The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking burger buns on site

Paddyo's picture

Baking burger buns on site


I do hog roasts and sell premium burgers at festivals and market shows. I work out of a wagon or a tent - 10 x 22 ft. I use two types of bread roll, made from the same dough, one round for the burgers and one elongated like a fat hot gog bun for the raost pork (see photo above). The buns are made for me by a local baker, but I want to start making them myself, preferably on site at the events and if not at our kitchen before hand. On avaerage I sell 500 a day over a 10 hour day, for four days. There are normally specific times when it,s busy and I have to push out buns at a rate of up to 15o an hour. The buns I use are made from a slightly sweet wholegrain dough and  they are dense but very soft when baked. My baker freezes them and packs them in boxes a few days prior to each event.

I have absolutely no experience of baking so I need to start from scratch. 

Question 1: Is what I want to do is a dumb idea? Should I just get the bread from the baker.

Question 2: Provided that the answer to question 1 is no - Can anyone recomend some compact equipment I should use to try to make buns on site, probably in batches of 60 -100?? I would need to be able to move it all from a truck into a tent each time I set up. There is 3 phase electric available at most events if needed.

Question 3. Does anyone have a recomendations of what process to use - for the dough and the baking 



clazar123's picture

First of all, I have no experience with the type of  work you are talking of undertaking BUT

I know bread and it may be more labor intensive than you think. Labor (even if it is your time) costs a lot and so does the equipment needed to make that level of volume! And you are starting out with no experience in bread making? (Is there anyone that can help?) Will this really be more cost effective than buying the rolls from a baker?

Is your intent to have hot,just baked rolls on site? That can be tricky to do on a portable,outdoor basis with variable weather/temperature and power availablility/quality.  It may be mpore practical to have the rolls baked ahead of time. How about having only specialty sandwiches offered on site-baked rolls? The volume and equipment cost may be less as it would be a more limited volume of bread.

So I guess I'd say don't go "whole hog"...(said it without thinking but I guess it's appropriate)... without thinking through the moment to moment strategy needed and all the costs.



ehanner's picture


It sounds like you have a good high volume operation going. I have experience in a similar operation selling turkey drums and smoked pork and brisket. I never did the volume you are talking about and I wouldn't ever had time to bake the rolls also.  Back then I didn't have the experience with breads like I do now but I'm glad I used bought bread products.

The only way you have to do the baking would be to buy the equipment to set up a bakery in a permanent location to produce your products and freeze them as your baker now does. Remember you're talking about a decent size mixer, proofer, an oven with high capacity, probably a rotating deck. walk in refrigerator, walk in freezer, ample work space for dough handling and tables. Probably at least 2 people to man the bakery. I would think you could easily spend 100,000 in equipment and set up costs.

Bakery isn't a high profit business. I would be happy with the service and product you get from your vendor and work on the price if you feel the need.


tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

"all" you need is a find a way to mix up, shape, proof, and bake 500 rolls a day on site and a build a wood fired bread oven on a giant trailer, right? batches of 100 or so, enough mass in the oven to only fire in the morning and get 5 bakes? sounds easy.

it'd be totally bonkers paddy, but people sure would be impressed!


Chuck's picture

Dough for a batch of rolls has to be started at least two or three hours ahead of time. Keep your time machine handy for those times when you suddenly have an unexpected "extra" customer and need "one more roll", so you can go back several hours and mix a little more dough.

If you want your customers to see an oven and get a sense you're doing more than just unfreezing, have your rolls feel quite warm, and waft out that "fresh baked smell", maybe you could talk to your baker about "parbaking" the loaves, then freezing them as usual, so you could not only thaw them but also put them in your oven for the last fifteen minutes or so of the bake. You may know the concept from your supermarket as "brown and serve".

Your baker will probably have some ideas how to meet your needs even better; he's likely just as tepid about the current arrangement as you are. No harm in consulting with him in some detail before you do anything drastic.

cubfan4ever's picture

Hi - either bake ahead of time and have the buns ready or get them from your fav bakery. 

From the amount of volume you are talking about, you need to produce quick or you will pi$$ off a lot of people :(

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

Do not do this.  It will not work out efficiently.  There are too many variables such as ambient temperature, strength of the yeast and dependability of power source, and it's too time consuming and too labor intensive.  The best suggestion for you, if you want to bake on premises, is to ask your supplier to par-bake your bread products and you finish them off.

Paddyo's picture

Thanks for all the great advice -

Sounds like par baking and finishing in an oven is the most practical solution for the time being if I want to create the efect. I dont want to give up the idea yet, but I think Ill take it one step at a time.

There is a trailer that bakes cinnamon rolls that I see at events and they do very well - do these operations use par baked dough? They bake pretty good bread baked on site in the gas stations here too. How long can parbaked buns be frozen for without degrading the quality?

