Many professional kitchens today have fallen victim to the shrinking syndrome, with end users demanding that dealers specify multi-functional equipment to make the most of limited space. So does that mean that appliances which have fewer uses, such as pizza ovens, are out of favour?
Not according to well-known supplier, Jestic Foodservice Equipment. Culinary director Michael Eyre detailed: “For any project where pizza is a main feature of the menu and certainly for dedicated pizza outlets and chains, specifying a pizza oven is essential. Competition amongst pizza restaurants is fierce and consumers are increasingly discerning, so when it comes to producing a standout pizza offering, we believe there are two key components to making it successful, the right ingredients, and the right equipment.
“The correct equipment, and in particular the right oven, can deliver the quality, consistency and speed needed by the site.”
For dealers concerned about producing space-saving kitchen designs, Eyre emphasised: “Jestic’s portfolio of pizza ovens come in wide variety of styles and sizes with plenty of options available to fit in kitchens where space is at a premium.
“Take for example the Qubo from Alfa Pro. At just 890mm wide and 700mm deep this stylish and compact oven can fit on any countertop yet can still produce up to 80 pizzas per hour. The Qubo also features Compact Flame technology which provides the visual appeal and theatre of a real-flame pizza oven.”
Furthermore, the supplier’s portfolio of pizza ovens can also cook other dishes, as Eyre revealed: “Given the right training, chefs can also utilise pizza ovens to cook a variety of other foods including proteins, al forno dishes and breads like lavash and pitta that require high temperatures – and product training is an area where Jestic’s experienced culinary team can really add value.
“We provide a range of tailored education programmes for both end users and dealers, held at one of our development kitchens in Kent or Manchester, or in the field.”
Pizza oven specialist LLK recommended that dealers should specify a pizza oven for a project rather than an alternative cooking equipment type, as “pizza ovens feature specialised components designed to produce an authentic Italian pizza,” according to the supplier’s sales executive, Kyle Freeman.
“For example, our world-renowned pizza equipment manufacturer, Cuppone, constructs pizza ovens which all feature a cordierite stone base. This material is excellent at retaining heat and pizza dough can be cooked directly upon it. Ovens manufactured with this base produce a crisp, stone baked product which is associated with quality pizza.”
He further emphasised: “The specialised components of these ovens however do not limit to pizza baking; these ovens are highly versatile and are capable of cooking delicious lasagne, tapas, steak, curry and more.”
In fact, the firm has just recently launched what it describes as Cuppone’s “most multifunctional” oven to date, the Leonardo. This can be supplied with a galvanised steel module specialised for gastro, patisserie and bakery cooking, as well as a cordierite pizza baking module. Freeman added: “The Leonardo can even be supplied with a steam generator which releases water vapour onto patisserie and bakery products to keep them soft and shiny during baking.”
The brand has also considered how its ovens can fit into most catering operations’ space requirements. For example, the Cuppone Tiziano range features a slimline model which is both stackable and can fit on countertops, while the marque’s Giotto unit arrives in a ‘travelling position’ which is tilted to be able to fit through standard-sized doorways. Once it has been put into the desired spot, it can be winched into the cooking position.
Over at Welbilt, it feels it has the solution for design dilemmas. Steve Hemsil, sales director – UK and Ireland, explained: “The shrinking of commercial kitchen spaces has significantly shaped the direction that equipment has taken over the past few years, so much so that many manufacturers are now offering compact versions of their best-selling models.
“However, one area that continues to be overlooked when it comes to designing compact solutions is pizza ovens. This is likely due to their notoriously space-consuming nature. The solution lies with Welbilt and our compact countertop model: the Lincoln CTI (Countertop Impinger).
“Small enough to fit on most commercial countertops, yet large enough to replace a half-sized convection oven or up to five microwave ovens, the impressive Lincoln CTI utilises a 16” wide conveyor belt and 20” baking chamber for impressive output.”
The Lincoln Impinger ovens can also be fitted with different fingers if required to ensure the correct cooking of the operator’s particular product to ensure consistency of finished product.
In terms of advice for dealers, Hemsil detailed: “As the demand for hot-food-to-go continues to rocket across the sector, so does demand for pieces of equipment that can keep up with the pace, particularly within pizza outlets where operators are looking to serve a customer in a matter of minutes.
