What is a Combi Oven?
A combi oven uses steam heat and convection heat to cook foods at the precise temperature, resulting in juicier, higher-quality dishes. Because a combi oven utilizes three different cooking methods (steam, convection and combination), it can also replace the traditional steamer and convection oven units, lowering the total cost of your kitchen equipment and minimizing overall footprint.
Basic understanding of heat transfer is key to any form of cooking.
To understand combi ovens, you must understand the very basics of what it means to cook food. Whether over an open fire, skillet or an oven, this one thing, heat transfer, always has to happen to cook food. This guide will provide an outline to understanding combi ovens, as well as provide some cooking tips on how to best utilize your combi oven.
When heated, by definition of to cook, you are transferring heat to the food which causes physical and chemical changes of color, texture, flavor and nutritional value. But one key aspect often overlooked is, in order to cook food, moisture is being removed. Moisture is in every food item, and when heated, varying degrees of moisture is lost. It has to go somewhere, so it escapes the food and enters the cooking environment.
How Does a Combi Oven Work?
We always detail the ingredients in the foods we are cooking, yet pay less attention to how temperature and humidity can change these ingredients. Often time our understanding of combi, or lack thereof, is why we fear this cooking method the most. We understand a combi starts with modes; convection, steam and combi, yet the core of all modes is temperature and humidity. Controlling temperature and humidity is the root of all cook modes often referred to as combi, steam, convection, finishing, retherm, proofing, and more.
Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air divided by the maximum amount the air could contain at the given temperature. Expressed as a percentage, the relative humidity is 100% if the air is saturated with water vapor, and 0% if no water vapor is present. Think about a 90° day during the summer with 0% humidity. It’s a very dry heat, and feels like 90°. Now, the next day it is 90° with 100% humidity. This day feels a lot hotter than 90°, maybe even 110-120°. This phenomenon explains the science behind why food cooks faster with humidity in the cooking environment, such as in a combi oven.
What are Combi Oven Cooking Methods?
Cooking methods are generally divided into two categories: dry heat cooking or moist heat cooking. To debunk the complexity of the combi and what it really does, let’s try and understand the core essentials at play—temperature and humidity.
Baking, grilling, roasting, steaming (water in a gas state) and broiling are all types of dry heat cooking. Typically temperatures are set to 300°F or higher. It is this application of heat that browns the food product; facilitating the delicious aromas and flavors your consumers enjoy.
Boiling, stewing, braising, and poaching are examples of moist heat cooking. Whether you cook with water, stock, wine, or another liquid, a moist heat method must involve cooking in moisture.
In the past, a foodservice operator would use both a convection oven and a steamer. Not so, anymore. Enter combi ovens. With one piece of equipment, an operator may employ multiple cooking capabilities to deliver a varied menu.
Looking to bake fresh bread for tonight’s service? A combi oven will circulate the temperature and humidity required to produce bread that is uniform in color and flavorful on the inside. Planning to poach fish for tomorrow’s lunch special? A combi oven will inject the necessary temperature and humidity into the oven to preserve the delicate nature of the fish. Braising a beef roast for stew? The precise levels of temperature and humidity in a combi oven will achieve the braising – in less time.
It is this versatility which has led to the adoption of combi ovens across many foodservice operations in the United States and Europe. Versatility is not the sole benefit of combi ovens, however.
Combi ovens also:
- improve product consistency
- decrease cook times
- allow for less kitchen equipment, bringing the price down of equipment acquisition
In addition, a combi oven also reduces the footprint of your commercial kitchen by allowing you to replace your convection oven and steamer with one piece of equipment, saving valuable floor space.
Not convinced yet?
You may wish to reach out to your local dealer or rep to schedule a demo and experience the true power of a combi oven.