The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What to look for when buying an oven

brink.sebastian's picture

What to look for when buying an oven

 I'm in the early stages of a start up business and researching what equipment I’ll need to purchase. My main concern is the oven. I've seen 2nd hand ovens that look ok ranging from 2 to 4k ( British pounds that is) but I’m not really sure what to look out for. What are the pitfalls of buying second hand? and what will i need to create top quality bread? I'm not even sure what size i will need. I'm looking to have a small scare operation geared towards supplying deli's restaurants and selling at farmers markets ect.

Any help or advice would be much appreciated.


mcs's picture

I'll just speak of the two types of commercial ovens I have experience with: deck ovens (pizza ovens) and convection (fan) ovens.  All of the deck ovens were gas, as for convection ovens I have both electric and gas (propane). 

Deck ovens are the most common for breads here, as they function very well for creating nice ovenspring, steam, and ears on baguettes/loaves.  Ones that are made specifically for pizzas have a very low ceiling and would limit their use for loaves.  Some deck ovens have larger compartments on the bottom for taller baking.  I've only used deck ovens without steam injection, and the bakery I used to work at had about 40 of them.

Convection ovens are the most common for restaurants since they are very versatile and work well for realtively even browning on everything from rolls to turkeys.  They can also have a smaller footprint if space is an important concern.  Breads (non-enriched) can be a little difficult initially since the fan tends to dissipate the steam quickly resulting in reduced ovenspring and ears.  It's possible to work around this, but it does take experimenting.

It's virtually impossible to judge the condition of a used stove without using it.  If it's impossible to use it before you buy it, I would:
-find out as much as you can about the reputation of the seller, the history of the oven (where it's been used) and how many owners it's had
-only stick with a 'name brand'
-get lots of prices from many different places so you can tell if it's over/underpriced
-check that they have serial numbers so you can check if they've been recalled or stolen

Places like schools tend to use their equipment less and take better care of their equipment than places like restaurants or bakeries.

Without knowing how much bread you'll actually be producing, I'd guess that you'd need at least two 'half-stack' ovens, or one 'full-stack' (two ovens, one on top of the other).

I don't know if this is the kind of advice you're looking for, so I'll stop here.  However if you'd like me to elaborate on any of the points or you have more questions, let me know.


csimmo64's picture

How did you use the deck ovens without steam injection? DId you skip steam altogether, relying on just the natural steam or did you steam the oven another way?

mcs's picture

We would just dump a soup can filled with water in the oven to produce steam.  Since the deck is a relatively confined space without a fan, it worked really well.


brink.sebastian's picture

Thanks mark thats all useful stuff.

I think I'll be needing an oven with 6 to 9 tray capacity i think this would be equvelent to the `full stack'

I've been looking at some factory reconditioned electric ovens that seem to be in my price range. But i was wondering if there are any particular features to look out for? And what sort of things could be wrong with second hand goods and how to spot them?

The ovens I have seen say a `mist steam system can be installed', I assume this means steam injection. You say you haven't worked with steam ovens, in that case can you create steam yourself or do you just do with out?

does anyone know how difficult or expensive it is to install a steam system?


Thanks for all the help.

mcs's picture

I'd bring a couple of oven thermometers to see how close they are to the 'dialed temperature'.  Note about how long they take to get up to temperature.  Just as a reference, my gas oven takes about 15-20 minutes to get to 350F, the electric oven is a couple minutes faster. 
I had to replace the gaskets on a couple of the ovens so they sealed properly. I ordered the parts online and did it myself.  It wasn't any big deal, but if they're cracked on the oven you're looking at, you may be able to get the price down a bit.
Check online to see that you can get replacement elements for them easily.  If you buy the ovens, buy replacement elements for each because undoubtedly the elements will fail when you are in the busiest part of your season.

I guess the first thing I should've mentioned is if you're buying electric ovens make sure wherever they're going to be installed can handle the power requirements of the ovens.  I'm ignorant of the electrical system over there, so I have no idea if single and three phase power is an issue or whether or not the place can handle the amp load. 

I steam the same way a lot of people do at home- with a cast iron griddle and a cup of water when the bread is loaded.  I've never installed or even used a steam system, so I can't advise on that.


OranFoster's picture

Hello Sebastian,

    I got into this business years ago by buying a small ethnic bakery! The land-contract deal included six weeks worth of training....then I was on my own... I thought our method of steaming the oven was the only method for steaming ovens. I didn't know that modern ovens actually have all kinds of ways to inject steam, from auxillary boilers to internal evaporators. And (four bakeries and 15 years later) when our nearly new 5 deck, $50,000 Miwe Ideal oven's steam injector with a fancy RO water purification unit failed AGAIN, I went back to my tried and true method that I used on my 1946 Middleby-Marshal model K 6 shelf, 12 pan revolving oven. And that was a wand.

