Cook & Hold ovens are a low-temperature cooking and holding solution that are a valuable asset for every kitchen. Used correctly, these ovens provide a labour-free cooking solution to significantly lower costs and increase yields, writes Robert Simmelink, senior corporate executive chef at Alto-Shaam…
Unlike conventional ovens, Cook & Hold ovens – as the name suggests – enable food to be cooked over a longer period and then held, which helps maximise labour and production time.
Because Cook & Hold ovens cook at a maximum of 325 degrees F, they are not designed for convection oven style cooking or for use as a production oven like combi and convection units.
Cooking low and slow is the name of the game, which provides higher yields and more tender meats. For this reason, one of the Cook & Hold oven’s biggest benefits is being able to cook and hold overnight – typically an unproductive time for a kitchen.
It also means the food is ready for when the staff arrive, leaving more time for serving and allowing more portions to be sold more quickly.
While Cook & Hold ovens are often used for roasting large proteins, like prime rib and turkey, it’s important to remember that these units are extremely versatile.
In addition to roasting and braising, Cook & Hold ovens provide low-temperature culturing and fermenting and long-cook sous vide. The menu extension possibilities are endless.
For operations needing to stage food prior to plating, these units also are commonly utilised as retherm ovens on the cook line.
Food holding length in these units is dependent on the type of food and its density and can range from a few hours to a full day.
For example, while a large roast can be held for as long as 24 hours, holding times for more delicate meats, like chicken breast, will be shorter.
Easy to operate
Cook & Hold ovens are easy to operate and, in the example of an Alto-Shaam oven, its radiant Halo Heat technology evenly surrounds food without the use of extremely hot elements, added humidity or fans that typically degrade food quality.
Presets and probes are worth the additional investment for because quality and consistency will be locked in, no matter what the variables are or who the operator is.
The food will be exactly the same every time, and that’s what all operators strive to achieve. Operators also will have a HACCP data logger to record temperatures and ensure food quality and safety.
So, with so much emphasis today on reducing operational costs as well as maximizing efficiency, how much can one expect to save by using a Cook & Hold oven?
Cook & Hold ovens save costs significantly in three key areas: operation, labour and food. These ovens are economical to run, even overnight.
Energy usage rates for the units range from less than €0.7 to €1.7 (£0.63 to £1.5) for 24 hours of use. Since this equipment doesn’t require a hood, ventilation costs are also eliminated.
Cook & Hold ovens can be placed anywhere with a ventless and waterless design; no traditional oven hood or outside venting is required.
This significantly reduces installation and operating costs since there is no plumbing, drains, filtration or associated maintenance to be performed.
Labour-free overnight cooking and holding allows operators to reclaim 12-16 hours of non-productive time, and the ovens provide a better distribution of workloads and relieve multiple pieces of equipment from needed at the same time.
Cook & Hold ovens also significantly improve food yields, providing 15-20% less protein shrinkage compared to conventional ovens.
They reduce the overall amount of food waste commonly found in the kitchen and allow you to serve more portions from the same cut of meat.
As an added bonus, Cook & Hold ovens have no moving parts and are designed so food moisture cannot penetrate the insulation or controls—improving reliability and equipment lifetime. Designed for the busiest of kitchens, these units are built like tanks and are very strong and reliable.
In terms of further tips for operators, it is necessary to preheat your Cook & Hold oven for it to cook properly and work off the proper calculations.
Also, the initial warm air of a pre-heated oven sterilizes the food’s surface before the heat begins cooking.
To ensure food safety and a long service life, Cook & Hold ovens should be cleaned after every cooking load. Where possible, the the drip trays and side racks should be removed washed in a dish machine.
The oven’s interior should also be cleaned out with hot, soapy water.