The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What kind of oven to purchase

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

What kind of oven to purchase

    We are in the process of looking for a replacement for our oven/range. We have some unique needs, and I would like to tap into the knowledge base from fellow bakers as to the kind of oven we should purchase.
    We have a larger family (7 children). We need a gas oven. We have a small family bakery where we sell cookies, quick breads, and yeast breads 1-2 days a week. We would sell between 35-50 loaves of bread at a time. We live about 6,500 feet above sea level. We are missionaries who live outside the country where U.S. coding laws do not exist. We are currently in the States and plan to have a range shipped back to where we live.
    Pretty much, we are trying to decide if we should buy a high-end, professional, residential model (36") such as a Wolf or a Thermador. Or, if we should cross the bridge to an industrial/commercial (also 36") model such as a Vulcan, American, or South Bend.
     I would appreciate any and all advice or experiences you might want to share with us. Thank you in advance for your help.

Minnesota Gal

Nickisafoodie's picture

Two key points:

1) a commercial range from a restaurant supply house will be far cheaper than the equivalent "high end residential model".  High end resi can be $4,000 or more.  See link below for a 36" industrial grade for $999.  It's not that these products are made cheaply, they are work horses built for the trade.  The consumer generally pays a rather large premium for commercial level performance targeted for the home user.  See this link purely as a reference: many other choices and it seems that you have researched this aspect too per the names you mention.

2) regardless of choice you will need to know the size of the gas feed available and pressure.  The following text appears in the spec sheet for the referenced stove"

Manifold pressure is 5.0”W.C. for natural gas or10.0” for propane gas. Manifold size is 3/4” NPT (meaning a 3/4" diameter gas feed must be available).
3/4” pressure regulator supplied with equipment
to be installed at time of connection. Must specify
type of gas and elevation if over 2,000 ft. when

Note the comment above re elevation.  The air to gas mixture will need to be and is easily adjusted for your elevation after taking into account the pressure required (and with provided regulator).

There are many other models on comparible sites that are substantially cheaper and likely better performance than the high end consumer market.  Hope this helps, good luck!!

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

Thank you for the help!  I appreciate all the helpful info, and it will help us in making a decision.  I have felt for awhile, after looking at many models, that the high end, residential, professional ovens are higher priced basicaly because they are just geared toward the normal, home user.   We haven't been sure if the commerical/industrial oven/ranges are efficient as far as gas usage.  We don't need that huge pilot going on top all the time either.  But, I have used and would prefer the commercial range over the residential models.  I know they aren't as fancy, but we are looking for long-term, steady-eddy performance that is also a workhorse.

Chuck's picture

I'd suggest looking in your Yellow Pages for someone to repair your stove/oven, calling them up, and asking things like

  • what brands do you stock parts for?
  • what brands have the fewest service calls?
  • what brands have the most service calls?

(Sad story: A while ago a friend bought a high end stove/oven based on recommendations of architects and appliance salesmen. After several years when they'd paid the service man more than the original cost of the stove/oven, the service man finally said "I hate fixing these things all the time. If you'd called me beforehand I would have told you not to buy it".)

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

Good point!  You are so right about the repair man....

wineman's picture

If you are considering buying a "Commercial" range be sure to check to see if it meets code for a residential installation.  Commercial ranges are often not designed for use in residential kitchens.  As an example some commercial ranges cannot be installed next to wooden base cabinets or require specific venting requirements.

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

We will have to check about that for safety reasons.  Although, where we live in southern Mexico, coding doesn't exist.  In that our walls are concrete block, that helps with some of the issues, I'm sure.  We're still considering all the options right now.

PeterS's picture

with the correct clearances and hood or ventilation, it will be safe whether it's installed in a home or commercial setting. Those requirements are covered in the installation instructions.

One of the  major differences, besides appearance, between residential commercial style and restaurant/institutional stoves is the insulation. The former have much more allowing lower clearances to potentially combustible surfaces.

If you have the space in your kitchen and install a commercial stove correctly, you'll be fine.

That said, the front surfaces of the stove will be hotter and could present a greater hazard to young children.

True commercial stoves tend to have even higher output burners than evn commercial style stoves and require more ventilation. It is probably possible to throttle the burners down if you are mechanically inclined. Commercial stove burners tend not to be as good for small stuff, they are designed to cook large quantities. True commercial stoves won't simmer small pots/pans very well. If you go the commercial route, you might want to get a standard home cooktop  or burner ($500 or less) to use for the small stuff; it would be more economical, too.

You can also plug the standing pilots and use a match or lighter. The downside is that the gas will flow freely if a burner is turned on, but not lit. There may be some commercial stoves with piezoelectronic ignition that are designed, like home stoves, to ignite when the gas is turned on.

I have seen several commercial stoves installed in a homes over my years without problem. If you are a serious cook, there is nothing better. It can be done safely.

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

Thank you for the tips!  You're post was very helpful, and I appreciate the time you took to write us.  We are definitely leaning toward a commercial unit, and we already did decide to get a smaller, residential range b/c that is what would fit in our kitchen and would be used for smaller things, as you mentioned.  I think we might look into something with the piezo electronic ignition as you mentioned for the pilots.  I think that would be helpful for gas efficiency and for safety reasons too.

Zig_Webstaurant's picture

While I normally peruse this discussion board out of my own foodie curiousity, this time I happened to see a link back to the place I work.  I work at the Webstaurantstore and I have been in the restaurant supply business since 1989. I have some opinions about this topic and I hope they will help you. 

