gas or electric deck oven

(I hope I'm not replicating a subject here).
We have come up against the dilemma of where to take our small wood fired sourdough business to next!

Wood availability as well as time taken to get it, and firing during fire ban periods, plus building a bigger Alan Scott oven to bake more loaves has led us to investigate stone hearth deck ovens.  The bigger brick oven and the new deck oven would cost approx the same.

The consultant who takes commissions from Miwe strongly recommends electric to ensure an even spread of heat through the chamber.  There is also a gas Miwe available, the Ideal Oven.

We have been advised that the power load from an electric oven would need another transformer ($$$) installed at our property (we do have 3-phase power) so we're back to gas.

Can anyone give me some thoughts on any drawbacks to using gas?  Of course, one of the quirks of baking in the brick oven is shifting front loaves to back and losing retained heat at the front for a while in doing so, and being limited to 5 loads in a row before it needs a spell.  It would be great to get some info from people who have used gas and aren't just trying to sell me something.

Cheers, Lily.

10 comments

Speaking about wood fired oven, do you know that there is not only Alan Scott's ovens on the planet ? They might be good stuffs but you can find some ovens which have a more modern conception. Look for Llopis (http://www.fourllopis.com/ or http://www.jllopis.com/) ovens or Tayso (http://www.tayso.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3&Itemid=27), from Spain. These ovens, depending their size, can even be used in industrial bakeries. They are cheap to run and easier also because of their turning sole.
Whatever, if you want to change for a deck oven, personally, I suggest a gas oven. This because the heat is less biting on the sole. In an electric oven, the resistances will heat up as soon as the temperature is going down in which can result an excess of heat at the bottom of the bread. That is why, sometimes, you have to decrease the temperature of the sole after the loading.
I already worked on a Miwe gas oven and it was a very nice experience. Very consistent baking, accurate setting... Very good results on tin breads and free form breads.
For me, an electric oven is interesting because you can set each deck independently. It is interesting if you have different types of products to bake at the same time.
But, usually, electricity is more expensive than gas or wood.
Moreover, if electric cuts are usual in your place, you won't be able to run your oven with a generator. If it is a gas oven, you need much less electricity to make it working.

The best recommendation is to write a list with what you need, what are your constraints and what are the benefits of each option. Then, the choice will be easier or less difficult.

 -- 

Éric

 

It's not very clear for me whether you've built your own oven or not. I wonder if this kind of ovens are available on the market, a deck oven is not something you see in the regular appliance stores like Kenmore parts so where do you guys get them from?

I have seen a deck oven heated by "Thermoil".
The oil was heated in a small boiler fired by a stoker.
This gives many options for heating the "Thermoil".
There are now many oils that can handle the high temperatures,
and meet food health codes.
This allows individual control of each deck.

It may be worth an Internet search, if you have not yet selected an oven.

Let us know how you turn out.

Carl
 

Thanks for your replies Eric and Carl.  We are going to buy a gas deck oven as that fuel is best out here  The wood oven has a new sole after just about all the original bricks busted, chipped, cracked and failed.  It was the most frustrating part of a beautiful oven, with me having to line the gaping holes with teflon paper to get me through baking at Christmas until the new bricks arrived in January.  These new ones are a revelation, I can't believe we didn't find our slim French backpacker sooner to enter the cool oven and do the dirty work!!  More heat is retained for longer and I have to be careful of the 'biting sole' as Eric put it elsewhere ( I scuffle the floor a few times), but it is possible to still bake for 6 loads as before but starting at a lower temp.  It is so much easier with better results in the bread.

Wood supply and time taken to split and transport it are still a serious issue so we will go gas.  The oven choice looks like coming down to a steam tube type oven which I think will bake in a similar way to a wood oven, ie less flexbility with heat but more embodied, retained heat, no fans.  We'll apply to Council to build a bakery and then make the final choice.  In the meantime I'll try to visit some bakeries to see these new-fangled machines in action (love my wood oven).

Another aspect to this project has been working out how big, as in how much baking area we require.  And there I was with 50 paper cut-outs the size of my loaves laid out on a folded blanket according to the specified size of deck... because I had to visualise it!  I had to work out how many hours I wanted to be baking, therefore how many loads, how many loaves per load, therefore how many decks, how high up off the ground etc etc.

Cheers, Lily.

Lily,

What brand ovens are you looking at?

We are also loooking at buying an oven and are just starting out on the journey.

Sean

 

Hi Sean,

The brands we are looking at are Bongard Cervap (deeper and narrower deck), Mondial and Ecomondial (wider than deep deck) and, originally Miwe (inbetween dimensions) which was a fair bit pricier but seems in line with the Cervap.  All are steam tube ovens with plenty of thermal mass and thus retained heat, so temperatures are pretty stable.  Some can be fired with gas, oil and wood as alternatives.

What are you looking at?

