FISH Ovens & Peels

Working in a new pizza place after selling my franchise last year.
They use Fish Ovens which is a rotating deck oven, essentially.
4 or 5 shelves that rotate- you better get that pie on/off that shelf quickly- you only have 5-10 seconds. You can stop the rotation, however… and reverse it, as well, though I am not well versed in that.
They seem fairly bulletproof- just some pivot-point greasing a few times/week.
We currently offer a 19" pizza and that’s a large pie (for me) so it’s a struggle to get that pie on that moving shelf (which I don’t think is any more than 19"!) whilst keeping in in nice shape, round, etc
Just looking for any thought or experiences with Fish ovens.
We use the traditional wooden peels to load/unload pies but that makes it difficult (to me) to maintain a round pie as the 19" is off the peel- almost like to have my own aluminum peels made- a flat 19" or 20" disc w/ a nice handle that would allow you to make the pizza nicely, size properly… make it ROUND… and load/unload. Thoughts?

I love it when our competitor’s Fish oven breaks down a couple of times a year (they have just one oven) and it takes several days for them to get parts. Of course, it would be even better if we knew in advance when that was going to occur!

Maybe… call them? “So how’s the oven running? Oh… ok… rough…?”
They seem simple compared to the high-volume conveyors I’m used to. Be curious what some local places that use them say.

One of the most famous and busiest pizzerias in the NYC area Joe and Pat’s (Staten Island) use a fish oven. Walter

Probably are. And it isn’t that our conveyors never go down. They do. But I have two of them so an oven failure does not close us down.

His post appears to imply FISH ovens have issues and are not reliable. I would venture a guess that his neighbor does not maintain his oven very well, or at least did not in the past – despite what his neighbor may say. And maybe this guy is not very responsive in getting it fixed. Maybe there is a long term, more expensive repair that needs to be made because of neglect, but he has been putting it off and instead is just using brandade repairs? Seems strange since that’s the heart of his operation, but I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been around those types of ovens since I was a kid. They are pretty bullet proof and not made with hard to get parts.

As far as your situation goes, I’d say the solution is pretty simple. Go to an 18" pie or get an oven with a bigger deck – or bake on screens.

Curious as to why you have to load it on a “moving” shelf? Personally, I think it’s easier to load when the shelf is stopped.

It is certainly very possible that they do not maintain the oven well. On the other hand, ALL equipment breaks down and needs repairs from time to time. The oven in question is over 20 years old.

We are also not near a city (3 hour drive to Denver) so getting ANY part takes a while. Even the ones that are “not had to get”.

Yesterday they were closed and we got slammed. This time it was not defective equipment… it was defective employees… we had 20 inches of snow and none of his staff showed up for work! They all took the day off and went snowboarding.

Fish Builds an excellent oven.
That type oven was popular many years ago in the pizza industry.
After the development of the air impingement oven the industry almost completely has switched.
George Mills

Keep in mind too that these ovens are not greased with just any type of grease. I was raised using “reel” ovens, as they are correctly referred to as. The secret to keeping them running is to use a thin, graphite based lubricant on and shelf pivot points. I’ve always stopped the shelf for loading too, but use a metal blade peel for unloading rather than a wooden peel as it will be easier to slip under the pizza and it will be easier on the peel too. This type of oven is very popular in Chicago where LONG baking times are the norm rather than the exception. If you specialize in deep-dish pizzas you can really appreciate a reel oven.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

All good points and you guys all know more than I.
You can stop the shelf- but few do- in the few days I was there.
They did mention the greasing “thing”.
After 32 years with conveyors they seem pretty damn simple.
They use a wooden peel (and quite thick, too) which I did not care for.
The bake is around 8 minutes and the pies are really good, so I like the oven. It’s a integral ,part of your op if you are trying replicate a true NY (or other) style of pie.
So here’s a question- and it’s only because of George’s comment regarding impingement and such- what are the option, then? The nice thing about the Fish (or Reel) oven is there is really no turning and such as you would have in a traditional deck oven, so that is nice. Again- I’m 32 years on conveyors so… drop and forget is what I am used to. But it seems like to get THAT type of crust- THAT crunch, that thin crisp thin NY or Boston crust… my impression or understanding was that conveyors would not do that. I know there is the Picard that has stones (?) that comprise the belt.

