, but we have been told that we should be using deck ovens. I don't know the first thing about them (I'm totally willing and able to learn), but from what I have read, I'm not altogether convinced. can anyone help?
Convection or Deck Oven
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First off, there is no such thing as a perfect oven.
"regular" commercial convection ovens are workhorses for a kitchen, but not ideal for pastry. They are pretty OK for bread, but not really for pastry.
What's the difference?
One word: Control.
With a convection oven you set the temp. and that's what you get. But you can't control top or bottom heat, you have the same heat intensity all over the oven cavity. While this is good for food items and bread, you can't bake, say, a quiche with a crispy bottom and a just-done top, you can't bake an almond tart with a pale bottom and golden top, and you are suicidal or a glutton for punishment if you want to bake a lemon meringue pie in a convection.....
You know how a convection oven works: With electric ones, the coils are wrapped around the fan, and the fan blows heated air, with gas, the fan sucks heat from the fire box underneath and blows it in the cavity.
With a deck you have elements in both the top and the bottom,and you have the opportunity to control the intensity of the top and the bottom.
Say I want to bake 6" quiches. On a deck, I set the bottom heat intensity to "2" (most ovens have a knob with three stages: 1, 2, and 3), the top heat knob to "3" and the general thermostat to 350. My top heat will be more intense, and my bottom heat not so intense. With a lemon meringue pie, for instance, I set the bottom heat to "0" and top to "3", with the thermostat to 400 F. For sugar cookies that I want pale, I'd set the knobs at "1" for both top and bottom.
Since most deck ovens have steel decks (some have stone) you will get a more thorough bake than a convection, with deeper and crispier bottom crusts. This is very hard to immitate with convection, although I have had moderate success baking on a sheetpan lined with bbq bricks in convections.
You will find with convections is that muffins or items with loose batter the tops come out lop-sided and if you don't rotate the pans, you get uneven colouring. This is because the fan only blows in one direction, and it blows hot air. Normally, you don't have to rotate pans in decks.
Another small bonus is you don't have to worry about the fan picking up the corner of the baking paper and sucking it in and flinging it onto the oven wall, or "worrying" the baking paper or mat at all four corners of the pan and shoving all of your items into the middle of the pan, baking them into a solid mass.
Yet another small bonus is when you open a deck oven, you don't fill the room with a blast of hot air as convections do, and a deck oven doesn't have to "recuperate" as much as a convection once the door has been opened and closed. Deck oven doors are much, much smaller. Sounds like nit-picking, but if you work in small kitchens a convection can really bring up the heat.
Your choice, best thing to do is find an opportunity to work with a deck for a few days.
One caveat: Do not confuse decks with Pizza ovens. Pizza ovens only work well when operating above 450F, they suck royally for baking pastries.
Hope this helps,
Thank you so much for your help - it makes so much more sense now!! I don't think I have ever seen a deck oven or if I have, it wasn't explained to me how it works. I have been in the restaurant industry (high end) as a server for years, but have always catered on the side, so have always spent time in the kitchens with the chefs.
I see you are in Vancouver - do you have any recommendations as to where to get used deck ovens? We are on Vancouver Island, and although I have a few people working on things here, don't expect much from this side.
Thanks again !!
Two places that come to mind are Nicholson's bakery eqpt., and R.F. bakery eqpt.. Both are less than a block away from each other, near Boundry and 1st ave in Bby.
Starting a block away from my shop and continueing all down Hastings St. in Vancouver are about 6 new and used restaurant eqpt. stores. No guarantees that they will have used decks, but if you're ever in town, it's worth a peek.
You can also hit up on your Snowcap rep on the island (Wayne Llewelyn?) They might know of someone who wants to sell a deck oven.
Thanks for the info.......I do know Wayne, although he is not my rep and will call him . If you don't mind, can I further pick your brain a bit?
