Sanitary designed ovens used to be an oxymoron. With an increasing number of bakers expanding their product portfolios to include pizza, stuffed pockets, burritos and other premium-priced products, however, meeting the stricter requirements for USDA-inspected operations means washing down and cleaning the insides of the oven more thoroughly and more frequently. The downtime required to eliminate this grime as well as allergens and other food safety hazards can be a costly proposition, especially with such an integral piece of equipment as the oven.

As a result, equipment companies such as C.H. Babb Co., Raynham, MA, now offer clean-in-place (CIP) options and ovens that feature stainless steel construction, fully welded interiors, easily accessible interiors and sloped floors where water, grime and baked-on spills can be power washed down the drain. The ovens also are on legs that help avoid hidden sanitation issues from ovens resting directly on a slab or the bakery floor. In many instances, CIP designs cut sanitation times in half, thus minimizing downtime and changeovers as well as enhancing throughput, said Charles Foran, president of the company.

CIP systems come with a manual or automatic option. For conventional bakers who produce bread, muffins or similar products and clean the insides of their ovens during a monthly shutdown, the manual option may be best, Mr. Foran said. Typically, a 120-ft tunnel oven will have upward of 20 full-sized doors where sanitarians can manually power wash caked-on food, grease, allergens or other ingredients off the base or sides of the oven walls.

“If you are making products with meat or fatty foods or snack products with a high oil content, it may take a little longer to clean the oven,” he said. Companies that produce such products may be forced to clean their ovens daily, which can make a fully automated CIP system a more viable option.

In addition to minimizing downtime, CIP systems can facilitate more frequent cleaning of the ovens, thus eliminating product buildup and improving oven efficiency. “When you use a polished stainless steel, you can reduce flash heat considerably, almost to nothing, because the emissivity of dirty steel is approximately five times greater than that of shiny stainless steel, so you are controlling your radiant heat better and getting a better product in the end,” Mr. Foran said.

Read about how the baking industry is progressing with its sanitation efforts