Burnt out: How to tell if your convection oven needs maintenance

Convection ovens are the heart and soul of many commercial cooking operations, delivering piping-hot ready-to-go meals for individual customers or large trays of food for a commissary or buffet bar. Few other devices in a prepared food or specialty department in a supermarket see more traffic.

Unfortunately, heavy use could eventually take its toll on the equipment and, in turn, the owner’s bottom line. Whether electric or gas-powered, convection ovens suffering from operation deficiencies that compromise the quality and safety of prepared foods, as well as the energy efficiency of the cooking process.

Worse still, employees and equipment operators, whose primary duties involve customer service, may not notice the telltale signs of damaged or underperforming convection ovens until it is far too late, resulting in lost business, increased energy expenses and perhaps even safety or sanitation violations.

Supermarket managers and supervisors: Be sure to share with employees these dead giveaways that convection ovens might be in need of immediate maintenance.

Are the hinges loose?
In a rush to provide high-quality service, employees may not be as gentle with equipment as they should. Jerking open convection oven doors, slamming them shut and hanging objects from their handles could feasibly jostle hinges loose. Daily users may notice their convection ovens have difficulty closing or rock up and down on their hinges. If that’s the case, they should alert supervisors so they can schedule maintenance. Additionally, managers should review proper convection oven etiquette to ensure this problem doesn’t happen again.

Is the seal damaged?
Convection oven doors typically include gaskets for an airtight envelope, guaranteeing all generated heat goes directly into the food and not out into the surrounding area. Cracks, tears or adhesion loss could jeopardize cooking quality and energy efficiency. Luckily, repairing or replacing damaged gaskets won’t cost foodservice providers an arm and a leg – unless this issue goes unnoticed.

“Managers should take customer complaints very seriously.”

Have customers returned food?
Whenever a customer reports burned, undercooked or irregularly cooked goods, managers should take these complaints very seriously. To preserve the integrity of the business at large, managers should launch an informal investigation into what went wrong, starting with a technical inspection of the equipment used to prepare the offending meal.

Next, they should review best practices with their employees, confirming they adhered to the recipe and cooking instructions perfectly. Perhaps the root cause was a mistake, one no one will make again. Or maybe it’s something far worse. Business leaders won’t know until they do their due diligence.

When was the last good scrub?
Like all commercial equipment, convection ovens require regular cleaning to operate at their peak. Not only are gritty ovens unsanitary, but food globules can absorb heat and detract from a thorough cooking process.

That said, employees may neglect to clean the parts of the oven they don’t normally interact with, such as the air intake located at the back or bottom of the appliance. Dust or grease blocking a convection oven’s intake will undermine optimal performance and even cause it to fail entirely. Again, department managers should go over cleaning procedures with staff and maybe even begin logging an itemized cleaning schedule so everyone stays on the same page.

Finally, any buyer looking to preserve the life of their convection ovens should seek out equipment dealers offering preventive maintenance plans. When maintenance professionals can continually tend to the technical aspects of commercial equipment, they leverage their knowledge to stop small hiccups from turning into big problems. Better yet, regularly scheduled maintenance leaves managers and department staff to focus on customer service and delicious meals.