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  • ectofix

    October 9, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    If you’re helping with the shopping for one, I was in the same situation just over a year ago.


    Ultimately, what I'd recommended is what our Chefs purchased.  I chose Rationals because we already had a hoard of them – from early 90s vintage ones up to their latest 5 Senses.  We have what resembles a Rational oven “museum” going on here – with nearly ALL model-series (C-line, CPC-line, SCC-line) ever sold in the U.S….and still in use (some are backups).  I’ve gotten to know them quite well, so working on them has become much easier for me.


    I’ll share a few things I learned during that shopping spree over a year ago:

    There are two ways to generate steam in a combi-oven –


    A steam generator By water injection (otherwise called “spritz” or “boiler-free”)


    Rational offers only the steam generator type.  Convotherm (formerly under the Cleveland name), Alto Shaam, Blodgett , BKI and other popular domestic brands offer a spritz…with a boiler-type as an option.  Then there's some that offer just the boiler-less oven.


    I prefer the steam generator due to the undesirably strict water quality requirements of the water injection systems (reverse-osmosis), the injection system's higher (and more regular) maintenance needs and because a steam generator is more capable of meeting the heavy cooking demands of a banquet kitchen.

    Our particular needs were for 480v electric ovens of the 202 (20×2/1 GN) size designation.  Essentially, a floor model having twenty slots, each holding two 2 1/2” hotel pans…or with the suitable rack adapter, holds twenty sheet pans.  As a shopping list for our Chefs, I created this comparison chart for them.  My research may appear to be exhaustive, but NOT guaranteed to be entirely accurate:



    Click on that and maybe it's worth printing.  That list there is over a year old and, since I'd probably put the Chefs (and you) into information overload, they ultimately let me (and my boss) pick the ovens they were shopping for. Bear in mind that they wanted three full-size combi-ovens and I was trying to give them some direction to fit that within their $150,000 budget.  They ended up initially buying TWO of the ovens (installed a year ago).  A third one (installer’s sight survey done) is finally on its way.  No questions asked.


    Now, some BRAND information  from what I’ve heard about, researched or know–


    Alto Shaam – has high marks. Their “smoke” option is patented and is unique for its ability.  They’re one of only a few made in the U.S.  Their history of issues seems to be the door gasket channel, but maybe that’s resolved. My research showed that their parts are VERY expensive when compared to others – even the European ones.  Although a specified WEIGHT wouldn’t usually be normal shopping criteria, their ovens are HEAVY when compared to others.  Maybe more substantial in their construction.


    Blodgett – Also made in the U.S.  Also heavy when compared to the competitors.  From the writings of one who frequent here rarely, with regards to having installed one – “(A) simple displays below, no touch screen. Nice to work on. Should give years of trouble free service and be cheap to repair”.


    Rational – Obviously sets the benchmark.  Made in Germany.  I’ve found that their cleaning system (CareControl) to be EXTREMELY effective. Since I inherently & conveniently bug our kitchen staff relentlessly to “feed the pills” to the ovens, scale buildup has NOT been an issue.  Our two…nearly-year-old 5Senses ovens still show the the steam generators as being completely free of scale.

    On the other hand, I don’t like working on their gas units (some sub-standard wiring going on there) and water controls (for the same reason).  I've also discovered that their overall construction was meant to install it and leave it.  If you move it, something’s maybe going to give.

    Oh…if you measure by weight – they're the lightest.  So…not a real robust construction.


    Convotherm – (still a Cleveland product?)  New ones are made in Germany.   Other than my multiple factory training periods to work on just ONE their older Convotherm ovens…within a half-a-dozen years (market dictated), I can only offer this.  I’ve heard horror stories on replacing something as mundane as a temperature probe.  Don’t know if it was a newer model.  I AM familiar with descaling a steamer by the “Cleveland” method of pouring descaler into a spout on the top of an oven.  I’m NOT a fan of that at all.  I don’t know if things changed with the newer ovens.  Maybe you know better than I do.


    Other brands are too new to the U.S or too difficult to work with when trying to work on their ovens.  You gotta factor that in since you'll ultimately be looking for tech support or parts.  A very recent story I heard about the extremely poor availability of tech support on a BKI combi comes to my mind.


    So otherwise, I’ll paste this stuff as well.  Again…accuracy is not guarantied.  Probably useless info but may peek your curiosity.  This was part of my research while doing oven shopping.  I would just post it as a PDF, but I can’t figure out how to do that within this forum:




    Alto-Shaam –

    Founded in 1950, their name is used interchangeably to describe roast & hold ovens much like Q-tip is used to describe a cotton swab.  Alto-Shaam was in partnership with a German company, CONVOTHERM, from 1991 to 2004 to market and produce combi-ovens here in the U.S.  Alto-Shaam purchased rights to their technology at the time and began production of their own COMBITHERM line of ovens at their Wisconsin factory in 2004.