    What we did was to use a long brass wand with an adjustible nozzle that was tied into a hot water tap. Simply lift the oven door and spray. I spray each deck for a few seconds, load my loaves in, then spray again. The water is kind of a high pressure mist and I'm careful not to spray right on the loaves. It's important to use hose that will not rupture under the water pressure. I went to an industrial supplier and got a hose designed for hydraulic fluid. Do NOT use a garden hose. The wand is manufactured by Chapin. It's designed for spraying newly layed cement. This combination is all we use now, with fabulous results.



chizel's picture


i just read your reply.

i'm in the process of thinking about getting a miwe and wondered if you have had any trouble with yours .

could you send me details of the water wand you use as this sounds like a plan...

many thanks



cliffgarz's picture

Has anyone baking bread had experience with carousel ovens?  Just curious the bagel guy around the corner went out of business and was using one, I know it won't work for pizza which is what I do but I have thought about it for breads. One could get a lot of loaves in it.

OranFoster's picture

Hello Cliff,

    If by carousel oven you mean a rack oven, in which one pushes in a rack and it spins on a vertical axis then yes, I've used one extensively. Usually loaves are baked on perforated sheets. The Polin single rack oven I currently use bakes a pretty nice loaf. A nice thing about these ovens is that the loaves can be placed on the perforated sheets, sometimes fluted sheets for baguettes, and proofed slowly in a cooler then baked all at once. That said, I prefer using our main oven which is a deck oven. The loaves look a little more artisan.


brink.sebastian's picture

Just to answer a one of my questions in the previous post I phoned up the company and asked about installing a mist steam system and was told it would cost £1,100 to install in a three deck oven.

Does anyone know anything about a mist steam system? the salesman said it was a more efficiant and cost effective system but i didn't get much more than that.

I wonder what the effect on the finished loaf would be if you compared a comercial steam system with the DIY system mentioned by earlier.


andreea's picture

Any experience with Helpan Forni's  ovens, especially the bakery oven Vento ? 

brink.sebastian's picture

Hi Oran,


That's really interesting and has made me think again about buying a steam system.

Did you notice any change in the bread, especially the crust, when you changed from steam injection to your DIY system?

Obviously, I don't want to spend more money than i need to but i am very keen to get the best possible crust.


OranFoster's picture

Hello Again Sebastian,

    I'm thinking again how about my DIY steamer came about. With the factory installed steam injection, I was able to get a nice oven spring on the loaves, but even with a big blast of steam near the end of the bake the loaves never really had a shiny, crackly crust that I remembered from my antique oven with the wand. So I istalled one at my new bakery. After augmenting the injected steam near the end of the bake with a nice spraying of water from the wand, the loaves had that great shine. My boss asked me what took me so long to install one! Maybe months or a year later, the steam injector broke again and we never bothered to get it fixed. I enjoy using the wand, and feel like it's a natural part of baking. I'll post some pics, but have to figure out how to resize them. I'll work on that, and if you are interested I can give you the exact parts that I used.



SeligmansDog's picture

Isn't it necessary to remove steam into the baking cycle to get the crispy exterior?  How did that happen in the confined deck oven you describe?  Thanks in advance.

OranFoster's picture

While the automatic steamer on this oven broke, the flue for venting worked fine. I would open it after the first ten minutes or so of the bake. Then, about five minutes before I would take the loaves out, I'd give them a nice blast of water, actually misting the surface of the crust. Once they would dry out again, out they would come....all crackly and shiny.

Good luck! Oran.


GulfCoastSourdough's picture

I'd love to hear more about your steaming process. You mentioned putting up pictures -- a video would also be amazing. 

We're a small operation and I'm looking into getting a deck oven. Commercial deck ovens with steam are ridiculously expensive and I keep hearing horror stories about steam systems breaking, so I'm very interested in how you pull this off in a commercial production environment. 


SeligmansDog's picture

I'm sorry to  have derailed this discussion into steaming ovens, but I found one last bit of information that may, hopefully, be useful.

I asked about venting steam because my home (electric) oven is humid at the end of baking a bunch of 50 g rolls.  Turns out, after trying to figure out the oven's venting, there was a piece of sheet metal with a 1" dia hole in it restricting the flow of steam out of my oven.  I removed it (a few screws) to reveal a several inch square exit for steam.  This looks pretty significant.  I'll be baking tonight to test. 

Again, sorry for hijacking the thread.  It's a great community here.