Before I start, let me say that we value residential customers very much, and love it when you buy pastry supplies, sheet pans, parchment paper and small appliances.  But when it comes to items like this: well, we won't (and most cases cannot) even ship a commercial range to a residential address.

First and foremost is safety, and Peter had some good points about this: You need 12" on each side and 6" is the rear of clearance from combustable surfaces. These units are simply not insulated for residential use, and that does mean in the front as well. Like Peter said, they get hot.

In commercial settings, these are placed under a commercial exhaust hood with a Ansul fire protection system.  The pilot lights on ranges are rather robust. If they go out while not in use you can have gas build up. And that will be much worse if one of those heavy burners is left in the on position but didn't light. In a restaurant, you turn on the fan and goodbye gas.  Not nearly as safe in a small area without a hood. There is the issue of heat as well--when you have the capability of putting out 180,000+ btus just with the range top alone, you need to be able to do something with the heat.

Secondly, and being that you are going to another country, maybe not as important to you: putting one of these in a residential setting voids the warranty.  See the second page of the spec sheet:

While a restaurant range oven may have lots of btus and may be able to fit full sheet pans, I never had a restaurant or any food service facility use one for serious baking.  While the more expensive restaurant ranges have excellent thermostats, none of these provide the even baking of a convection oven. They are best used for things like roasts, bake potatoes, and light baking.  While you can order a convection oven base for these ranges, the are way over-priced and they are a great way for repairmen to put their kids through college.  You can almost get a better standalone restaurant convection oven for the same money as a convection base on a range.

Back to the pilots-if you want order one with piezo ignition, be prepared to pay for it.  The piezo igniters for commercial units are very expensive, and that is why most restaurants don't use them. If you think about how a range in a restaurant gets used, those burners get turned on and off more in a day than your home range will in a month, and that is hard on an ignitor.  In commercial settings, piezo units still often fail even with how robust and pricey they are.

Do people put commercial units in their house? Sure. Other companies will sell them to you if you choose to go that route. I will tell you as a guy that has worked with them, and as a dad of three--I wouldn't want one in my house.  Well, I kind of want one because I am working with the same lousy gas range that came with my house, but I wouldn't get one.

Nick--thanks for the link! That is how I found this. And while we can't sell residential folks ranges, we got lots of stuff we can sell!

Whatever you choose, best of luck and happy baking!

Steve Ziegler





PeterS's picture

which should be considered. Safety is everything.

(Steve: are you sure a pilot will put out more gas than an unlit burner? No doubt several unlit pilots can be a hazard, but a burner is rated for much higher output than a pilot.)

Minnesota Gal's picture
Minnesota Gal

Wow!  You all are giving us a lot to consider.  I really, really appreciate all the helpful advice and the time you have taken to write.  Thank you so much.  

I looked at the links you sent.  I also looked for piezo ignition for commercial ranges and could only find that for ovens on commercial units?  

I grew up with an old-fashioned, cast-iron commercial range/oven that was in a children's home we lived in.  You are right about the nice exhaust fan that it had.  It definitely does get hotter too.

I'm wondering if we should expand our options and look into other kinds of free-standing, bakery ovens.  I'm a newbie at any of that kind of thing though.  We would have a small, residential "normal size" kitchen oven/range in the house.  This other unit would be mainly used for our small, family bakery.  I was looking for one with a range so that it could be used for any extra, "special" cooking/canning that we would do.  

If we would go commercial (just considering options, but not ignoring the advice), we would probably put this unit in an outside cooking situation that would have concrete/brick walls, a roof, but would be completely open to all kinds of ventilation.  I guess the main problem would be that if a burner would be left on and the pilot would be out, the escaping gas would provide a potentially explosive situation without an exhaust fan to rid that gas.  Am I correct in my thinking?  Also, the oven would be a lot hotter to the touch than normal.   

You mentioned that most don't use a commercial oven for baking.  Do they pretty much all have uneven heating?  I have heard a lot of negatives about convection ovens from friends but have never used one myself.  What would you recommend for a small bakery?  

PeterS's picture

visit a local restaurant supply and get some first hand input.

Zig_Webstaurant's picture

I am that you glad made another comment Peter, because the comment that I made yesterday doesn't look like it posted and only because of your latest comment did I see that didn't happen.

First to Peter: I worded that poorly.  An unlit burner puts out many times the gas than an unlit pilot. But either will put gas into the room that can build up if given time and lack of ventalition.

Minnesota girl: range ovens are not terribly good when it comes to even baking, not compared to other options. 

The fan in a convection oven really evens that out, and most restaurants that do a good bit of  baking use the convection oven. We sell a ton of electric countertop convection ovens to small bakeries. Electric could be a problem for you since you are going to another country--don't know how you would fare with the voltage and plug.  I will say that convection ovens take some getting used to, as they cook faster on account of blowing the steam barrier off of the food. Also, sometimes with light products like meringues you will end up with a windblown look.  For bread baking in a convection oven, one with steam injection is a good idea for a better crust. If you are just doing crustry breads, a deck oven might be better, as it is more hearth-like.  Convection ovens are better for things like cookies and other baked goods.

Since our equipment sales is really geared toward commercial, I would also say that I agree with Peter's last comment.  Ask around.  Before you buy an oven, the best bet is to find a friend that has that type and try some of your recipes in it.  My experience is just that--mine. Yours may be different, so if you are worried about a convection oven, ask around and ask if someone will let you use theirs.   I have also found that people that own small bakeries are generally sweet people, and since you will be setting up shop somewhere else, I'd bet you could find a person with much more direct baking experience to help you. 

All the best!