Welcome to another 86 Repairs Guide! In this series, we provide valuable troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, and warranty information on the equipment and infrastructure found in your restaurant. We hope this information will help you and your team become more informed about repairs and maintenance (R&M)—and save you time and money along the way.
Chances are, if your restaurant serves hot food, you probably have at least one commercial oven to help you cook and get warm meals in the hands of hungry customers. But it’s only a batter of time before those ovens act up—leaving you without a heat source to prepare food at the right temperature.
If you run a bakery and your main oven won’t get to temp, you have nothing to sell for the day. Same problem for, say, a gyro shop: you would never sell raw meat in a pita to your customers who came for the succulent, slow-roasted beef and lamb sliced from a spit.
Wanna dough a secret? Preventative maintenance can stop oven issues before they happen, and troubleshooting can often avoid expensive vendor repairs. In this guide, we’ll cover both of those topics, as well as parts and warranty advice for commercial ovens.
Table of Contents
What are commercial ovens?
Commercial ovens are the pieces of equipment within a kitchen with hot, enclosed chambers used to cook and bake food. Several types of ovens can be found in any given commercial kitchen, including but not limited to:
- Conventional roasting ovens, similar to what you’d find in a residential home;
- Convection ovens, which use interior fans to distribute heat throughout an interior chamber;
- Steam ovens, which use boiling water to heat an interior chamber;
- “Combi,” or combination ovens, which use convection and steam heat; and
- Rotisserie ovens that use radiant and convection heat to slowly roast items rotating on a spit.
All of these ovens share the same general functionality. On a very basic level, ovens work by utilizing a heat source, like electricity or gas, to heat the bottom of the chamber. With a door enclosing the space, hot air rises to the top of the unit and causes the food inside to warm until it’s cooked through.
If one of your commercial ovens won’t work the way it should, here’s what you can expect when you call a vendor for service.
Numbers to know about hot side equipment
86 Repairs collects information from every single equipment and infrastructure incident that we manage for our customers. From this dataset, we’re able to offer the restaurant industry never-before-seen manufacturer and vendor data.
We classify commercial ovens as hot side equipment—or the items within a kitchen that apply heat to food. Here’s what we can share about hot side equipment performance in 2022 to date:
- The average invoice cost for a vendor to service hot side equipment is $627.33.
- The first-time fix rate for hot side equipment is a solid 91%. Only 9% of hot side issues required a second vendor visit for a final fix.
Interested in the average invoice costs and first-time fix rates for other common pieces of kitchen equipment? Check out The State of Repairs, our annual report on R&M. It’s the only resource available for restaurant operators to benchmark their R&M expenses.
If they aren’t cared for properly, commercial ovens can really burn through an R&M budget. But preventative maintenance tactics can help prolong the life of these essential pieces of equipment.
Preventative maintenance for commercial ovens
Thinking about setting a preventative maintenance schedule for your restaurant? You’re already a legend in the baking. 😉 Here’s what you should include to keep ovens working at their full potential.
Clean the interior cabinet
Keep your chamber crumb-free to avoid smoky scents from the unit:
- First, scrape any spillage off of the walls and bottom of the interior.
- Empty any crumb trays.
- Additional buildup? Use an oven cleaner to get rid of it.
If you aren’t using your ovens that often, clean the interior and remove debris monthly. For commercial ovens that are used heavily day in and day out, we suggest cleaning every week.
Calibrate interior temperature
Ensure your ovens are correctly temping to get the best bakes possible. Oven calibration is usually done by a technician, but if you want to give it a go in-house:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Find a calibrated, heat-safe thermometer, either digital or conventional.
- After the oven has preheated, place the thermometer inside the cabinet and see if it reads 350° F.
- If the thermometer is reading outside of a 10° margin, your oven may need to be recalibrated.
- Some knobs may include a removable cap and screw that will allow you to adjust the calibration.
- If your margin of error is well beyond 10°, call a technician to investigate.
Inspect burners and pilot light
Commercial ovens can’t get to temp if the burners and pilot light aren’t working properly. Every six months, make sure they’re operating as they should:
- Double-check the pilot lights are lit for gas ovens. The pilots should always be on, even if the ovens aren’t in use.
- Examine the thermocouple for grease or carbon buildup. The thermocouple is a brass or silver rod that sits directly next to the pilot flame, usually below the oven cabinet. If it’s dirty, the pilot may fail to light.
- Clean thermocouple buildup with a green scouring pad, steel wool, or other abrasive material.
