For artisan-style bakers, deck ovens are a centerpiece of any artisan bakery, and often a crucial piece of baking equipment. And as the demand for artisan products continues to increase, so does the need for the right equipment.

“As artisan breads get more and more popular, deck ovens are getting more in the focus of retail bakers,” says Mathias Klotz, president of MIWE America LLC, Hillsborough, NJ. “We’re talking high-quality, local, organic ingredients and a slow proofing process to give the dough time to develop its intricate flavor profile without adding artificial flavors or enhancers and baking in a deck oven, directly on the stone slab.”

A distinct difference between deck ovens and convection ovens is the way in which heat is transferred to the product being baked, according to experts at Erika Record, which manufactures the Tagliavini line of deck ovens. Deck ovens use conduction heat to bake products, which is a process in which heat travels directly from a hot stone or deck, to the loaf of bread or sheet pan being baked. Deck ovens also utilize radiant heat, which is a process that utilizes infrared heat waves to penetrate into the dough, heating it throughout. The ability to add steam with these types of ovens is also key in the bread baking process, and because deck ovens carry so much mass they have great recovery time and hold temperature very well.

When it comes to selecting a deck oven, Roy Kitley, senior marketing manager at Mono Equipment, an Ali Group company, says there are some key considerations to keep in mind, including the volume of product that will be baked, which will naturally inform the size of the oven required, the type of product they wish to bake, and the amount of space they have available in their bakery which will dictate the configuration of the oven.

Additionally, the type of power available (i.e., electric, gas, or oil), whether steam is required on each deck, preferred type of controller (e.g., a basic controller or a state-of-the-art controller with timers and energy saving features, etc.), the need for an extraction canopy, base prover, or integrated deck-loader all need to be taken into consideration.

Compared to a traditional convection oven, a deck oven takes up a considerably larger amount of space and requires more skill to operate. However, due to their relatively simple design and few moving parts, they last a long time and operate without a lot of hassle. For this reason, Klotz says the MIWE Condo is in great demand as it has a smaller footprint than their larger artisanal deck ovens with the same capability.

With an increased need for deck ovens, manufacturers must also keep up with the technological needs of the bakers.

“We are currently seeing requests for connected equipment which links in to a cloud based system to deliver information on the oven’s usage including program used, energy usage, recipe updates, etc.,” according to Kitley, who says MONO is currently developing its own MONO Connect cloud-based asset management system which will provide this service.

Other manufacturers agree. “We expect more retailers will move into artisan bread programs and will look into systems that provide technology for reliable and easy to operate deck ovens,” MIWE’s Klotz says. MIWE developed a 7” touch screen with the MIWE go! user interface for this type of operation, which guides users through the different steps of the baking process and gives all the necessary information at every single step, as well as pre-programmed baking programs help to provide consistent quality.

Energy efficiency is also a major topic surrounding this type of equipment and manufacturers are looking at a range of potential solutions to maximize the energy efficiency of oven ranges.

“The improvements will mean a baker could bake up to twice the volume of products in our double-depth oven,” Kitley says. “Our energy efficiency work will naturally provide improved efficiencies and these will be communicated once all the testing has taken place and the products are ready for market.”

The want for artisan products is not slowing and if bread and other products are produced with care and at high quality standards, consumers are more than willing to accept higher prices.

“We’re seeing small, artisan bakeries being very successful with their comparatively small range of products, especially if the customers can witness the production process,” Klotz says. “If they can see with their own eyes that baking bread is a craft, that it takes time, skill, and experience to produce a top-quality loaf, they’ll keep coming back for more.”