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Combi ovens

Modernist

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#1 gfweb

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 07:07 PM

I see ads in Food Arts for various ovens that do more than heat and convection. They sound magical. What they do exactly, I don't know. Steam may be involved. Or elves.

Can someone explain these things? Are there home units?

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#2 Pam R

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 07:18 PM

They steam, roast, bake, etc. They have grates that you can put in and preheat and 'grill', so to speak. I've gone to a demo for one (and used an early version in university). I don't know if they make home versions.

According to the sales team at the demo, a lot of places that sell whole, roasted chickens are using huge combis. The oven has a probe (or several) that you stick in the food when it goes in. You can program the oven to stop cooking and hold the food at a certain temperature for hours. So you could potentially throw a roast in the oven in the evening and get to work in the morning and have it be cooked to the perfect temperature.

#3 Jose Nieves

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:22 PM

It all depends on your definition of home version.. I purchased two brand new Rational combis for a kosher kitchen about 5 years ago and each one was about $20,000 (equipment and set-up cost) and they didn't have ALL the bells and whistles. With some practice, you can use one as an oven, a steamer, a smoker, a proofer and much more. As Pam mentioned, you can start your product the day before and not have to worry about it because they are very good at maintaining temperature and you can create a temp log for that amount of time (which some health inspectors require). You can program them to cook at a certain temp for a certain time and then switch to a different temp for another length of time, etc, etc

Combi means "combination" which is a mix of the hot, dry air of an oven and the "wet" heat of a steamer. This is particularly good for minimizing loss from expensive cuts of meat while allowing the end-user to cook at a faster speed than regular convection ovens.

#4 JBailey

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:42 PM

If you have access to a copy of Modernist Cuisine, Nathanm devotes many pages to Combi ovens and Cvaps. Probably, the largest producer is Rational, a German company, but they have a full US sales company. Rational makes several sizes with the 61SCC (self cooking center) which is the smallest in their range. They are wonderful, have tremendous capability for many types of products and can perform a wide range of tasks. However, they are expensive and even the smallest is very large. When I bought one for my home, the first discovery was that there is just not enough room even in a large kitchen to place them unless you are starting placement from scratch...mine is now in a basement room where I have a second kitchen. Next, they require a dedicated water hook-up and it is suggested that they be placed with proper venting with a hood to capture steam when the door opens. Finally, they are not cheap to install because they require 240V, three phase electric service (like Nathanm has in The Cooking Lab). Your electric company generally only wants to make three phase available to industrial customers, but it can be brought to a home. Alternatively, one can have an inverter installed, but that is also expensive.

Recently, I ran across a small mini combi from Electrolux. This will run on 120V from what I understand, is portable, has a water reservoir so it does not need a dedicated supply and costs a couple thousand dollars not 5 place numbers.

If you can attend the National Restaurant Show in Chicago at the end of May, you can see many Combi ovens from most of the manufacturers.

Edited by JBailey, 10 April 2011 - 08:47 PM.

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#5 kalypso

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 10:14 PM

I purchased an Alto-Shaam double combi at work about 5 years ago. They're a very, very expensive piece of equipment and the size of a small house. Getting it in our kitchen was a challenge and we ended up having to cut a notch out of our hood in order to get it under the hood. The plumbing hook-up was also something of a challenge. They can do just about everything, and in less time, but it does take some patience and practice to get things right. Every manufacturer will do pretty comprehensive training (which is very useful) with the staff once an operation has purchased one. They are very good for high volume operations. The big hotels and casinos in Las Vegas have banks of combis that are well used all day long.

Our combi is not used as much as it should be, partly because some of my employees find it intimidating. If I had it to do all over, I would not buy a combi, it was not the best use of our equipment resources.

#6 AaronM

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 10:28 PM

While cool, combi ovens are laughably expensive.

#7 Mjx

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 11:49 PM

Combis are not uncommon in the EU (at least in Northern Europe; e.g. Siemens and Gaggenau make models), but they do run more than a standard convection oven, so I unless you have a definite, extensive use for the steam feature, I wouldn't recommend that version (here the term is also applied to conventional/microwave combinations, too).

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#8 rlummis

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 09:34 AM

The brochure on the Electrolux USA website says it needs 230 V 1-phase power, but the Globe Equipment web site says 110 volt and lists for $1,905.70 with an MSRP of $3,400. Even at almost 2 grand, it's tempting if it really would be a countertop combi oven. After all, that's only a little more than 3 sets of Modernist Cuisine.

