The Rofco Experience

During the spring and early summer of 2015 my little microbakery started to get a little busy… To the point that I was having to get up earlier to push the bread through my 2 ovens – a domestic 68l Beko fan oven and my relatively new Lincat EC08. I was regularly up to 2 loads through each oven and it was looking like more… Which would have been OK, but it would have meant getting up earlier and earlier… And as I’m somewhat lazy and my wife was somewhat grumbly about it, something else had to be done, so I started looking at ovens again.

Way back I looked at the Rofco ovens and lusted after one, but at that time there was no UK distributor. I like having a UK “shop” for things I buy – if nothing else, it’s someone closer to home to complain to, so when I found out that Brook Foods in Somerset were now importing Rofco ovens I had another good look at them.

And there was the issue I’d encountered a few times in the past; There are no real and proper reviews of commercial catering equipment. Why? I do not know. My suspicion is that most commercial firms either have brand loyalty and stick with the same maker all their lives, or that they simply do not have time to use this new fangled Internet thing…

So here is my small review of my Rofco B40

tl;dr – It’s great and I use it every baking day.

I’m self-employed and work from home – I have a converted utility room that I use as my “bakehouse”. I share this space with my wife who also uses it for storage for one of her businesses so things have to fit and it’s a bit tight at times. The home part is the first hurdle – 230v single-phase electricity so while I’d love to have a deck oven (a) they’re too big and (b) most need 3 phase electricity. Another hurdle is that its up a set of stairs…

The first commercial oven I bought was the Lincat EC08. This is a dual fan/heater oven with 3 GN1/1 shelves. It has the luxury of a water inlet with a rather crude but effective water injection system. I removed the grids and replaced them with 10mm thick steel plates to simulate a deck oven for bread. This works a treat, but can only bake 6 large or 12 small loaves at a time.

So when I needed another oven, another Lincat was the obvious choice, but I was still lusting after a deck oven…  The Rofco seemed the only choice in that department, but like other commercial (and semi-commercial) kitchen equipment there were no proper reviews… (I did find a bad review though!) However an email to the Real Bread Campaign mailing list asking for help found someone close enough to me who was willing to spend some time showing me his Rofco, so off to the village post office of Bere Alston I went to meet up with Johnathon, sample some of his wonderful cheese & onion bread and have a chat.

Next up was arranging a trip to Brook Foods to see their demo Rofco and do a trial bake in it – and I’m lucky in that I live relatively close – under 1½ hours away, so early one morning I shaped up 2 sourdough loaves and left them to prove in the car on the drive up. I also took up some standard yeasted mix on its first rise and off I went… I was met by Steve Sanders who made me very welcome and showed me round. He’d already turned the Rofco on and it was hot, so as soon as I got there, I put the sourdoughs in, and shaped the other lump of dough I’d brought up and leave it to prove.

And so it’s an oven; the bread baked. The bread baked well and I was impressed with the oven spring and the colour of the crust. (We didn’t use any steam and were somewhat cavalier about leaving the door open too!) Steve even suggested I enter the bread into the world bread competition – I think he was just being kind, but maybe next year…

rofcoAtBrookThis is the Rofco B40 at Brook Foods with my breads inside it.

And so that was that – I signed on the dotted line and took delivery a few days later. Delivery was not without a little mishap, but to their credit, Brook Foods sorted it out on the spot and the next day I was a happy baker.

Six months later…

So now… 6 months later… The Rofco has been in-use 5 or 6 days a week with only a brief break in September and over the Christmas period when I had a bit of a break. Not only do I use it for bread, but it now bakes cakes, pastys & empanadas, buns, mince pies and so on. I’ve only had one other issue with it and that’s when I broke the light protector glass – however Brook sent me a replacement inside 48 hours and I’ve been much more careful with the water sprayer since then!

