With so much choice, buyers need to be careful
A multitude of models are now available to the commercial caterer, with businesses able to pick the right equipment for their specific needs.
Ray Hall, managing director of catering equipment supplier RH Hall, said the secret to the microwave’s success has been its versatility.
“The microwave oven, in today’s commercial kitchen has become a vital piece of equipment,” he said.
“With technology developing at a rapid pace and with the ability to do everything from roast, bake grill, steam or simply reheat, you will find many kitchens with several machines designed for different tasks.”
And yet, despite the proliferation of the microwave in commercial kitchens, some of the historic pre-conceptions remain.
Shad Williams, equipment specialist at supplier Alliance Online, said some potential customers are still unaware of the advances the technology has seen in recent years.
“What’s not widely known is that microwave technology has developed significantly in the past decade, and therefore the microwave defrosts, reheats and cooks food to a significantly higher standard than previously,” Williams said.
“Long gone is the cardboard-esque food that previously was so closely associated with microwaves.”
The compact size of the machines is also a big advantage, particularly in outlets that are struggling for kitchen space.
“They’re fast, reliable, they can cook or reheat lots of different products and they are easy to operate,” said David Watts, senior manager at Samsung Professional Appliances.
“Most can be plugged into a standard 13 amp supply and, vitally for many locations, they’re compact.
“They don’t produce large quantities of steam, heat or odours so, in most cases, they don’t require much in the way of extraction or ventilation.”
There can be pitfalls for buyers who don’t know what they’re doing, however.
Keith Warren, director of trade body the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), advised that catering industry buyers should always ensure that the microwave they buy is specifically designed for commercial use.
“Never buy a domestic oven to use in a catering environment,” Warren said.
“The power outputs on domestic microwaves can drop with over-use and food may not reach safe cooking temperatures, compromising food safety.”
Warren added that commercial microwaves tend to be split into two categories: light and “heavy duty” models. The lighter versions have power outputs of between 700 and 800 Watts and tend to be used for smaller restaurants and cafes, whereas the heavy duty machines are rated between 900 and 2200W and are used for faster heating and cooking in larger restaurants.
While speed may seem like the best option for caterers, Ray Hall advised that cooking too quickly can actually be damaging for certain food types, such as smaller portions or delicate and sugary products.
Chefs looking for more flexibility should look for microwaves with settings that can accommodate various types of food, he explained.
Hall also advised buyers to take a good look at any microwave before they buy it, ensuring that high quality stainless steel is used inside and out, and that the control functions are solid and responsive.