- Check burner tubes for signs of corrosion or other degradation. If they’re too corroded, they’ll fail to work—leading your oven to not work to its full potential.
Replace water filters in steam ovens
Steam ovens rely on boiling water to heat their interiors. The boiler within a steam oven has water filters that need to be changed every 4 to 6 months.
Don’t ignore this crucial step. If you don’t swap the water filters, the unit will get hard water buildup—which will destroy the machine from the inside out and invalidate any manufacturer warranties!
Troubleshooting tips for commercial ovens
Even the best-laid preventative maintenance plans can’t stop every single commercial oven issue. When your oven starts acting up, use these troubleshooting tips to try and resolve the issue before spending time and money on vendor dispatch.
Oven not heating
Pretty hard to bake when an oven won’t get hot, huh? The main culprit of this symptom is the pilot light. To see if your flame is still burning, look for a metal kick plate below the oven door. Lift it and flip outwards to reveal the burners as well as the pilot light.
If the pilot is out,
- Relight it. Doing this varies from oven to oven; there might be a button to press and automatically light with an ignition, but others will have a standard gas valve.
- For ovens with button ignitions, push the button in and light the pilot with a stick lighter.
- Hold the button in for 30 seconds to ensure the thermocouple is warmed up.
- If the pilot goes out after releasing the button, something could be wrong with the thermocouple. Check for buildup; if no buildup is present, it likely needs to be replaced. Call a technician for service.
- If the pilot doesn’t light, verify the oven has gas:
- Open the burner compartment and smell for gas.
- Double-check the oven valve is open to the main gas line. If it’s off, open it back up.
- Disconnect and reconnect the flexible gas line behind the oven that connects the unit to the inflexible gas line installed in the kitchen. No tools are required for this, just a little elbow grease.
No gas to hot lines?
It’s a big problem. But before you call your local utility company,
- Check that the main gas line valve is open. Its handle should run parallel to the pipe itself.
- Make sure your hood system is on and running properly. If the hoods aren’t on, a smart system could shut down the entire gas line as a safety precaution.
Oven has low heat
Commercial ovens that won’t get as hot as they should are just as concerning as ovens that won’t work at all. Cooking is an act of chemistry: if you don’t have the right balance of ingredients and the type of heat applied to them, your recipes won’t turn out the way they should.
- If the oven won’t heat higher than than 120° F, this might actually be ambient heat from other kitchen equipment. Follow the “Oven not heating” troubleshooting steps above.
- Temperatures that vary between 120° F and the set temperature on the unit are likely because one or more burner tubes aren’t lit. Most ovens have two to four burner tubes.
- To check the burner tubes,
- Remove racks from the oven, then remove the screws from the bottom floor of the oven and set aside. This will expose the unit’s burner tubes.
- Visually inspect the burner tubes for corrosion, buildup, or clogs within the perforation of the tubes.
- If the tubes are in good shape, clean them to optimize performance.
- If tubes are corroded, replace them. It’s an easy switch with only a few screws needed to install a new tube.
Check error codes on combi ovens
Combi ovens are pretty smart. They not only use multiple heating methods, but they also have smart systems that will pinpoint an issue as soon as it arises.
If your combi oven is giving you an error code, check it on the manufacturer's website or within your user manual. The error could be anything from a cleaning cycle reminder to an alert that the unit has no gas.
If troubleshooting your commercial ovens doesn’t do the trick, consider our parts and warranty advice before you accidentally spend more than you need to on repair.
Parts and warranties for commercial ovens
Several commercial oven parts are very easy to procure and replace in-house. Everything from burner tubes, oven knobs, interior grates, and water filters (for steam ovens) can easily be purchased online or in store and replaced by you or someone else on your team. Just double-check part specifications before you go shopping!
As with most new restaurants, your commercial ovens should be covered by the equipment manufacturer if there’s a failure in the equipment within the first year it’s in service. Before you call a vendor for oven repair, double-check with your manufacturer to see what may apply.
Combi ovens, however, are a special case. Almost all of the combi oven manufacturers train and certify technicians themselves since the equipment is so specialized. For combi oven issues, call your manufacturer before you call a vendor—if you use a specialist that hasn’t been certified by the manufacturer, your warranty could be invalidated and the technician may have difficulties getting their hands on parts.
A final note on commercial ovens
It’s a half-baked idea to ignore preventative maintenance on your commercial ovens—and just as foolish to ignore simple troubleshooting steps that can save your business hundreds of dollars on a visit from a vendor.
We hope these tips will keep you cooking without applying too much heat to your R&M budget.