What Type of Ovens Do Professional Chefs Use?

Whether classically trained or self-taught, professional chefs will agree that a masterfully prepared dish begins with quality ingredients nurtured by culinary know-how. To get the job done right in a restaurant or similar setting, professional chefs need the right equipment as well, and one of the most vital pieces of culinary hardware that they rely on is an oven, but what type do they use?

If it came down to one choice, the majority of professional chefs would opt for a convection oven because of the thermal control and evenness of cooking it provides. Because it heats more efficiently, a convection oven also reduces overall cooking time, which is a bonus in a busy restaurant setting.

There are a myriad of ways that professional chefs cook and prepare food, including on the stovetop, on a grill, or even using sous vide. But the workhorse of any commercial kitchen is an oven, and the pro’s choice is convection. With unmatched versatility and utility, a convection oven is quite possibly the single-most-important piece of equipment for a professional chef today. Keep reading to learn why.

What Type of Oven Does A Professional Chef Use?

When it comes to commercial ovens that are commonly used in the kitchen of a restaurant or similar setting, there are two main types:

  • Standard oven – also known as a conventional or radiant oven, this piece of equipment has been a staple in the food service (restaurants and eateries) and hospitality (hotels and lodging) industries for decades. A standard oven works by heating the interior of an enclosed chamber from the bottom of the unit, usually via an electric heating element or a gas burner.

  • Convection oven – in recent years, this type of oven has steadily grown in popularity not only in commercial kitchens but with professional chefs. From the outside, a convection oven looks very similar to a standard oven, but there is a world of difference on the inside, where an internal fan circulates the heat mass and distributes it evenly throughout the cooking chamber.

  • There are also more specialized ovens like salamanders and rotisseries, to name a few, but standard ovens and convection ovens are the most common by far.

As more and more professional chefs embrace the benefits and advantages of using one, the convection oven is quickly becoming the standard (if not highly sought) piece of hardware in commercial kitchens. Read on to learn why professional chefs prefer convection ovens over all others.

Why Do Professional Chefs Prefer Convection Ovens?

As many home cooks can attest, it is quite common for a standard oven to have one or more hot (or cold) spots, where the temperature is hotter in one spot than in other parts of the oven (e.g., the front or back, the top or bottom, or the left vs. the right). It is for this reason that a common practice with standard ovens is to open the door midway through cooking to rotate the food.

Uneven temperature zones in an oven can lead to inconsistent doneness, and for a professional chef, this can have disastrous consequences, not the least of which is potentially serving undercooked or raw food (such as meat) to a customer or guest.

Convection ovens solve the problem of thermal inconsistency by using an internal fan that circulates the hot air inside the chamber, resulting in an even distribution of heat throughout the oven. As a result, not only are hot or cold spots completely eliminated, there are additional culinary benefits offered by convection ovens that no other cooking appliance can offer:

  • Food is heated and cooked to the same level of doneness, regardless of where it is placed in a convection oven

  • Because hot air is continuously circulated throughout the chamber, more food can be placed in a convection oven without impacting heating efficiency or cooking time

  • Aside from cooking, browning occurs faster and more evenly

  • Roasting is more consistent (and the skin of poultry is crispier) because of the increased airflow around the food

Another important consideration in a commercial setting like a restaurant or a banquet hall is the amount of time it takes to prepare dishes, particularly when there are a large number of them that need to be served.

How Much Time is Saved By Using a Convection Oven

Time savings is where a convection oven truly flexes its muscle:

  • On average, a convection oven can reduce cooking times by as much as 25% compared to a standard oven

  • Reduced cooking times will result in lower utility costs (whether it is electricity or gas) which translates to decreased operating expenses for a commercial kitchen

Thus, there are not only culinary advantages to using a convection oven, such as enhanced evenness of cooking, but also practical benefits, like reduced cooking times, as well. 

But as with many things in the culinary world, there are always exceptions to the general rule, and there is one major type of cooking for which chefs would be wise to think twice before using a convection oven.

Do All Professional Chefs Use Convection Ovens?

While on the surface, convection ovens may seem like the ultimate solution for all commercial kitchen challenges, there are instances where they provide less-than-ideal cooking conditions for certain dishes. In particular, there are certain baked items that may actually be best prepared in a standard oven instead of a convection oven. The main reasons for this are:

  • The force of the hot air being circulated by the internal fan of a convection oven can cause excessive browning (or even burning) on one side of items like muffins or cupcakes

  • Because of the circulation of hot air inside a convection oven, cakes can cook much more rapidly on the outside than on the inside, resulting in exteriors that are done but with interiors that are still raw batter

  • Delicate doughs or wet batters can be blown sideways by the force of the circulating hot air

  • The reduced cooking times of convection ovens can require closer monitoring of baked goods to ensure they do not burn

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