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Types of Combi Ovens

Whether you're a restaurant owner, chef, or caterer, a combi oven can be a valuable addition to your commercial kitchen. Combining the functions of a convection oven and a steam oven, these versatile units can cook food with a range of different cooking methods. There are a few factors to consider when choosing the best combi oven for your business, such as utility preferences and sizing. Read on to learn what a combination oven is and how to select the best unit for your business.

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What Is a Combi Oven?

Chefs preparing food using Convotherm combi ovens

A combination oven uses three methods of cooking in one appliance: convection, steam, and a combination of steam and convection. The versatility of a combi oven allows you to steam, poach, roast, fry, bake, stew, and braise food all with one unit, replacing the need for a traditional convection oven and steamer in your kitchen. Here's a breakdown of the three different modes of cooking and what they are best for:

  • Convection Mode: Hot air is forced around the oven cavity, just like in a convection oven, creating a dry heat that browns foods and removes moisture in the cooking process. It's a great choice for baking bread or roasting meats.
  • Steam Mode: The steamer mode uses steam to create a moist heat that keeps products juicy during the cooking process. It's ideal for poaching seafood and steaming vegetables, rice, and desserts.
  • Combination Mode: Hot air and steam combine to cook foods without losing moisture. When you want to stew or braise foods, it's an excellent choice. Meats and veggies will come out with tender and juicy but with the browning you might expect in a convection oven. Certain breads can also be baked in this mode, where the steam will help establish a hard crust.

Combi Oven Uses

Learn everything you need to know about a combi oven, from its uses to its unique features, with our video:

What Are the Benefits of Combi Ovens?

Combi ovens are a big investment, but when compared to the cost of your overall equipment package, the purchase is worth the initial price. These versatile units make smart investments for the following reasons:

  • Condense Your Cook Line: A combi oven can stand in for a steamer and a convection oven easily. When set to lower temperatures, it can also perform many of the duties of a proofer, holding cabinet, or slow cooker. While the upfront investment is more than any single piece of equipment, it's usually still more cost-efficient than buying multiple pieces of equipment.
  • Cook More with One Oven: Combi ovens can roast, steam, sous vide, smoke, braise, bake, rethermalize, and oven fry foods. This makes them a great way to boost capacity or save on space by replacing multiple units on your cook line entirely.
  • Precise Temperature and Moisture Control: Accurate controls cook at precise temperature and steam settings for maximum customization.
  • Programmable Menus: With programmable menus, you have the option to input or load recipes and cook modes. This means that even the most intricate recipes, with specific steam and convection settings, can be initiated by any staff member with just a few button presses.
  • Increased Food Yields: By using both steam and convection in your recipes, you can preserve flavors and nutrients, which results in a higher-quality finished product. This is perfect for meats since the moisture from the steam helps to prevent meats from drying out and shrinking, keeping cuts tender and juicy.

Combination Oven Considerations

When selecting the best combi oven for your business, it is crucial to thoroughly evaluate your kitchen's requirements and your chefs' preferences. This includes factoring the utility type, the inclusion of a broiler, and the preferred dial settings.

Electric vs Gas Combination Ovens

When it comes to deciding between an electric or gas combi oven, the choice really comes down to price and utility availability.

Convotherm C4ED20.20GS natural gas full size roll-in boilerless combi oven

An electric combi oven is a popular choice for many operators due to its ease of use and versatility. Here are some reasons an electric combi oven may be the best option for your business:

  • Suitable for High-Elevation Cooking: Electric combi ovens are particularly beneficial for operators located in high-elevation areas. At higher altitudes, gas combi ovens may experience difficulties in maintaining consistent heat due to the lower oxygen levels.
  • More Affordable: For operators on a budget or looking for a more cost-effective option, electric combi ovens are often the preferred choice. Electric models generally have a lower upfront cost compared to their gas counterparts.
  • Ventless Options: Many ovens require a vented hood to meet codes and regulations. However, some electric combi ovens utilize ventless hoods that allow them to be placed anywhere in the kitchen, significantly increasing your flexibility.

On the other hand, gas combi oven have their own advantages that make them a preferred choice for certain operators. Remember that an electrical connection is still required to run digital displays as well as fans on most gas models. Consider the following situations when a gas combi oven may be the better option:

  • High Production Volume: If your kitchen operates at a high production volume, a gas combi oven may be more suitable. Gas ovens tend to heat up more quickly than electric ones, allowing for faster cooking times and increased productivity.
  • Lower Operating Costs: While gas combi ovens may have a higher upfront cost, they can often be more cost-effective in terms of operating expenses. Natural gas is generally less expensive than electricity, meaning lower utility bills in the long run.