Air impingement ovens by all means can give you a very crispy pizza, BUT the dough has to be formulated correctly, you have to use the right baking platform, and the oven has to be properly set-up to give the desired hearth bake characteristics. When properly done, a large and very popular pizza and chicken establishment near one of the Great Lakes picked an air impingement baked pizza over their deck baked pizzas in a blind test. When we used to do Pizza Kitchens at the pizza shows we got the same results all the time. I wrote an article in my column (In Lehmann’s Terms) some time ago on the different type of ovens where we looked at the pros and cons of each type. The one place where the air impingement ovens really shine is where DELCO and heavily topped pizzas are the order of the day. Every oven has its own strong and weak points you MUST match your oven to the type of pizza and your store concept. Too many people think of an oven only as a means to bake the pizza, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. The oven that you use to bake your pizzas in will make or break your finished pizza.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thanks for that. My problem- or reality- is 32 years with Domino’s. So I am somewhat brand-blind.
Domino’s puts this garlic, salty,parmesean cheese oil glop on all their crusts. I was in a friend’s store yesterday and said to him “too bad the crust tastes so bad that they need that” (not really bad, but completely flavorless- like bread- no bite, no crunch, no chew) Now, I put that crap on for many years- the only thing worse than tasting that crap is eating a slice and having it on your fingers. You can almost taste the chemicals.
I stopped by a local pizza place today that I love, and the crust is so incredibly delicious it amazes me. And it would probably not amaze many of you, but it does me because of those 32 years.
They do bake on decks.
I understand the DELCO/heavily topped reality so… yeah.
I need to get myself to a place (literally and figuratively) where the focus is on the food and not the price point… I simply could not take that anymore. I understand I am not selling Bentleys but… when EVERY SINGLE person says "You got the $5.99, right? as their opening line… just got to me.
Tom, how can I get some info on dough formulation for AI ovens?

we are deck oven, small, NY, artisan pizza, and doing great. To me the art goes out with the conveyor oven approach and profit is top concern. We made #46 in the USA in the yearly Yelp ratings so it is possible for small artisan shops to make a decent living. The less employees and sq ft the better for me :slight_smile: walter


Walter, I get it that you like a particular kind of pizza and that deck ovens are good for making it… I do take exception to your implied claim that shops that use conveyor ovens disdain quality in favor of profit.

We run deck ovens and have for 50 years. I love deck ovens. But, I love conveyor ovens as well. I love the idea. I even love a lot of product that comes out of them.

While I do agree that a good amount of people like the fact that their product comes from a deck oven, I also think in the next 10 or 15 years, nobody will give a shit. Tons of our customers as is could give a shit. Yours probably wouldn’t either to tell you the truth. I’ve tasted the best pizza I’ve ever had out of a home kenmore oven on a 28 dollar pizza stone… was it not artisan? Fact is, the average person has no clue about pizza ovens. Most people, and I mean a huge percentage of them have no clue that there are different types of ovens to cook a pizza in, all they know is good is good, crap is crap, it really is that simple.

I’ve tasted great pizza from a conveyor oven and make a very high quality product in a deck oven, but one thing I do know is that I’ve upset more people because it takes us forever (in today’s pizza speed standards) using deck ovens (3 double stacks per location) and still can’t keep up with customers fast lifestyles. I guarantee you that I upset more people because I haven’t streamlined to a faster system than if I were to switch to conveyor ovens and “changed” my product. One day I will make the switch and boost production but for now I’m just too hard headed and tired.

With all due respect, and I mean that because you look like you make a tasty product, Walter, but I do believe your cause to employ people with disabilities (which is beautiful and I thank you whole heartedly) should not be overlooked as an integral part of your success and recent news coverage. You made it to the top of yelp and I’ve read about your “success” on multiple pizza forums and I think it’s great, but it doesn’t make you any “better” than us guys out here struggling to make it.

I employ over 50 people and work what feels like 400 hours a week. Just making it to the next day is enough of a success for me in today’s ridiculously demanding world of setbacks and disgruntled customers. Unfortunately they don’t rank you for these kinds of things or I do believe I would be up there in the charts.

Sorry for sounding like an asshole. It’s been a terrible month. I’m usually a great guy, I swear.

Haha… thanks for sounding off! Tell you what, on the off chance that part of what made your month special could be employee related, how about we swap employees, I will send you one bonehead to straighten out and you can send me one?

3 double stacks… so 6 ovens… not being a smart-ass! Remember… conveyor guy!
How many at a time do those 6 cook and what’s the bake time… generally?
I did work on decks back in '90 for a few months so understand a little.

I also started on decks. My second pizza job was with Dominos in the late 70s. We had 3 double stacks of Baker’s Pride ovens in a campus store. With Dominos I also worked in a half dozen other locations all with decks. Later I worked at Green Mill which was a deep dish specialty house and we used decks. Been there and done that.

An oven tender in a high volume deck store has one of the toughest jobs in the business. good ones are few and far between!

We do 6 16" pizzas per deck at about 10 minutes bake time during the rush, less when the ovens are hot.

An oven tender in a high volume deck store has one of the toughest jobs in the business. good ones are few and far between!

Yup! And the scars on his/her forearm to prove it!