When it comes to baking and cooking at a commercial level, “set it and forget it” isn’t really an option. Sorry, Ron Popeil.
Ovens in a production facility need attention, fine-tuning and the right environment in order to give you the best, most efficient yield.

Target efficiency

In order to utilize technology to increase productivity, while maintaining the quality and time-tested traditions of baking, MIWE’s thermo-express deck oven utilizes thermal oil technology.
“The technology creates a temperate baking atmosphere by directing the heated oil along a primary pipeline to the various ovens by means of the respective secondary circuits,” says Harry Jacoby, president of MIWE America LLC. “This principle allows for controlled heating to each oven circuit depending on the requirement.”

That thermal oil system, based around a central supply unit, helps lead to high-precision control of the supplied energy.

In addition, the gentle radiation heat characteristic of thermal oil can help to achieve ideal baking results. The even heat transfer between upper and lower heating plates can lead to high-quality baking results.

Baxter, an Ortin, WA-based manufacturer of foodservice and bakery equipment,  also stresses efficiency as a way to maximize your oven’s worth.

In fact, the company currently offers the only rack ovens — the OVG00G1EE and OVG00G2EE — that have received Energy Star certification.

A patented steam system provides a thermal mass in the oven that significantly reduces recovery times between bakes. This leads to less time and energy needed for the oven to prepare itself for the next batch.

Controlling waste, improving yield

With advancements in auto-tuned proportional-integral-derivative (PID) programs and programmable logic controllers (PLC), a desired baking set point is calculated against the actual baking temperature throughout the oven. If the actual temperature gets out of the acceptable zone and becomes too hot or too cold, it can be automatically adjusted to ensure the right baking conditions.

Phil Domenicucci, baking systems manager for AMF Bakery Systems told Baking & Snack that the key to the latest auto-tuned PID programs is their ability to continuously monitor the temperature curves to maintain it evenly.

“Product tracking of each pan in the oven, working with independent zone control, allows the oven to automatically adjust required heat — even with skips, gaps or dwells,” he says.
According to Ken Hagedorn, vice-president of sales and partner of Naegele Bakery Systems, having real-time PLC control of the oven is critical in multi-zone ovens where products require a specific baking curve, such as setting the structure for bread or buns in the first zone and establishing the internal texture in the second zone.

Tailoring to specific needs

When making the sometimes gargantuan investment that is a new oven, it’s important to get the system that best fits your operation.

David Kuipers, vice-president of sales and marketing for Reading Bakery Systems, says focusing on what products you plan to bake, both now and in the future is key. “This will help guide the type of baking surface needed — band or mesh — as well as how to configure the oven,” he says.

The long list of options — convection, direct, indirect, impingement, infrared or hybrid — should be considered to determine with is the right fit. And, of course, reliability should be at the top of the list. Ken Johnson, president of Gemini Bakery Equipment, asked Baking & Snack “Can the oven provide a stable, uniform baking environment? Can the oven provide industry-leading energy efficiency? Is there strong domestic support and expertise?”

Outside influences

Whether a new oven is installed or an existing oven is in place, there are ways to fine-tune the production process.

Stephen St. Clair-Thompson writes in Baking Science & Technology that heat flux and humidity can affect oven performance. Heat flux to the product surface should be limited, allowing the Maillard reaction — which gives the baked product its flavor and much of its color — to take place slowly, which helps to avoid over-browning.

Humidity in the bake chamber comes mainly from the liberation of water from products as they bake, St. Clair-Thompson writes. The humidity in existing ovens can be controlled by fixed-speed extraction fans and dampers while new ovens can be controlled by variable-speed fans. He says humidity in a bread oven should be varied depending on the desired results. A glossy crust, for example, requires chamber humidity early in the bake.

“Fortunately for those who need to keep track of the humidity within ovens, humidity loggers are now available and can be used to good effect,” he says.