Boiler vs Boilerless Combi Oven

One important decision to make is whether to choose a steam-generating combi oven or a boilerless combi oven. Understanding the differences between these two types can help you determine which unit is the right choice for your specific needs.

  • A combi oven with a boiler features a tank that boils water in large quantities to produce and inject steam into the cooking chamber. This type of combi oven is ideal for high-volume operations that require frequent steaming. The steam generator in these ovens ensures a consistent and reliable steam supply, making them suitable for demanding cooking tasks.
  • A boilerless combi oven does not have a built-in steam generator. Instead, it relies on injecting water directly onto a heated surface to create steam. This type of combi oven is a more compact and cost-effective option, making it suitable for smaller kitchens or operations with limited space. Boilerless combi ovens are also easier to install and maintain, as they do not require the additional plumbing and maintenance associated with a steam generator.
Restaurant Equipment

Touch Screen vs Dial Combi Ovens

Commercial combination ovens feature either touchscreen or dial controls. Either type of control system will work well in your kitchen - the decision depends on your own personal preferences.

  • Touchscreen controls allow you to adjust cooking conditions quickly. Touchscreen models allow for the intuitive addition of menu items and quick adjustment with a clear visual of what you want to adjust or add. They often come with more smart technology and are more programmable. Touchscreen combi ovens are ideal for high-volume kitchens with large menus.
  • Combi ovens with dial controls feature knobs that allow the user to adjust the time, temperature, and humidity. They are easy to use and ideal for uncomplicated menus. Some combi oven models will feature both dial knobs and a touchscreen panel for a higher level of control.

Combi Oven Sizing

Considering the available dimensions and volume output of your kitchen is critical in selecting the right combi oven. There are typically three sizes that manufacturers offer, which range from compact to roll-in units.

Chef putting a sheet pan into a combi oven
  • Mini Combi Ovens: These ovens are ideal for small operations like kiosks and snack stands. They typically have no more than six shelves and accommodate between 3 - 5 pans.
  • Tabletop Combi Ovens: For lower-volume operations like quick-service restaurants or food trucks, you can take advantage of the modest, yet effective, space provided by tabletop models. These units have 6 - 12 shelves for half-size sheet pans and full-size hotel pans.
  • Floor Model Combi Ovens: When you operate a high-volume kitchen that depends on preparing a lot of products and meeting high-quality standards, you need a dependable oven with plenty of space. The most common variety, floor model combi ovens feature at least 20 shelves for holding 20 full-size sheet pans or 40 hotel pans.

You can also take a more general approach, choosing between half-size and full-size models. These designations refer to the pan size they can hold on their shelves. Half-size sheet pans are 18" x 13", while full-size pans are 26" x 18".

Combi Oven Maintenance

Taking the time to maintain your combi oven will save you money in the long run, as regular maintenance keeps your restaurant equipment working longer. Keep the following considerations in mind when servicing and cleaning your commercial combi oven.

Stainless steel combination oven with door open on right side and electronic controls on left side


  • Service your commercial combi oven every 6 months.
  • Frequently check that the drain screen is in place. Without a drain screen, bits of food can build up and block your drain.
  • Clean and lubricate door seals for proper door sealing.
  • Water that is fed into a combi oven should always be treated with a filtration system. This will slow mineral deposit build-up in the unit's water lines. It will also reduce the buildup of scale on a combi oven's heating units, water probes, and cooking chamber to help it operate as efficiently as possible.
  • Cleaner water also provides improved food taste. Check the manufacturer's requirements to find the right filtration system for your combination oven.
  • Replace your water filter every 3 - 6 months, depending on the oven's usage.


  • Always check the manufacturer instructions before cleaning. Each combi oven is different and instructions might vary from model to model.
  • Most combi ovens have self-cleaning features that use tablets or liquid detergents. Be sure to check your user's manual for manufacturer recommendations on what cleaners to use with your combi oven.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaning equipment such as steel wool, scourers, and wire brushes to clean your combi oven. This will damage your equipment.
  • Make sure to clean the food probe frequently for proper sanitary practices.
  • Wipe your combi oven clean with a non-abrasive sponge before putting it through a cleaning cycle.
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