How to choose the right food truck oven
A multi-cook oven allows four menu items to cook at once. Photo courtesy of Alto-Shaam.
|Robert Simmelink serves as executive chef at Alto-Shaam.|
By Robert Simmelink
So you've been daydreaming about owning a food truck. You probably have an idea of what cuisine you'll serve. Maybe it's gourmet grilled cheese, street tacos or homemade biscuit sandwiches. But how will you cook it? If you've decided to make an oven a part of your mobile kitchen, here's a guide to choosing the right one.
Considering space, efficiency and menu variety, there are three types of ovens that work best for a food truck: cook and hold ovens, smoker ovens and multi-cook ovens. Let's take a look at each one.
|Cook and hold ovens use low and slow heat.|
Cook and hold oven
Cook and hold ovens use low and slow heat to prepare foods like shredded chicken, roast beef and even baked foods like cheesecake. Once the food is ready, it can be held for long periods at the proper temperature without overcooking.
As a food truck operator, you'll want every dollar to stretch farther, and a cook and hold oven can help you do that in three ways.
First, we recommend looking at fanless technology because this type of oven doesn't dry out your food the way conventional cooking can.
With 18 percent less meat shrinkage, you'll earn greater yield. Second, the slow and low method naturally tenderizes meat so you can make the most of less expensive cuts.
Finally, look for cook and hold ovens that don't require water or ventilation to operate. You'll save on hood space and utilities. What's more, cook and hold ovens are so energy efficient, they can run on $1-2 of electricity per day. And with programmable controls that can store several recipes, operating it couldn't be easier. Pulled pork, anyone?
|A smoking oven can smoke meat, cheeses and vegetables.|
A smoker oven operates similarly to a cook and hold – with the addition of smoking capabilities. A smoker oven allows you to add new flavors to your menu. You can hot smoke chicken, beef, pork and more. Or try cold smoking cheese, veggies and more. After smoking, the oven automatically switches to holding. The flavor comes from real wood chips like hickory and apple that allow you to create different flavor profiles. Cook up a southern smoked chicken breast sandwich and prepare for an amazing scent that will be sure to draw a crowd. Mmm.
A new category of oven introduced this year is a multi-cook oven. This allows you to cook four different menu items at once with no flavor transfer. Separate chambers can be set at different temperatures, cook times and fan speeds to maximize efficiencies.
Within one unit, for example, you could cook eggs, bacon, biscuits and sausage in individual chambers for quick and efficient breakfast sandwiches. With a second batch of hash browns, cinnamon rolls, bagels and turnovers, you can create an entire menu in minutes.
This isn't limited to just breakfast food — cook burgers, chicken, hot dogs, french fries, flatbreads and more in the same oven. The combination of high-velocity air flow and not having to rotate pans means you can cook two times the food in the same time. Its small footprint is ideal for space starved food trucks. And it's a ventless countertop oven that doesn't need water to operate — no need for a kitchen hood, plumbing or water filtration.
Holding cabinets and drawer warmers
Some final options worth mentioning are holding cabinets and drawer warmers. Holding cabinets are ideal for those looking to cook ahead in a commissary or commercial kitchen and holding for service at your food truck's destination. Drawer warmers keep production items held hot and within reach. Think waffles, tortillas and more.
Space, utility costs and volume are key when operating a food truck. By choosing the right oven, you can maximize your investment for years to come.
(Photos courtesy of Alto-Shaam.)