heat source

How To Choose the Best Heat Source for Your Oven

Choosing the proper heat source for your product when purchasing a commercial smokehouse or dehydrator can be a daunting task.

What are the differences between heat sources? Which works best for what you’re trying to achieve? What heat source is going to be easy to maintain and inexpensive to run? What is the price difference between each heat source? Do you have the proper utilities already in your facility, or will you need to have more brought in?

There are a lot of aspects to consider when choosing the best heat source for your product. So where do you start?

Start with the End in Mind

The best place to start when choosing the proper heat source for your commercial smokehouse or dehydrator is at the end — knowing the goals and limitations you have for your product and oven.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does pink ring matter in your product market?
  • Are you smoking your product?
  • Can you cook your product in a saturated environment?
  • Are you cooking your product in bags, meal pouches, or fully exposed?
  • What is your initial cost budget?
  • What is your ongoing maintenance budget?
  • What utilities are available in your facility?

Knowing the answers to these questions will give you a baseline to compare the 5 different heat sources and choose the one that fits best for your needs.

Heat Source Qualities

Once the questions above are answered, it’s time to look at the benefits and limitations of each heat source to see which will meet the needs of your cooking operation.

We put together this handy comparison chart to help you visual those differences — and make the process of choosing the heat source for your smokehouse or dehydrator much easier.

Heat SourceHeat Transfer EfficiencyAir Temp Rise RateHigh Temp ProcessingAffects on ProductCostsMaintenence
Gas Fired (Direct)Very efficient because combustion occurs in air streamFast temp rise due to highly efficient heat transfer — direct to air streamUp to 400° FPink Ring due to incomplete combustion (NO2) Cannot produce fermented productTypically most economical method to purchase and operate.Typically more maintenance issues and costs
Gas Fired (Indirect)Very inefficient as hot air must conduct energy through some type of surface (coil)Slower than direct gas and indirect steamUp to 400° FNo AffectExpensive to purchase and most expensive to operate due to poor heat transfer efficiency.Typically more maintenance issues and costs
Steam Heat (Indirect)Less efficient than direct fired gas systems, but much higher than indirect gas fired systemsReduced temp rise rate due to reduced heat transfer rate and lower heat source temp200° F maximum, but depends on available steam pressure in plantNo AffectMore costly than direct gas fired due to presence of steam coil which requires a larger fan cabinet.Less maintenance issues and costs
Live Steam CookingVery efficient heat transfer as steam condenses on product being cookedFast temp rise due to highly efficient heat transfer200° F maximum, but depends on available steam pressure in plantCannot use for smoked productVery economical if product allows cooking in a saturated environmentLess maintenance issues and costs
ElectricHigh efficiency as heat is transmitted from coil to air streamVaries based on heating element size and numberHigher process temps available, but processing time may be longerNo AffectTypically higher purchase price than direct gas fired systems due to coils and electrical service — only used on very small ovensLow maintenance issues and costs

Still Need Help?

Still unsure which heat source is the best for your operation, or does more than one option work for your needs? A commercial smokehouse and dehydrator manufacturer should be able to walk you through the various benefits and limitation of each heat source and help you make the best choice for your application.

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