Steaming… I opted to not buy the steam pods that Rofco supply – I’d had reports that they take up too much space in the oven and others seem to get by with a pump sprayer thing, so that’s what I use. I spray the rear walls just before closing the door which seems plenty enough for the breads I’m baking.

The internal layout is as follows:

+---------------------------+
| Top of oven with controls |
+---------------------------+
+---------------------------+
|    Top element            |
|                         T1|
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    2nd Element            |
|                           |
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    3rd Element            |
|                         T2|
|                           |
+======= Stone =============+
|    4th Element            |
+---------------------------+
+---------------------------+

The left dial controls the top and 2nd elements with thermostat T1, the right dial controls the 3rd and 4th elements with thermostat T2.

Pros and Cons

Everything has good and bad points and the Rofco is no exception.

On the good side:

  • Three tall “decks”. No problems with tins for tall loaves. Plenty of space for them to rise and still stay well away from the elements.
  • Two heating controls. (See above) You can cook in either the top deck or all 3 – not the bottom two because the top element in the middle deck (Element 2 above) would not be on. This is fine and I use the top deck on its own for cakes, etc. I can fit 4 cake tins in it and cook 4 at once – for half the electricity load.
  • Nice stainless steel easy clean outside.
  • It’s a deck oven! You can use a peel to get breads in & out.
  • Capacity for 12 large (915g dough) loaves or 18 small loaves, depending on how you shape them. You can get many more in if you use tins – possibly even 8 large tins per deck if you try hard enough.
  • Baking trays – it was supplied with 3 baking trays – simple steel sheets with folded edges – I ordered 3 more (plus their silicone liners) as it’s a very non-standard size.
  • Continuous baking. I can bake 2 loads back to back (Although it does tend to get about 10 minutes recovery due to the time it takes me to get the next load ready to go on)
  • The baking stones can be removed (carefully) as can the door (fiddly). This makes it much easier to move – myself and wife carried it up a set of stairs without too much trouble once we’d removed them.

On the down side:

  • It’s not a standard size. Internal is 480mm x 480mm. This is designed to fit in a standard European kitchen “unit” space (of 600×600) so some trays may not fit well.
  • Getting the hang of the controls took time. I settled on a top temperature of 220°C and a bottom temperature of 210°C. The bottom deck cooks hotter and can scorch the bottoms of your loaves if not careful. It took me about a week of baking to get a setting I was happy with. The middle deck is slightly cooler.
  • Maintenance: The sides and back are pop-riveted together. If I have to replace an element I want to do it myself. I did not notice this when I first looked at it. I have replaced the element and thermostat in my Beko oven and looked at how to do it in the Lincat – these have easy to access screws, nuts and bolts… Not so with the Rofco. Lets hope I never have to…
  • It’s too low. I now have some brands on my left arm when trying to move the breads on the bottom shelf. I am in the process of having a plinth made for it to sit on to make it easier to access the bottom shelf. (Don’t throw away the pallet it comes on until you can raise it up a little)

Some more photos

rofcoCakesSome cakes on one of the supplied baking trays on the top-shelf. These are two 9″/23cm tins and two 8″/20cm tins. Cakes do tend to brown a bit on-top before they’re finished, so a covering of foil is handy towards the end of baking.

rofcoRollsFull of bread rolls.

rofcoEmpsBaking some empanadas (small pastys)

And …

rofcoBreadsIt even bakes bread! Those are all around 915g of dough.

And finally, just to give you an idea how it fits into the “Bakehouse”:

bakehouse

So I hope this is of use to any potential Rofco buyers – please do get in-touch if you want more details – preferably by email though…

Busier than normal…

The past 10 days has seen the local co-op in Buckfastleigh closed for refurbishment. This has given the small retailers in town a chance to shine and show what they can do!

I’ve been baking almost double the bread for the Seed and Holne community shop which has been great fun! It’s good to see a few more people enjoy hand-made organic breads. Lets hope they continue to do so, even though the co-op appears to be back in business.