The Baker I use has 50 years experience (so did his father and grandfather)  The problem I have run into is that he is geared up for his own retail operation and has not been 100% reliable in supplying me with rolls. I have noticed that when he manages the production himself everything is top quality, but when he lets his son or staff take care of the production we have problems with large variances in the size of the buns, undercooked dough, buns squashed and deformed during packing and worst of all short quantities delivered. 

I want to use a local small baker  rather than the larger operations available. I need to talk to him to find a solution that works for both of us - We give him a lot of very good promotion at events, which he is happy with, but perhaps they are not geared or motivated to run  small wholesale batches like mine.


Chuck's picture

There is a trailer that bakes cinnamon rolls that I see at events and they do very well - do these operations use par baked dough?

I dunno for sure. My guess is it's quite variable, rather than everybody doing it the same. Can you get them to let down their guard about "stealing" their ideas and give you a tour of their operation? Try to find out both the technical aspects of how they do it and the economic aspects of how they make money.


They bake pretty good bread baked on site in the gas stations here too.

Almost certainly par-baked. Non-bakeries couldn't possibly do all the steps required to make bread from scratch. (I've even heard stories of bread from vending machines [!] in Paris  ...obviously not made from scratch inside the vending machine in just a few minutes.)


How long can parbaked buns be frozen for without degrading the quality?

So long as they always stay frozen, much much longer than you'd care about. I haven't tried it myself, but I've read "270 days". That's if the temperature always stays at about -10F (-25C ?). (I suspect, but don't know for sure, that brief rises to 0F [-20C ?] or maybe even 10F [-10C ?] will be okay.) Partially thaw then refreeze parbaked loaves a couple times in the course of transporting, and you've just transmogrified those loaves into sawdust.


I want to use a local small baker  rather than the larger operations available. I need to talk to him to find a solution that works for both of us

Yes! I dunno what the situation is like where you are, but in urban areas in the U.S., bakers that are willing to produce what you need are enough of a rarity they're not always easily replaced  ...treat him well. I don't know his specific personality or your business culture (or any business culture for that matter:-), so I might be way off, but my naive psychological advice would be:

  • stay completely away from "why" (e.g. motivation, family dynamics, management style, etc.) - focus on "what" and "how"
  • be very specific (short quantities, size variation, packaging damage, etc.)
  • always remain as positive as you possibly can
  • every time the opportunity presents itself, explicitly repeat anything that smacks of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"
  • if quality is more of a priority than cost, be sure your conversation reflects that
clazar123's picture

Remember that these people are affecting his business so he may actually appreciate the feedback-unless you think he may take it the wrong way (esp if it's a family member not performing well) and drop you as a customer.

Parbake sounds like the best of both worlds. You get good dough and you get fresh baked. An onsite oven is more do-able than all the equipment needed to make dough from scratch.

Talk to the people that have the product you like and ask about their set-up. Get details on brand,maintenance,cost and contact info. Who knows-they may get a perk for referring someone.

Where in the world do you do this? Your info says Norway? I didn't know Norwegians were into pork but wherever it is, sounds quite delicious!

ehanner's picture


Upon reflection, I was about to suggest you get in touch with Dawn Foods. Then I see you are in Norway. Try getting in touch with a a restaurant food supply company. These days they have several options as to products that would work for you. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find a source for par baked breads and rolls. You would need to thaw then proof and bake the amount you think you would  need that day.  It sounds like the events you attend are busy enough to  support some investment in proofing and baking equipment. There is still the issue of not knowing what the sales will be on a given day. You would need to plan to prepare (proof) and bake an excess quantity in any event. In any case the motivation for doing this would have to be for being able to have available a better, more fresh product to serve your meats on. In that context this is doable I think.



utahcpalady's picture

How many times could you freeze and refreeze sourdough breads? Bake sales are nice fund raisers, but you never sell out...


Paddyo's picture

Thanks again for the great comments and advice,

I am in Norway - a novice farmer selling food produced on our farm at festivals - burgers, pigs and lambs. I have not seen any other hog roasters around yet. (I got the idea because I lived twenty years in the USA before this and its big business in the uk now.)

The more I can make things "home made" the better.  I really like bread that is just baked and I think it will be a real addition to what we are trying to do, so I will give  par baking a try over the winter and see if I get get it right by the spring... I was looking at small catering ovens like this propane combi oven (comes in 6 and 10 grid size from various manufactures) - do I need steam / convection or just a convection oven? Also you mentioned proofing - do i need a separate unit to warm the frozen par baked buns before baking?

next I want a soft ciabatta burger bun too .. but thats another subject.


clazar123's picture

Subway is a sandwich restaurant that bakes their own bread from frozen dough. They bake as they go. I just looked up their locater and they list a number of shops in Norway.  I have seen them take proofed loaves from a kitchen area to an oven right behind the counter and bake them. They then hold the baked loaves in a temp/humidity controlled box in the food prep area. They have 5 or 6 different kinds of bread.

My point is that someone is already doing something similar to what you propose to do so they must have suppliers, equipment and know-how. The trick is to access it.