Obviously, with dealing in pastry (we sell both regular and gluten free at this stage), the major work is in the rolling and cutting of the forms (we sell deep dish tarts as well as pies). We have been looking at getting dough sheeters, both a table model and a floor model. We had been selling 50 to 75 doz tarts during the Xmas market season, plus about 40 pies (usually over 2 days) - we did this from our home kitchen. It was crazy, but we made it work. The most time consuming thing is the actual rolling out of the dough - cutting is painful, but the big time eater is the rolling (kills my back after an hour or 2, as well), so the sheeters seem to be the best solution. Do you know much about them? I have been asking various sales men about them, and beside the fact that they seem hard to come by (used in good condition), it's difficult to find people that have a working knowledge of them. The sales people just send you to sites, but don't seem to have much actual knowledge . Do you have any thoughts on them?
I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer all these questions and to share your knowledge with me.
Yeah, got a table top sheeter, Rondo. Tabletops are good for smaller volume, but I use it a lot for confectionary as well. If your business is growing, I'd get a larger one, floor model. There are Taiwanese and Chinese models available, some are good, and some aren't. You have to work with the models to know their characters. Some are a royal pain in the butt, some are very hard to clean, some have very elaborate and finicky scraper systems, some have cheap motors.
I like the Rondo. Been using that brand for almost 30 years now. But then again I'm Swiss, so I am a bit prejudiced......
Best thing to do is hop on a ferry and head out to Nicholson's and RF, both have showrooms (well, kinda, "Showroom" is a bit of stretch...) where you can get your hands on the machine to get some kind of a feel for it. Both places have at least one used one and a couple of new ones.
Sheeters will make your life a whole lot easier and faster--much, much faster.
You can also buy plastic templates for cutting smaller discs of dough. I've got several, mainly for cookies. This is kind of like a whole bunch of cookie cutters all stuck together in one 18 x 26 sheet. You roll out your dough, lay the template on the sheet pan, lay the dough over the template, go over the dough with a rubber rolling pin and the dough is cut out and dropped down onto the sheet pan. Thermohauser makes these templates.
You can also get optional vinyl belts for the sheeter so you can cut directly on the belts, but I have the same canvas belts for the last 6 years now and have been using s/s cutters (albeit dull ones) on the belts with no issues.
What kind of salesmen have you been talking to that don't know how to operate a sheeter? Both of my kids were making cookies with a sheeter by age 6....
Thanks so much for all the info - we will make plans in the next few weeks to get over there. The builders are hoping to be done in 3 weeks from now (they are pouring forms on Tuesday), so the end is in sight. I am hoping to have everything together by the end of March
I have to wait a bit, as there will be no room to put anything until they have finished, but I am trying to get a better grasp on exactly what is out there - a big jump from the way that we have been operating the last few months
Thanks again - don't be surprised if I contact you again, with yet more questions - you have given me more to work with than anyone that I have contacted yet.........and believe me I have been in contact with more than 15 people, so far, mentioning that I would appreciate any input they had.
How true the sales have little knowledge of the equipment they sell.
I left America 20 years ago to live the in the Philippines. Here I thought to myself how the local sales people know nothing of their products unlike in the USA where you can depend on their knowledge. This was until recently when I began contacting US companies interested in their products only to discover they know very little or worse yet, give you wrong information.
We used to run a b&b and commercial kitchen on San Juan Island, now in Oregon doing farmers markets. That is great that your business has grown so much. We bought a sheeter when we started but are moving from making pasties more towards breads and our Rondo floor sheeter is just kind of sitting around a lot, if you're still looking for one we may have what you need.
If you are working in volumes the advantage of a convection oven is that you can bake on more than one rack at a time. A deck oven is great for cheesecakes souffles and baked custard desserts, but I'd take a convection oven for cookies, pies and puff pastry products any day. They shorten baking time and produce better results on bake from frozen products, and soft breads. Dense breads any loaf cakes I prefer a deck oven with a baking stone. Take a look at the products you want to produce before deciding as you may find you need both types of oven rather than two of one kind.