Convection ovens have been used in restaurant kitchens, hospital kitchens and many other locations since the early 50s and traditional static ovens were being used even before that. Combis came about in the 60s to help end users with the convenience of having the capability to use steam heat and dry, convection heat in the same piece of equipment. Other types of ovens exist as well (microwaves, conveyors, etc.), but there hasn’t been a major innovation in the industry in about 50 years. Thanks to the Vector Multi-Cook Oven from Alto-Shaam, that is no longer the case.
The Vector oven, unveiled by Alto-Shaam in 2017, works differently than any other oven that’s been on the market before. First, the Vector can have up to four individually sealed cooking chambers which can all be set to different temps, fan speeds, and cook times, which gives users the ability to cook four different food items simultaneously without any waiting or flavor transfer between products. Users can cook salmon, chicken, biscuits, and cookies all at the same time and not have to worry about their cookies tasting “fishy.” Also, each chamber on the Vector can be set within a 100-degree difference of the adjacent chambers. The bottom chamber could cook at 350 and the next chamber up could cook at 450 with no problem. Second, the Vector uses new Structured Air Technology, which allows for a more efficient heat exchange during the cook resulting in a cleaner, more even cook of any product you put into it. To go into a little more detail, a fan at the back of each chamber splits the air between the top and bottom of the chamber, which is then pushed through a plenum (which is what is used in conveyor ovens to create the impinged air that cooks the food). Where the Vector differs from a conveyor oven is in the design of the plenum. While a conveyor oven’s air is pushed through holes that are randomly scattered across the plenum and it cooks the food while the food slowly moves through the oven, which sometimes results in the food having darker spots on its surfaces, the Vector’s air is pushed through a patterned series of dots and dashes so that the food gets evenly cooked throughout and spotting is avoided altogether.
The fan that is blowing this air through the chamber serves a dual purpose in the sense that it is also pulling the air back as well. This keeps the heat inside the oven and guarantees that not only is the oven’s door safe to touch from the outside, but also that the heat does not escape the oven when the door is opened to pull product out/put product in. If the door is open for a little longer than normal, the Vector will automatically add the time needed to compensate for the lost heat. Another perk of the Vector is that the half size model is ventless, meaning it does not need to be placed underneath a vent hood. If you’ve ever had to purchase a hood, then you’ll know why this is a plus.
One of the biggest advantages of the Vector is that it cuts total cook time down exponentially. Miller & Associates’ Culinary Training Chef Tug Toler sheds some light on this.
“We call [the Vector] a speed oven, but it’s not a speed oven in a sense of microwave-assistance like some others. This is really a throughput speed. If you’re cooking just biscuits and it’s all the same temperature…cooking four pans of biscuits will still be 16 and a half minutes whether it’s one pan or four pans. In a convection oven, you put in one pan for 16 and a half minutes or so, but by that fourth pan it’s not 16 and a half minutes anymore, it’s more like 21 and they’re having to open the oven and rotate and touch the product. They’re having to put way more attention to it. With the Vector, you put it all in and wait until it beeps.”
While other factories make ovens that could be considered competitors to the Vector, such as TurboChef’s Double Batch or Ovention’s MiLO, they are not necessarily comparable to the Vector. Toler explains why the Vector is a preferable alternative to other speed-type ovens.
“There are competitors out there, but they’re kind of their own thing,” Toler said. “There’s fewer moving parts in the Vector [compared to it’s competitors]. There’s a fan and a heat exchanger for each chamber…and really that’s it. There’s also one control panel for the whole oven and it is easy to use. If you have a smartphone you can use this.”
Dealers and end users who purchase the Vector also have the bonus of Alto-Shaam’s large network of training chefs and culinary support specialists. Each territory has at least one Alto-Shaam certified chef that is available to help in training and setting up the Vector (as well as Alto-Shaam’s many other products).
No stranger to culinary innovation, Alto-Shaam started from humble beginnings in the early 50s. Founder Jerry Maahs was running a fried chicken business in Wisconsin that did home delivery. After a mishap with a warmer that led to a car fire during a delivery, Maahs decided that there needed to be a safer way to transport the food. This idea led to the creation of Alto-Shaam’s patented Halo Heat technology which hurled them into the food equipment industry. Over 50 years later Alto-Shaam continues to innovate and be a top contender in the food service world. And with rumors of even more ground-breaking equipment on the way, the Vector will be far from the last new-and-improved product Alto-Shaam has to offer. Until said products grace the market, the Vector will continue to be the latest and greatest in cooking innovation.