Bakers Journal

Love your oven

September 20, 2012
By Stefanie Wallace

Behind every great baker is a fleet of equipment that is essential to
producing the vast array of goods that customers have come to expect.

Behind every great baker is a fleet of equipment that is essential to producing the vast array of goods that customers have come to expect. The oven is of paramount importance, used so often its presence can be taken for granted. While unpleasant, malfunctions and breakdowns can happen, and it’s important to keep your ovens in top working order to avoid lost time, money and business.

Regular oven maintenance is essential to preventing breakdown and avoiding lost time, money and business.


Each type of oven is different, and requires its own unique cleaning and maintenance. These tasks should never be overlooked. Trevor Seppanen, general manager of maintenance at R.G. Henderson Commercial Food Equipment Parts & Service, based out of Toronto, says best practices are subjective to the make, model and use of the equipment, but his mainstay is applicable across the board. “Use it properly – don’t abuse it – and clean it well and correctly.”

Ovens should be cleaned daily, Seppanen says, suggesting bakers create a cleaning schedule, beginning with determining the needs of that particular oven. These requirements depend on several factors, including how often the oven is used and what it is used for.

Mark Engels and his wife, Valerie, own Bubby Rose’s Bakery and Café in Victoria, B.C. The store has a wide variety of baked goods and pizzas on the menu, and cooking the latter can be messy. Bubby Rose’s pizzas are baked on parchment because of how difficult the stones inside their deck oven are to clean.

“We scrape [the stone] down now and then with a pizza peel or a large spatula . . . We don’t cook anything directly on the stone, though,” he says. Use your discretion in coming up with a routine that works for your operation.

Clean the oven cavity daily and remove any food or debris near the cavity drain of a combi-oven. Apply vegetable oil to the cast iron burners of a range to prevent grease buildups, and remove the top grates to clean underneath. And don’t overlook the exterior.

“We clean the exterior because it’s visible to the public and it doesn’t look nice or feel nice – as the smoke rises, it tends to tinge the stainless steel in different colours of gold, brown and black,” Engels says.

Besides daily cleaning, Seppanen recommends the following procedures to ensure your oven remains in prime shape:

Steamers and combi-ovens
Consider the following tips in maintaining your steamers and combi-ovens:

  • Power off the unit and blow it down once a day.
  • Wipe down door gaskets.
  • Leave compartment doors open when not in use.
  • Wash removable air filters regularly.
  • Clean up food and debris near drain in cavity.
  • Replace any needed filters on water supply lines, if and when necessary.
  • Only use your fingers when working with the control panel. “Sometimes, staff can be lazy and use a fork to reach over to set the time. The next thing you know they’ve cut a hole in the pad and it’s very expensive to replace.”

Ranges and broilers
The following should be taken into consideration when using ranges and broilers:

  • Burn out open-top burners.
  • Never use tin foil in the oven. “In certain applications, this makes the equipment too hot, which causes it to break down prematurely. Lots of people like to put tin foil in the bottom of the oven. But when dirt and grime get underneath of it, you’re actually making it worse because it keeps the heat down.”
  • Clean any spills in oven cavity immediately.

Convection ovens
To help keep the convection oven in proper working order,

  • keep doors open when not in use,
  • clean any spills in oven cavity immediately, and,
  • never use objects to press on overlay.

As part of your regular maintenance routine, double-check things that may be overlooked. “If any of your ovens have filters on them, it’s very important to ensure they are cleaned regularly,” Seppanen says. Ensure any motors are free of dust and debris. Check that there are no tears or rips in door seals and double-check that all handles work and lock properly. “If a piece of equipment isn’t shutting properly and heat is seeping out, there are potential effects on what is baking, and it can cause the machine to break down.”

It is wise to occasionally have your ovens looked at by a professional. Like cleaning procedures, frequency depends on the type of business and equipment, and how hard it is being used. “In some cases we do quarterly inspections, in some cases we do semi-annual or annual,” Seppanen says. “Generally, if your equipment is kept relatively clean, it may not need much regular maintenance.”

Proper care and maintenance will help ensure you get the most out of your investment. As Engels notes, a malfunctioning or broken oven can cause many inconveniences.

“In our case, we would have to literally take out furniture, display cases and a window, and use a crane to remove and replace our deck oven. It’s something you want to look at as a very long-term investment.”

Tips for oven TLC
Do a walkthrough of your establishment and make a list of all equipment. Determine when and how each item is used and how often it needs to be cleaned.

Note the areas of the building that may be overlooked when it comes to cleaning (for example, light fixtures, floor drains and shelves).

Record any current cleaning prcedures and determine the specific cleaning needs of each item. These depend on several factors, including the type of food you serve, rate of ventilation in the kitchen, how often each piece of equipment is used and the proximity of the area to he food being prepared.

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