By Andy Hanacek
Bakers have expressed the need for more control over their ovens, and equipment manufacturers have responded.
The heart and soul of the bakery business, and several other food industries, is the oven. Without the oven, cakes, breads, cookies and other baked goods are nothing but mashed together pieces of dough.
And to the untrained, layman’s eye, baking might seem like an easy, 1-2-3 process: Put the dough in, turn on the heat and watch the tasty product come out.
But those master bakers in the industry know that there’s much more to it than just popping the mixture in and turning on the heat.
Bakers today are clamoring for more control over the finer points of the process, and they’re asking oven manufacturers to meet their demands — such as more modularity, easier washdown processes, faster installation and greater flexibility.
Manufacturers are meeting these needs, but the industry as a whole is progressing slowly.
Terry Bartsch, director of sales for Rademaker, says that overall, manufacturers have been able to latch on to what their customers need and surpass expectations in some cases.
“In the new direct-fired burner design, temperatures are changed by adjusting the air and gas flow,” Bartsch explains. “Older ovens were designed with redundant burners, and temperature changes were made by turning on and off burners. In air impingement ovens, temperature, air speed and humidity can be controlled independently for one another per zone.”
That, in turn, has given bakers the flexibility they desire in the same type of oven. It also improves the end product, simply because there is less room for error along the line.
“The humidity, or moisture control, helps in achieving optimal dwell times (generally 30% to 40% faster bake times compared to direct-fired ovens) and a high degree of flexibility to produce a multitude of products,” Bartsch adds.
Rademaker has redesigned its ovens to incorporate the much-desired modularity. Not only does this give bakers more control over the product inside the oven, Bartsch says, but it also enables the entire oven to be pre-assembled at the Rademaker facility and installed at the customer’s location generally in about two weeks’ time. Compare that to traditional ovens, which are not pre-assembled and take between six and eight weeks to install.
At Revent, engineers design the ovens to work with the physics of hot convection air streams. With Revent’s TCC (Total Convection Control) air distribution system, ovens are factory adjusted for perfectly even heat transfer throughout the rack. (For more on Revent ovens, see our “From the Floor” story below.)
The unique air direction and volume control system blows hot air at an upward angle, heating the bottoms of each tray. That gives more volume and lift to products and allows even baking without dehydration.
Additionally, Autobake has heeded the call for more control from bakers. Autobake’s Serpentine Ovens take modularity and go one step further, condensing the footprint of the oven and adding other features, such as a viewing window that allows visual fine-tuning of the baking profile at every level of the bakery process.
The Direct Electrical Radiant Heat oven is divided into 10 zones, and the top and bottom heat radiants are controllable as well. The Serpentine oven also allows production personnel to accurately adjust any potential variation in the cross bake by using separately controlled side elements for each zone.
Autobake’s Serpentine Thermal Oil Radiant Heat oven is also divided into zones and is a modification of thermal oil heated radiators as used in some static baking processes. Oil is heated by a thermal boiler separate from the baking process, which circulates the oil through pipes to the oven, where heat is transferred from the oil through the metal in the radiator plates and into the air through natural convection.
The modularity and flexibility that these ovens provide give bakers exactly the control they desire, and often with many other useful features that make their jobs that much easier.