#9 JBailey

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 09:43 AM

The US version is 110V, but it comes with what is called a NEMA5 plug - one blade horizontal and one blade vertical plus the ground. What this really is from my research is an outlet and breaker on a 20 amp circuit. This Electrolux draws more power so you need an upgraded circuit, but many modern circuits are already of that amp size, you merely need to change out the wall outlet. It also should be a simple thing for an electrician to help you with and is not a big project. You can look at your breaker box to read if the outlets in your kitchen are already 20 amps or not.
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That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

#10 rickangell

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 10:27 AM

You can get the Rational ovens with 120v power. It is important to have enough space, water service, venting (make sure the hood extends at least a foot over the front of the oven), etc. That said, the ovens are remarkable. You can do things that you'd do in an ordinary oven, but faster and more consistently. You can also do things you can't do in an ordinary oven: Cook things sous vide, in a bag; cook things at your target temperature, as in sous vide, but without a bag, re heat with humidity, use the scientific cooking control programs for just about anything, make your own programs (e.g. Modernist Cuisine's combi-oven ribeye), etc. Plus the cleaning cycle is fantastic: Put chemical tablets in the oven and walk away; never touch the inside (never!) and the oven looks as good as the day you bought it. The comment in this thread about the section on combi ovens in Modernist Cuisine is correct. In fact, that section is much (much!) more helpful in explaining what the ovens then any of the Rational material.

#11 LizD518

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 10:47 AM

I purchased an Alto-Shaam double combi at work about 5 years ago. They're a very, very expensive piece of equipment and the size of a small house. Getting it in our kitchen was a challenge and we ended up having to cut a notch out of our hood in order to get it under the hood. The plumbing hook-up was also something of a challenge. They can do just about everything, and in less time, but it does take some patience and practice to get things right. Every manufacturer will do pretty comprehensive training (which is very useful) with the staff once an operation has purchased one. They are very good for high volume operations. The big hotels and casinos in Las Vegas have banks of combis that are well used all day long.

Our combi is not used as much as it should be, partly because some of my employees find it intimidating. If I had it to do all over, I would not buy a combi, it was not the best use of our equipment resources.


We have a combi where I work but as we do very little (aka none) serious cooking on-site and only finish catering events and bake cookies on-site, it pretty much doesn't get used at all. Couple that with the fact that everyone who was here when it was installed has moved on, and the controls are not instinctive, and there is even less incentive to use it. We have a regular convection oven that gets 95% of the use. Oh yeah, and it isn't vented properly either! :blink:

#12 gfweb

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 11:12 AM

Maybe I could get it cheap from you? :laugh:

#13 vengroff

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 06:22 PM

Are there home units?

Sharp makes a convection/steam/microwave combination targeting the home market. It runs just under $1000. I don't know how it compares to the pro units but the price point is certainly lower.
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#14 DaveJes1979

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 05:32 PM

I saw the Sharp model on Amazon for around $800. Don't know if it is any good.

#15 socrates8300

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 05:32 AM

I have the Combi from Electrolux. I use it all the time instead of my very expensive thermador range. I find that bread, roasts and steaming applications are perfect. I just wish the oven was bigger with a bigger reservoir, but I think it would defeat it's intended purpose.

#16 Msk

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 10:14 AM

I have the Gaggenau plummbed version. I love it. It cooks really well, stesms really well. It was expensive but I just spent $600 on a cookbook so what the hell...... I have only had it a few months so I'm still learning.

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#17 gfweb

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:50 AM

Shola is going to have a series on the home Combi oven starting today. http://studiokitchen.typepad.com/

#18 roygon

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 02:45 PM

Anyone have experience with the Viking models such as VCSO244? Under $3K and have a look more suitable to a kitchen but wondering if performance is lacking to a point where you lose much of the benefits?

More info including manual: http://www.comparanc...king/VCSO244-SS

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#19 Tad Davis

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 01:29 PM

I'm considering the Gaggenau BS 280 (30" combi). Can you tell me more about your experience with the Gaggenau?

#20 Msk

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 08:11 AM

I think thats the version I have. How do you plan to use it? It really is very versatile and there is alot of ground to cover.

Its great as a steamer, I throw some broccoli and fish in it and voila! Quick healthy meal.

It can also make rice and pasta which I have done successfully, but not many times. The steam injection is great for baking. Reheating baked goods with steam makes day old bread/buns almost like new. I have made roasts with good success (though the cavity is small and tough to replace a full size oven for a large household).

Tell me your goals and maybe I can help more.

Mike

#21 Mjx

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:11 AM

I'm considering the Gaggenau BS 280 (30" combi). Can you tell me more about your experience with the Gaggenau?


We don't have a combi oven, but do have the Gaggenau BO 270 oven and also the CE 490 stovetop, and the performance and reliability are top notch for both; great brand.

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#22 Renn

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 05:19 AM

First:

So, from reading Modernist Cuisine, all of their programs make use of either 100% humidity or 0%, the former to control the wet-bulb temperature for cook-to-temp applications, and the latter for drying/browning. Further, there's discussion about the general uselessness of humidity settings that are able to be set, but not realized.

