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Whether you’re running (or plan to open) a full-scale pizza restaurant, or just want to add a heated deli case with a few rotating pies to sell by the slice to your existing operation, you’re probably trying to figure out the best way to get a great deal on a used commercial pizza oven, without crippling your bank account and without ending up with a massive piece of nonfunctioning cast iron eating up valuable real estate in your kitchen.
Commercial pizza ovens are typically massive pieces of equipment, and for good reason; reliably churning out perfect pie after perfect pie is too big a job for a regular oven. But buying one of these specialized pieces of equipment, particularly used, can be intimidating.
Whether you operate a large commercial business, or are looking for a pizza oven for a smaller, mom-and-pop sized business, the type of oven you choose is important. After all, a used commercial pizza oven is hardly a “one-size fits all” piece of equipment, and what works well for one location may not work as well in others.
Variables like volume, space, fuel source, and pizza type are all things to consider when making your decision. Let’s take a look at some of the options available, and evaluate the best model for your particular business.
There are four main types of used commercial pizza oven available: Brick ovens, deck ovens, conveyor ovens, and convection ovens. The type you choose will be based on the style of pizza you’d like to make, the volume of pizza you need to produce, the space and fuel type you have available, and how much you’re willing to spend. These days, consumers tend to lean toward brick-oven pizzas, but let’s examine all of the factors.
The first decision to make is whether your used commercial pizza oven will run on gas or electricity. Conveyor, deck, and convection style pizza ovens are typically available in either gas or electric versions. Consumers usually prefer gas-driven pizza ovens, because they run hotter and tend to produce a crispier outer crust, more even cooking, and more consistent pies.
However, the decision really boils down to which utility you have available; if you don’t have a hookup for propane or natural gas, and electric-powered oven may be your only option. Electric ovens also make the most sense for mobile food units, like food trucks or concession trailers.
The next question to ask is how much pizza you will need to make each day. Convection ovens usually have the lowest possible potential daily output; they typically have a few racks inside, with the ability to cook one or two pizzas on each rack.
There’s also some built in “recovery” time for the ovens to come back up to temperature after opening and closing the door. In terms of volume, convection-style ovens are probably best suited for businesses where pizza is an add-on menu item, and not the main focus of the business.
Single, double, or even triple-deck pizza ovens crank up the volume somewhat, since each deck allows you to cook around 6 pizzas at once. With this type of oven, the pizzas need to be monitored and moved around, to ensure even cooking, so if you’re looking for a “set and forget” pizza oven, a deck-style oven probably isn’t for you.
Brick ovens typically have even less room than deck ovens, and can usually cook 8-12 pizzas at the same time, depending on the size of the unit. Because these ovens usually operate at a much higher cooking temperature, however, the cook time for each pie is greatly reduced; many cook a pizza in as little as three minutes.
If high levels of production are your priority, consider a conveyor oven, which features a moving cooking platform that will accept as many pizzas as you can throw at it; the pizza moves through the oven at a controlled speed and temperature, cooking each pizza in 4-5 minutes and with little to no lost heat or recovery time. This is the type of oven that the big chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut use to keep up with their endlessly ringing telephones.
Additionally, consider how much physical space you have in your commercial kitchen to dedicate to your pizza production. Convection ovens tend to have the smallest physical footprint, measuring anywhere from 15 to 60 cubic feet. Deck ovens are a good fit for medium-sized kitchens, and multi-deck models double or triple your pizza-cooking potential by taking up space vertically, rather than horizontally.
Brick ovens tend to be the centerpiece of the kitchens they’re built in; they can occupy spaces up to around 30 square feet, and generally stretch from floor to ceiling. Conveyor ovens are even larger; they require space for both the conveyor belts, as well as space on either end, and should be only use din applications where space isn’t a determining factor.
Finally, as it often is in the restaurant business, cost will be an important factor in which type of pizza-making technology to build your business around. Simple convection ovens start in the $1,000-$10,00 range, while conveyor-style ovens can quickly reach into the $30,000 range.
Remember to factor in the cost of maintenance and repairs, also; conveyor ovens are full of moving parts that are prone to breaking down, whereas we’ve seen enormous cast-iron deck ovens that have been in continuous operation for decades, with little to no maintenance or service required.
What Can You Cook in a Used Commercial Pizza Oven?
While pizza-making will likely be the bread-and-butter of your used commercial pizza oven purchase, don’t forget how convenient high-heat cooking in a huge appliance can be; many restaurants use spare cooking cycles in the pizza oven for all sorts of different things, from toasting sandwiches to roasting vegetables to baking chicken wings.
The high, even heat of a commercial pizza oven makes it an ideal vehicle for a variety of uses, especially since you’re probably going to keep it running all day, anyway, burning electricity or propane.
How Do You Evaluate a Used Commercial Pizza Oven?
Figuring out how to evaluate a used commercial pizza oven can be tricky, especially considering the different types of technology used in the different types of ovens. For conveyor-style ovens, you’ll want to make sure that all moving parts are operating freely, and the seller has maintained a service record of repair calls.
Convection and deck-style ovens are easier to evaluate, because they’re packed with significantly less technology to potentially break down. No matter which type of oven you choose, check for even, consistent temperatures; an infrared thermometer can be an indispensable tool for evaluating “cold spots” in the oven, which could translate into unevenly cooked pizzas and decreased efficiency.
Ask the seller if they have any records regarding the fuel consumption of the oven (either electric or gas) to get a feel for the costs for running the oven.
As with any type of commercial kitchen purchase, be on the lookout for signs in the general condition of your used pizza oven that could point to systematic neglect; an oven with broken hinges or handles, broken door glass, a layer of soot or grease, or big dents in the sides is an oven that wasn’t properly cared for.
If the outside of the oven looks like it’s been through the ringer, it’s a safe bet that maintenance schedules and qualified repairs were likely ignored, as well.
Finally, and this kind of anecdotal, but…don’t be dissuaded by ovens that are a few years (or even decades) old. We’ve seen deck-style pizza ovens made of thousands of pounds of cast iron, with little in the way of technology besides “fire,” that have been in service forever, with no signs of slowing down.
While the cost to have one shipped may be a factor, there’s something to be said for the simplicity and rugged, old-fashioned construction of these types of ovens. Click here to browse our full catalog of used restaurant equipment.