“For example, when specifying Welbilt’s Lincoln Impinger, dealers should emphasise the fact that this model can bake up to 35% faster than other conveyor ovens, thus providing operators with the chance to increase turnover, whilst also reducing queues for customers.”
Elsewhere, Lincat believes that pizza quality depends on specifying an oven with a firebrick base, such as its LPDO model. According to group marketing manager, Helen Applewhite: “This is ideal for a whole host of pizza styles, including deep pan, thin crust, fresh dough, part-baked or frozen pizzas.”
Able to cook pizzas up to 14in, the LPDO operates from a 13A plug, meaning operators can plug in and play. It can reach a maximum temperature of 400°C in 39 minutes, so pizzas should be able to be cooked quickly, to maximise output (and profit). Independently-controlled top and bottom elements should provide optimum temperature control for the base and topping.
Applewhite underlined: “The elements allow operators to set the temperature on the bottom to create a perfect crisp base, whilst the top element melts the cheese and cooks the top evenly. It also enables pies, pastries, pancakes and more to be cooked in oven, making it a multi-functional piece of equipment.”
At 300 x 530 x 558mm, the LPDO is suitable for kitchens with limited countertop space. However, output is reportedly not compromised, as it can produce a huge 14in pizza or 2 x 9in pizzas at the same time. This means 24 14in pizzas can be produced per hour.
The LPDO is designed to be simple to use. It’s equipped with a temperature display gauge for monitoring, whilst an 18-minute audible timer notifies kitchen staff when pizzas are ready.
All units are constructed from stainless steel and have robust door hinges. They are available in black, red or stainless steel, so they can be an option for front of house applications as well as back bar.
At FEM, commercial director Mark Hogan argued: “Although chefs can easily make pizzas in a convection oven or combi oven, the most popular appliance to use is a dedicated commercial pizza oven, one which combines the power, capacity and functionality required.
“Authenticity is vital when it comes to pizza, as many consumers are aware of everything from ingredients to presentation and taste. Traditionally pizzas were stone baked in wood-fired ovens, but with developments in technology, market-leading electric pizza ovens are now able to reproduce the true pizza taste in any kitchen set-up.”
The supplier has added the Sirman Lipari to its range of electric pizza ovens. The machine is constructed from stainless steel and has an aluminium-plated cooking chamber and a stone baking deck, aimed at giving the pizza authentic texture and taste. The panoramic glass door should mean that pizzas can be monitored without letting heat out.
Hogan pointed out that the oven can be multifunctional too, saying: “Nowadays, restaurant owners and chefs are beginning to use pizza ovens for non-pizza making purposes. The ability to steam mussels, finish steaks and provide a smoky delicious flavour to meat, fish and poultry allow restaurants to maximise the use of their pizza oven.”
The Lipari measures 930 (W) x 770 (D) x 672 (H)mm, making it the most spacious of Sirman’s range, while the twin-deck model allows for the cooking of up to eight 12in pizzas simultaneously. A more compact model on offer is the Sirman Stromboli double deck pizza oven. It has the ability to cook up to four 9in pizzas, with dimension of 580(W) x 490(D) x 420(H)mm. Each deck is independently controlled, so during quieter hours, a single oven can be used to reduce operating costs.
For competitor, Cater-Bake, the size of kitchen dealers are specifying for is immaterial. Head of sales Steven Lilley said: “There are various sizes of pizza ovens to suit all requirements. Ideally, dealers need to be asking the end user what they actually want and what they want to achieve with their equipment. This will ensure they achieve the right results.”
He further encouraged: “We feel it’s important for dealers to know that if their customer is going to be cooking pizza, they should be specifying a pizza oven. You wouldn’t choose a combi oven to cook pizza, so the question should actually be: which pizza oven should your customer be using?
“There’s a range of options to choose from including deck, conveyor, gas and electric, but to get it right you need to understand the end user’s offering.
“If the customer is serving up a classic, Neapolitan-style pizza then they need a high temperature pizza oven, like the Zanolli Augusto, which cooks at around 500°C. This oven brings all the authentic benefits of a wood burning pizza oven, however, it’s much easier to operate.
“If they’re serving an American-style pie then they’re going to need an oven which delivers a long bake at around 280°C.”
Cater-Bake can assist distributors and end users in making that decision with its own cooking centre called CaterBase at its Liverpool headquarters. Lilley enthused: “This space is a fantastic opportunity for dealers and their customers to experience what pizza ovens we have on offer. They can book into the CaterBase and trial out as many of the ovens as they like, giving a feel for the operation, the type of cook and the size of the oven.”