Hi Lily, 

im not sure if you will se this message, but like you I have outgrown my Alan Scott oven. It was wondering which oven you picked, I'm also looking at tmb tagh oven. I have a tiny shop and could build on if necessary,  to house a larger oven. The Alan Scott was a 42 x 48 and I like it, although there are things I would of done differently but that was the the first step in seeing if there was a market for my bread. Any info about your oven is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Seth Biersner

Hi Lilly,

Sorry to disappear off the planet. We are still up to our arm-pits in confusion about the best oven. So far we have more opinions about ovens than there are ovens in the world, but it is all information to work with.

A wood fired oven is not an options for us, given our location. So we are leaning towards an electric four deck stone hearth oven. That seems to be the easy bit, although now we are told that we should also have a rack oven as deck ovens have some limitations, although we are not sure what.

We are opening a small bakery cafe with big aspirations. We are aiming to have capacity to produce up to 350 loaves a day (starting smaller and growing in to this over time) and probably about 200 pies a day +/-, and obviously a good range of on-site made pastry products. It is a bit unknown as it is a  greenfield site. We want to bake real artisan breads - crutsy, flavoursome, long fermented, sourdoughs, etc. We also need to meet the market so we have to produce the standard fare of sandwich loaves, etc. This may be why peple have said get a rack oven as well. The trouble is the bottomless pockets are not my strength.

So far we have been recommended to look at:
 

  • Bongard  & Miwe (although we have no idea what price we are loloking at. This is the next step.)
  • Polin (I know little about this but I know of one big fan who can not fault them - price unknown.)
  • Salva
  • John Willett (There were lots of these in Brisbane where they are manufactured.)


We have looked at a Rotal deck oven and told we can add ceramic tiles. I am unclear (not being a baker) as whether this is a good substitute for a genuine stone sole, but the price loooked OK.

Our preference is a new oven, but if we hev to a second-hand one will be considered. .. the money thing!

Even the bakers we are looking at hiring can not agree on what is best, buit we are making some progress but as you can see we are going around in circles.

What I would like to know is what limitations there are with a stone hearth deck oven ad why can't you produce a full product range?

What are the best stone hearth ovens for Australia and Queensland?

Does the stone really matter?

Can good quality pastries be produced in these types of ovens?

Any thoughts and recommendations would be welcomed.

Regards,
Sean
 

Hi Sean,

I'll give you what I know. 

We are going to buy a steam tube gas deck oven as it mimics the effect of a wood oven in that the inbuilt mass of stone/masonry means the temperature is very stable once you've got it there, meaning you can even switch the gas off during the bake and continue baking, it provides all the usual steam and loading options and if I choose a deep rather than wide oven there is little heat loss when loading 20kg of cool dough per deck. 

I'm not looking to produce pastry items during the same baking cycle as the bread, but if I reconsider I'd get another oven and set that to a diff temp.  Herein lies the disadvantage to using an indirectly heated gas oven as the individual decks can't be set to diff temps for diff products at the same time beyond maybe 10-15 degC.

However, I understand that if I get a cyclothermic (ie direct heat, I think like a fan-forced oven) stone deck oven (gas) I can have more flexibility in temperature variation during the bake.  I will probably have to shift the loaves around the deck for even colouring, but it is quicker to install, lighter so can be easily moved, and I know there are excellent, big bakeries in Melbourne and Sydney using this type of oven for a huge variety of products.

I've got really good feedback on the Salva electric ovens for ease of use, flexible temperature setting and the modular aspect which means you can expand relatively easily depending on your floor space.  These guys also pointed out the expense of using electric, which we too found was prohibitive.

And yes really good pastries can be produced using stone hearth deck ovens as they can with wood ovens!  The only thing is you can't finish a bread bake at, say 250degC and drop the temp to 200degC very quickly to start pastry baking as the oven contains a lot of 'soaked heat'.  So even if you were to leave the doors open, you'd get a temp drop near the doors fairly rapidly but down the back would still be pretty hot.  So you've got an unevenly heated baking space which is a pain in the neck.

Stone or brick is the best for good oven spring and crust development, but I don't know anything about ceramic.

I know even less about rack ovens other than a couple of bakers weren't impressed with the results on loaves, but that they are convenient for baking large quantities of pastries.

So the brands mentioned above all look to be good quality, and the reps for Bongard, Mondial and TAGH (in SanFrancisco) are all respected by the bakers I spoke to.  Don't be afraid to get your info together and drive a bargain.

I think you need to assess how long you want to spend at the oven (I started with an upper limit of 3 hours and 500 loaves and worked out how many loaves per deck per load I would fit into each different oven - the number of decks varies), an upper limit of how much you want to spend, including power costs, and whether enough power can be delivered to your site before upgrading the transformer $$$!! (this can all be quantified to a degree), loading options (it'd be hard to load a tall deck oven with a peel, so you might need a manual or auto loader), and ask your reps to set up meetings with bakers who use their ovens, be concise and grateful to these bakers and whatever we end up choosing we'll just deal with!

Keep in touch.

 

I'm looking at electric again and have found that electric ovens are quite a bit cheaper and easier to install than gas but the payoff is a higher running cost...but talk to a fridge mechanic and he says..hey, it's not drawing that much power, especially as the oven doesn't necessarily need constant electricity draw.

The ceramic tiles are what they call 'stone' - so they are interchangeable terms.