How Do Tunnel Ovens Work, And What Are Their Benefits?
Do you find yourself producing a lot of baked goods, pizzas, or dried foods (such as beef jerky) in your restaurant? If so, you may have found that your traditional oven is a bottleneck in the process. Once one batch of food is in the oven, it generally needs to finish cooking/drying before the next batch can be put in.
This is where tunnel ovens come in! A good tunnel oven allows you to continuously prepare baked or dried goods, then start the cooking process without having to wait for the previous batch to finish. Here's how they work.
The Advantages of Tunnel Ovens in Commercial Kitchens
The idea behind tunnel ovens is quite simple. They utilize one or more enclosed heating spaces, with a motorized conveyor belt running through the oven. You place the uncooked food on one end of the conveyor belt, and it slowly makes its way through the oven before coming out the other side.
Since the conveyor belt is continuously moving, it's continuously making room for new food items to be placed at the opening. But since the speed of the belt and the heat of the oven are constant, each food item receives the same cooking time - allowing you to significantly multiply the number of goods you're able to produce in the same amount of time. For example, a good tunnel oven can easily produce dozens of pizzas in a single hour, which is far more than you can get from a traditional electric, gas, or wood-fired oven.
There are three typical types of tunnel ovens, depending on your needs:
Direct fired ovens have the heating element located directly above or below the cooking space, similar to a traditional oven. These ovens tend to operate at high temperatures, often above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They may also have multiple heating zones, allowing the food to cool slightly between cooking phases to prevent burning.
Indirect fired ovens move the heating elements outside the main chamber, instead of using air circulation to pass the heat to foods being cooked. These allow for lower cooking temperatures and are good for slower-cooked foods such as dried goods.
Air impingement ovens work like convection ovens. They have indirect heat, but the airflow is blown at high speeds to improve cooking times. These are particularly energy-efficient, giving them lower operating costs.
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