Today’s menu trends are constantly changing. Your customers’ needs and wants can change at the drop of a hat. Purchasing single-purpose equipment every time you decide to change menu items is expensive and most of the time unrealistic. There is however, an answer to those problems. The combination oven, more commonly known as the combi, offers a future-proof solution to menu trends by utilizing a number of cooking methods, several of which can be used while cooking a variety of foods at the same time.
As a relatively under-used piece of equipment in the U.S., we turned to Henny Penny Product Manager Dann Woellert to dole out some basic combi education and to dive into the first of two blogs covering how a combi can increase kitchen efficiency, customer experience and cost savings.
Combi ovens seem to be a rare find. Who is using them today?
We estimate that less than 25 percent of American restaurants utilize a combi oven. The technology was developed over 15 years ago in Europe, where it is more readily utilized and understood. In America, chefs, operators and kitchen designers are wired to have a dedicated appliance for each cooking activity.
Combis have been associated with productivity. That’s why you see them more frequently in hotels, stadiums, commissaries and corporate cafeterias — where productivity and volume are key factors. But when operators realize the flexibility, consistency and quality cooking that combis offer, they readily adapt them into their kitchen environments.
What has prompted the growth of combi ownership in the US?
Operators are realizing the value of combis. They see the consistency that you can achieve with menu items once a recipe is developed. They can see the improved quality of combi cooking versus convection cooking in aspects like improved product juiciness and less product shrinkage. A combi also offers flexibility by performing a number of operations in one unit — it can bake, broil, steam, grill, sous vide — all in one space-saving appliance.
How does a combi operate?
A combi utilizes three cooking modes — convection, steaming and the combination of the two. A boiler or other system generates steam, while a fan ensures even air flow throughout the cooking chamber.
The main point of a combi is to give the user the ability to completely control the temperature, moisture and air flow of the cooking environment. To accomplish this, many combis are equipped with auto-reversible fans with variable speed. This feature allows for a more precise control of air flow, temperature and humidity.
What technologies can a new combi bring to the kitchen?
Most recently, combis employ improved touch screens and automated features such as the ability to perform sous vide, cook and hold, and overnight cooking. Many manufacturers have migrated to boilerless systems for ease of use and lower maintenance costs. Automated cleaning systems have become new features as well. Some models include self-contained hoods to their combis, making them easier to integrate into a full kitchen.
In what areas does a combi lead to cost savings?
- Reduced food waste as a result of more consistently cooked product
- Higher yield on proteins due to less shrinkage
- Shorter cook times, resulting in energy savings
- Higher productivity
- More energy efficient than convection ovens
For more information on combi ovens and to see Henny Penny’s complete combi line up, visit www.hennypenny.com/products/roasting/combi-ovens. To be sure you don’t miss part two of this combi interview with Dann Woellert, be sure to subscribe to Our Take and get alerts when new blogs are posted.