My first question is...are there any practical reasons for selecting partial humidity? If so, why? Sure, there are recipies/programs specified by the manufacturer that suggest step-wise cooking programs where the humidity is decreased as the temperature is increased, but do the results warrant this approach vs the MC approach to humidity?


Second:

Delta-Temp cooking...Any interesting applications of this mode? I get its usefulness in large roasts and "Gentle" cooking, but are there other uses for it?

#23 DocDougherty

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 06:15 PM

My first question is...are there any practical reasons for selecting partial humidity? If so, why?

Google "CVAP Cooking" and understand the difference between CVAP and sous vide.

http://blog.cvap.com...sous-vide-cvap/

Rethermalizing food at 285°F and 80% humidity in a combi avoids drying the food out as would occur at 285°F in a dry oven.

#24 Renn

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 09:50 AM

Thanks for the responses, but I still feel like my questions remain.

I understand that humidity both keeps a product from drying while raising the wet-bulb temperature closer to the boiling point...but what makes 285F and 80% better for retherming X vs 285 and 100% or 40% for that matter?.

If I read MC correctly, at temperatures above 175F, there is no practical difference between 35% humidity and 100%.

#25 David Sundstrom

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:32 PM

Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at home think so, but after searching around I don't see a lot of uptake on them. There are expensive steam ovens from high end vendors like Viking, Gaggenau, and Meile. A couple of countertop versions from Cuisinart and Electrolux. A few folks here and on gardenweb that have them and mostly talk about baking bread. But not really as much discussion as one would expect for something MC rates so highly.

My kitchen remodel will have a 36" gas range. I wanted to compliment that with a smaller electric oven, so this is my chance to own a combi (steam) oven. But if they really aren't all that useful, then I might just get a combo convection microwave instead to free up the space taken by my countertop microwave.

And for those that have them, how do the "steam ovens" compare to "steam assist ovens" like those from KitchenAid?

tia,
David

#26 Twyst

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:39 PM

I use them at work but honestly can't imagine the need to have one in a home kitchen. I mean, if I had truly unlimited funds and space and was building a dream kitchen I would have a Rational or two, but for real world situations it would be REALLY far down on my list of things to buy for my kitchen.

#27 Msk

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:21 PM

I have the plumbed Gaggenau and I love it. It is a major luxury,not a "must have". It does certain things amazingly well from steaming and reheating to baking. I was lucky enough to build a dream kitchen and chose to go with a steam oven instead of an electric wall. My range has one full gas oven and a smaller one.

However, if you were to ask me to choose between my immersion circulator and my steam oven, I'd have to go with the immersion circulator.

Mike

#28 &roid

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 03:36 PM

Mike, I hope I'll be in the position of doing the whole "dream kitchen" thing in a few years, what things do you find work really well with a combi?

#29 Msk

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 09:18 AM

Well, to be honest, I'm not sure there isnt anything it doesnt do better than a normal oven.  For me, I choose to do certain things other ways (like sous vide + sear on infrared grill) versus using the combi.  The cavity is also small, I'm not sure you could do a 25 lb turkey in there.

 

1 - Reheating.  It reheats leftovers and makes them taste fresh, even leftover chinese food.  This may sound superficial, but it makes the difference as to whether leftovers get eaten in my house or not.  (thich can be a moneysaver)

2. - Roasting, having control over the moisture during roasting is pretty amazing  Surprising enough watching the color change before your eyes in a "Moist" environment

3- cooking custards, and baking.  It really does wonders for crusts

4. Steaming (Duh!)  I steam everything I can now, including buns for burgers (The trader joes slider buns steamed areamazing)

5. Its easy, throw a piece of fish, and some veggies in there, season, and in 10 minutes you have a meal.



#30 HKDave

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:53 PM

I've used the countertop Electrolux combi http://tools.profess..._1_1_9JDBOU.pdf for several years (about 10?) and am less than impressed. It's not very well built for something marketed and priced as a "professional" product, it doesn't steam well at lower temperatures, the oven has worse hot spot problems than some non-convection ovens (and that convection fan can't be turned off, annoying if you're doing things like souffles), the water tray holds enough for barely an hour's worth of steam, and the timer only allows the oven to run for 2 hours before it shuts it off, so it can't do prolonged low-and-slow cooking unattended. And it's not very big; usable interior space is about 22x30cm.

 

On the plus side, it works well as a convection oven and holds temperature better than any other countertop oven I've used, even in the 50c-100c range, where most ovens just don't work. And it is quite portable, which combined with its ability to hold low temperatures, makes it useful for catering. And it takes standard 1/2 pans.

 

For a while there was a very cheap identical-looking China-made knock-off of this available from a Hong Kong supplier, but it's gone. So if you want a cheap combi, especially one that doesn't require plumbing and wiring, your options are still limited - which is why I ended up with this in the first place. The pretty Miele and Gagganeau home units aren't bigger and are a lot more expensive (at least the last I looked) and proper commercial combis like Rationals are another order of magnitude more expensive.


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