== 1 I am a small independent sandwich shop operator with limited kitchen space. I buy in mostly bake-off products, so I require a deck oven that is well-suited to baking-off baguettes and making pizzas, but it has to be simple to use. ==

Firstly, don’t dither, be more specific! "From the start, I’d need to know the tray size and the volume of product that you wish to bake. This would enable me to recommend the type of oven that would best suit your requirements," says Interbake’s sales director, David Dunne. "As you’re baking products that are not very high, a low crown oven would best suit your needs."

He suggests taking a punt on Macadam’s of South Africa’s Macbake range of ovens (pictured right). "They can operate with a controller that’s programmable to suit a range, ensuring that operators with no baking skills can achieve accurate results consistently," he says.

The advantage of an electrical multi-deck oven is that the decks are independently controlled and temperatures can be thermostatically set through both crown and the sole of each deck. Different products can be baked at different temperatures simultaneously, permitting a flexible operation. Macadam’s ovens are available either two or three trays wide per deck and can be supplied in one to five decks high.

Pile ’em high is also the advice from Mono, which advocates modular formats for a small independent sandwich shop with limited space, but which has ambitions to grow. "Operators with an expanding number of retail sites, can rapidly increase production by installing an additional deck to an existing oven," says Andrew Jones, Mono’s general manager, who recommends Mono’s Harmony ovens.

This oven includes a programmable damper time, energy saving with sleep mode, plus an optional colour controllable panel. It has a patented steam system that requires no boilers or special insurance certificates, he says.

"If a smaller oven is required, the Cervap compact is very suitable for the small independent bakery," adds Jones. Special features include an independent cast iron steam generator on the left of each deck, two energy options of oil and gas and optional steam vents on each deck.

Sandwich shop bake-off requires baking ’little and often’. "What might be more suitable then is a smaller convection oven of maybe three or four grids," says Alan Burgess, business development manager of CBES Food Systems. "However, if there’s sufficient bake-off volume and a need for pizza baking as well, then the obvious answer is a stackable deck oven". EBO from Wiesheu Decks come in two heights, 165mm and 200mm, and can be stacked three high, with each deck individually controlled.

== 2 I am a three-shop business making traditional products from one central bakery, such as oven-bottom bloomers and sourdoughs. I’m looking for an oven with a thick stone, an even bake and steam. It would be good to have versatile programmable options. ==

For any bakery looking for an oven to produce traditional products, getting stoned (as it were) is a must. A thick stone with even bake and efficient steam is crucial, says Mono’s technical sales manager Chris Huish. Its Omega deck oven (pictured left) features 20cm-thick baking slabs and produce good crust and volume. It features an electronic control system, supplied as standard, and a high-resolution graphic screen for programming 50 baking recipes.

"If you require the versatility of baking with an oven that has features of a thick stone sole the Macadams Cyclothermic Deck Oven is the oven I would recommend," says David Dunne of Interbake. If you go for the electricity-fuelled option, each deck can be independently controlled; if fuelled by gas or oil, you can have different temperatures within the decks. Using canvas setters, the Cyclothermic allows products to be baked on the stone sole. "This type of baking gives fermented products a superior crust and quality similar to continental breads," says Dunne.

Meanwhile, the Matic multi-deck oven has indirect heating with steam tubes and is "particularly suitable for the production of Mediterranean crispy bread and artisan loaves, with a good balance between crust and crumb", says Alan Burgess of CBES. Optimum controlled steaming guarantees the traditional appearance of many ethnic-style products.

== 3We are a business with green ethics at our core and we need an oven that’s as sustainable as possible, that will seriously cut our energy bill, and one which won’t compromise on the bake. ==

Green ovens? What will they think of next... Interbake says it offers a range of ovens that are fuelled by wood-burning pellets, which are manufactured from sawdust - considered a renewable source of energy. "Even allowing for emissions of fossil carbon dioxide in planting, harvesting, processing and transporting the fuel, replacing fossil fuel with wood fuel will typically reduce net CO2 emissions by over 90%," says David Dunne of Interbake.

The type of deck oven it offers is a steam tube oven with a burner that heats water-filled steel tubes, that radiate heat throughout the baking chambers. "This heat is very solid and gives a very mellow bake characteristic that is associated with old-type brick ovens," says Dunne. "The ovens are employed on a basis of baking on falling heat, so the day starts with bread and fermented goods, then proceeds with pastries and cake production."

The Baking Industry Exhibition proved a huge draw for Bakewell Ovens which was showcasing its own wood pellet-fuelled oven, which features a carbon-neutral system. "The response since the NEC show has been overwhelming, to say the least," says Richard MacDonald of Bakewell. "We’re now in discussions with The Carbon Trust on the best way to advise customers on suitable loans."

Bakewell’s oven (pictured below) is claimed to be more cost-effective than ovens that run on electricity, gas and oil. He cites typical cost savings as follows: electric oven, 21,000 kW/h = £20,580; wood pellet cost for the year £7,621, giving an average saving of £12,959. All ovens are 100% stainless steel and can be built to the customers’ specifications.

Another factor to consider is how much heat the oven loses. Mono’s Omega deck oven has reinforced door seals with glazed doors to reduce heat loss. On the inside, the electronic system constantly checks the actual temperatures in the oven and optimises the heating power, in order to add the right amount of energy necessary.

The regularly spaced heating elements and added power at the front of the oven contribute to a homogenous baking process in the chamber, says Huish. Mono also supplies a compact deck oven, the Mono 3-4-8, which has double-glazed doors and a heat-reflecting coating to greatly reduce heat loss, plus a new low-energy steaming system that eliminates the need for a boiler or elements becoming clogged-up. Handily, the unit’s seven-day on-off timer means that the oven can be brought up to temperature before a baker arrives in the morning.


=== Top tip to cut costs ===

To reduce running costs, avoid over-specifying your oven in terms of capacity. Secondly, if you are lucky enough to have both gas and electricity available on-site, then get the heat output value (BTU/hour) or the kW/h value of any oven you are thinking of buying and ask your utility company to do an operating cost comparison between the two for you. This will give you a rough idea of what it will cost you to operate each oven and you can factor this into your decision-making process.

"In terms of the bake, gas is usually more efficient and imparts some moisture that is favourable over electric. Some electric decks are slow to recover when pushed hard," advises Alan Burgess of CBES Food Systems.