    Started in 1954 with the commercial food equipment market’s first rotating oven.  Today, they’re a part of the Standex Cooking Solutions Group – which includes APW Wyott, Baker’s Pride, UltraFry and others.  BKI formerly offered rebadged HOUNÖ combi-ovens (now owned by Middleby).  In 2012, Standex acquired GIORIK and BKI teamed up with them to produce their newest combi-oven line.  GIORIK is in Sedico (near Venice), Italy and are the makers of SteamBox-line of combi-ovens popular in Europe.


    For many years, they set the standard in the food equipment market for convection ovens.  They’re one brand alongside MANY others that form the Middleby Corporation – the largest family of food equipment manufacturers in the U.S.   Blodgett builds their own combi-ovens at their factory in Vermont.  They readily tout their design and construction quality as being superior to their European counterparts.



    A division of Manitowoc Foodservice group, which also includes Frymaster, Garland, Delfield, Kolpak and many others.  Cleveland is renowned for their quality line of steam cooking equipment such as steam-jacketed kettles, steamers cabinets and braising pans.   In collaboration with the Italian company LAINOX, they launched their Combicraft line of combi-ovens into the U.S. market in the ‘90s.  After Convotherm’s parting ways with Alto-Shaam, Cleveland joined with them for newer and better technology in their combi-ovens.

    Note their models Convotherm OES & Convotherm OEB series ovens in the chart.  That series began in 2005 and is in final stages of production here in the U.S.  Cleveland range is currently in transition to market the newer and more advanced Convotherm 4 series. 

    Convotherm –

    They were the first producer of combi-ovens in the world back in 1976.  RATIONAL followed suit shortly thereafter.  The competition between Convotherm and Rational constantly sets new benchmarks within the combi-oven industry.

    A partnership with Cleveland Range continues.  However, the marketing of the newer Convotherm 4 ovens appears to have been set apart so that the Convotherm line has stepped forward into the spotlight and recognized as yet another brand within the Manitowoc Foodservice group lineup instead of being merely just another Cleveland Range line of cooking equipment. These newer ovens will be built at their factory in Germany instead of at the Cleveland Range plant.

    Eloma –

    Founded in 1975 with building a grills, which was a huge success.  They expanded to produce ovens, steamers and ultimately – combi-ovens.  With rapid company growth, they erected the first of several assembly-line plants in 1990 at a Maisach, Germany site – near Munich.  They partnered with AGA Food Group in 2006 and then the international Ali Group in 2008.  Other Ali brands are Amana, Moffat, Beverage-Air, Victory, Belshaw, Aladdin Temp-Rite…and many others.  ElomaUSA was launched in 2007, bringing Eloma products to U.S. soil.


    A part of the ITW food equipment goup along with Vulcan, Berkel, Wolf, Baxter, Gaylord (hoods) and others.  Hobart sold combi-ovens in the ‘90s, then got out of the market for a while.  Their newest combi-ovens were launched in 2007 here in the U.S.  Hobart combi-ovens are built in Italy.  However, according to Hobart’s website, their CE-line of ovens are listed as “discontinued”, so a phone call may clarify whether they still sell a combi-oven.


    They invented their combi-steamer in 1976.  In 2004, their Self Cooking Center (SCC) line, which also includes the more basic CombiMaster ((CM), set new standards in combi-oven features.  (We currently have eleven ovens of the SSC-line in our kitchens)

    Relying on that hugely successful oven platform, Rational upped their features in the past few years the the SCC WhiteEfficiency (SCCWE) series and 5 Senses technology.  The latest ovens employ a more intuitive user-to-oven interface.  The 5 Senses technology claims to sense the product load and suggest cooking menus accordingly.  Their CombiMaster was also improved with the Combimaster Plus (CMP).

    Unox –

                Unox started in 1990 and is located in Cadoneghe (a Province of Padue), Italy. They entered their line of combi-ovens into the U.S. market in 2007.  They have some minor affiliation with Cadco, a U.S. manufacturer of commercial compact ovens and countertop appliances.  Cadco uses some of Unox’s technology in their ovens.  Otherwise, there are no other connections between Cadco and Unox products.



    Combi-ovens are GOING to break and parts will be needed to fix them.  Nationally known parts distributors serve to provide parts as the intermediary between the manufacturers of equipment and equipment service providers.  Availability of parts from such distributors is established based on the demand for those specific parts.  Of course, the trend of parts demands is dictated by the quantity of that manufacturer’s products in the U.S. market.

    Several ovens listed in the chart are built right here in the U.S.  Then there are some U.S. manufacturers that merely rebadged a European brand and sell it here.  Those parts to repair that equipment must also come from Europe.  Yet, being major U.S. companies like Cleveland Range and Hobart, we expect they’re keeping up with their stock of European parts for us so we can fix our European-made ovens here in the U.S.

    The European-made ovens listed that have NO U.S. factory name attached to their ovens must be duly scrutinized.  If parts for their products aren't readily available within the U.S, then we must call their U.S. office to get parts or go to the parts distributorships to get the European-made parts which require lengthy lead-time, shipping and passage through U.S. Customs.

    How many months are you willing to wait for your oven to be repaired?