Supplier, Euro Catering, believes pizza is a safe menu choice for any eatery. Sales director Justin Towns, detailed: “Given pizza’s popularity, dealers can lead on the advantages of having superbly-cooked pizza choices available and then explain how a pizza oven can cook much more than just pizza, giving an eatery a way to build a full menu, with pizza at its core.
“With, for instance, the new Moretti Forni T series conveyor ovens and the compact T64E and T64G cutting-edge countertop conveyor oven, that wraps up as much functionality within a space-mean and super-energy-saving oven as possible. Recipes are provided for 130 different dishes, including galettes, tagliata al manzo, pollo alla cacciatore, scallopine alla Valdostana and a host of other meat, vegetable and baked dishes.”
The firm can also offer dealers the latest Moretti Forni Series S Evolution electric ovens. Adaptive-Power@Technology manages the power to these stainless steel ovens according to the load within them, which should ensure no power is unnecessarily wasted if only half of the oven is loaded. With power boosting technology as part of this, there should be no temperature drop on the stone deck of the oven. When the oven is idle, it can call on its Eco-Standing@Technology to ensure power consumption is maintained, without having the heating elements operating on full.
For space saving, the company has the Prisma XL range, a 600mm-deep pizza oven designed for front-of-house use. It is a one-chamber oven, within which two different operating temperatures can be calibrated for the upper and lower parts, and the maximum temperature is 455°C. This stainless steel oven, with a refractory stone cooking surface, can cook two 35cm pizzas at once and takes a 1x40x60cm tray.
Over at Taylor UK, its latest portfolio addition is the compact TurboChef Fire pizza oven, designed for front of house usage. Said to deliver, authentic artisan-baked pizza of up to 14in diameter, cooking is achieved using convection fans, top and bottom, which can be independently controlled. The oven can reach temperatures of up to 450°C, which the supplier claims makes it the hottest compact electric pizza oven on the market.
Marketing manager David Rees revealed: “The high temperature mimics the classic pizza oven climate, delivering a pizza that’s got a crispy bottom and a deliciously succulent topping – in just 90 seconds.”
The integral catalytic convertor managed cooking smells and the double wall insulated construction should help to minimise radiating heat, keeping the outer walls cool. There’s a removable bottom access panel for easy cleaning of the 430 stainless steel interior, while the exterior has a corrosion-resistant steel body.
To operate, the user simply loads pizza, using a paddle, onto a pizza shelf screen in the oven. The access flap has a glass viewing panel, so it’s possible to watch the pizza as it cooks. The oven has six pre-set timers.
The latest Fire is available in a range of colours – alongside the classic traffic light red, there’s a choice of yellow, green, pure white, jet black, and blue. It is supplied with a 1 year parts and labour warranty.
Rees summed up: “This compact, rapid cook pizza oven looks stunning with its tubular body and retro styling. In addition, it fits on a counter top and it is ventless, so it can be easily installed just about anywhere, with no need for extra extraction.”
Wood-fired appliance specialist Valoriani UK believes that a pizza oven is essential, as the dish is a consumer favourite. Director Andrew Manciocchi commented: “Wood-fired ovens can provide a real economic benefit, regardless of whether their owner is a high-street eatery seeking differentiation from its competitors, or a venue looking to become a pizza destination.”
To meet the challenges of the shrinking footprint, Valoriani offers a variety of ovens, all of which are capable of fitting into smaller kitchens if the required flues can be installed. Ovens can also be built on-site, so there is no need to start removing door frames and windows. Though Manciocchi did point out: “It should be remembered that the oven is a front-of-house draw, so many eateries want the oven out on show, to add to customer entertainment and enrich the overall dining experience.”
Plus the use of an optional Tuscan Grill can turn any of the brand’s ovens into a barbecue or grill.
Manciocchi underlined as well: “All Valoriani ovens also have the big advantage of having DEFRA certification. This makes them legal to operate anywhere in the UK, even in Smoke Control Areas regulated by environmental health officers. Some wood oven suppliers do not have this certification and do not flag this up to customers. This certification is such that not only does it make the oven legal, it even surpasses some other DEFRA-accepted ovens, by not requiring the expensive additional filtration that has to be installed for their compliance.”