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A widely-suggested tip is that one should (swap and) rotate their baking tray(s) half-way through a bake (to promote even cooking).

I was wondering how professional bakeries (read: not factories, actual bakeries) handle this operation when mass producing things like muffins, cookies, etc.? I'm under the impression a real bakery won't be using 1, but maybe 4+ trays of goods in one particular bake. That seems like a lot of tray (swapping and) rotating...

Or am I missing something?

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Swapping and rotating baking trays is recommended in order to account for differences in temperature inside residential ovens. Typically, the top of the oven is significantly hotter than the bottom. This is less of a concern with modern ovens, particularly those with fans to circulate the air (commonly called "convection ovens").

Professional bakeries will use a professional oven that evenly distributes the heat and/or automatically rotates the trays, thus not requiring manual swapping or rotation of the trays.

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    something like that baxtermfg.com/Products/Commercial-Ovens/Deck-Oven – Max Dec 13 '16 at 17:26
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    Residential ovens can fluctuate +/- 25°F and only average the temperature you set them to. Professional ovens are typically accurate to +/- 5°F or better. Part of the reason is because professional ovens use PID controllers to control the temperature, which are much more accurate (and expensive) than simple thermostats. – ESultanik Dec 13 '16 at 18:34
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    A number of professional ovens include rack rotation, for instance: baxtermfg.com/Products/Commercial-Ovens/Rotating-Rack-Oven - so the assertion that "Professional bakeries will use a professional oven that evenly distributes the heat, thus not requiring swapping or rotating the trays." Is simply false. Sure, some professional bakeries use ovens that don't require rotating racks, but not all, and this is therefore a misleading answer, suggesting that all professional bakers choose ovens that require no rotation. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '16 at 13:45
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    @DavidRicherby "Convection oven" is a common term used for "fan-assisted ovens." I'll edit my answer to be clear about that. – ESultanik Dec 14 '16 at 15:51
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    @ESultanik Oh. I hadn't realised the world was broken. Well, not in that way, anyway. *sigh* – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 16:05
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You are missing one variable: the oven!
By swapping, you are compensating variations in the heat-distribution and airflow in a normal kitchen-oven.
A professional bakery-oven will heat every tray evenly without swaps.

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The widely suggested tip is practical for home ovens because they do not have consistent heat over the cooking volume.

"real" bakeries use professional tools (oven, mixers...)

Experience. Good stable recipes. Experience. Good stable ovens that produce consistent heat all over the cooking volume. Experience.

That is pretty much it.

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There is no one perfect oven that will cook every recipe perfectly. However, professional ovens are usually flexible enough that you can bake most things with minimal reconfiguration or through settings changes. So the biggest difference is simply that the oven is better than most home ovens, but even if you had such an oven you would need to understand how to use it, and that would change based on the recipe and your desired outcome.

A widely-suggested tip is that one should (swap and) rotate their baking tray(s) half-way through a bake (to promote even cooking).

This is largely due to older non convection home ovens having very uneven heating. If you rotate your trays during baking then they will bake more evenly if your oven has this type of issue.

If you have a nicer oven and learn how to use the convection feature then this may not be necessary to obtain good results. Even with a good oven, though, rotation can improve results, and as such even professionals will rotate their products during baking.

I was wondering how professional bakeries (read: not factories, actual bakeries) handle this operation when mass producing things like muffins, cookies, etc.?

They will use an oven that either doesn't require rotating for their recipe, or that rotates the items automatically. As you've identified this would be time consuming without specialized ovens to handle this for you. Opening an oven for several minutes to rotate 10-20 trays would probably do more harm than good to the final product, so once your production exceeds 5-10 trays at a time, you should consider moving to an oven that makes it quick, or does it automatically for you.

I'm under the impression a real bakery won't be using 1, but maybe 4+ trays of goods in one particular bake. That seems like a lot of tray (swapping and) rotating...

A professional bakery that isn't using a conveyor system will often use standard baking racks which have the ability to hold many trays, and the larger ovens accept a tall rack on wheels.

If the oven supports automatic rotation and the baker turns it on then it rotates the entire rack during baking. If not, and the rack requires rotation, it's a simple matter of opening the door, pulling the whole rack out, rotating it, and pushing it back in. Turning several trays at once isn't a problem with this type of baking rack.

Here's an example of a smaller oven with a rotating tray holder:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9UOh5lCE_0

Here's an example of a larger oven that accepts an entire rolling rack:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlodrB9IdAw

  • Ahh ... the walk-in-ovens move the racks around so you don't have to go into it. I had wondered how they did it. (I've taken stuff to bake in a walk-in autoclaves (we were using the smaller ones that would fit a car; there was a bigger one that would fit a semi (used for airplane wings)). Maybe it was the higher temps (450°F) or the higher pressure, but they had to run fans for about 30 minutes before we were allowed to go into retrieve things. (they said you could pass out from lack of oxygen). They weren't concerned about over-cooking, as we were curing epoxy resin. – Joe Dec 14 '16 at 15:06
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    @Joe Interesting. Epoxy curing doesn't consume oxygen, but it does offgass. Perhaps what they were concerned about was the byproducts of curing causing breathing problems. Still, 450F is pretty high heat to hang around in for any length of time, so cooling is perhaps as strong a reason as offgassing to prevent employee entry after curing. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '16 at 15:16
  • And if it's not the byproducts, they might've displaced the oxygen. I don't think it was an issue with temperature affecting people, as they had to wait an hour or two for it to cool off enough before they'd open it up (and then start the fans going). And in thinking back to it (as it was 20 years ago), I don't remember there being any sort of breathing apparatus or rescue gear for if they had to go and retrieve someone who went in too early. – Joe Dec 14 '16 at 15:24
  • @joe True, and it may merely have been a precaution - perhaps they didn't want to do the studies to figure out the outgassing of all the parts placed in the oven, and it smelled funny, so they made a simple rule and fans. In this way they don't have to determine whether there's a real problem, they dodge any possible problems and move on with work. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '16 at 15:27
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Larger-scale bakeries use continuous "assembly-line" process, including baking and cooling. The ovens are designed and tweaked for even heating throughout the process flow. There are dozens of interesting videos on YouTube showing assembly-line production of confections and baked goods.

  • Can you share any links? – StevieP Dec 14 '16 at 8:56
  • For really large scale, see The world's largest mince pie factory - in pictures -- the Guardian. But this is a conveyot oven – Chris H Dec 14 '16 at 10:12
  • @ChrisH Yes, but once we get too large, it starts becoming a factory more than a bakery ... completely different processes than a corner bakery that might try to have 30+ different things ready each morning. A large factory might specialize in only one thing, and is custom built just for making it. Smaller factories might run a given type of cookie for 4 hrs, switch over to another one, run that for 4 hrs, etc. ... while other lines are making muffins, bread, or some other type of cookie. – Joe Dec 14 '16 at 14:56
  • @StevieP here are a couple of YouTube videos. Who knew that they use dry ice to chill the Oreo cookie dough? youtu.be/-i1oMwNgH2Q youtu.be/4DBTRzIUNGc youtu.be/tkY1Z8kyHfQ – Richard Crowley Dec 14 '16 at 15:15
  • @Joe, that's why it's a comment on an answer about large scales – Chris H Dec 14 '16 at 15:44

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