For a commercial venture, having the right equipment is just as important.
And, according to suppliers and manufacturers, the microwave continues to play an essential role in commercial kitchens.
Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager at Panasonic UK, said that in terms of light kitchen equipment, the microwave is a “fundamental item that can be invaluable to a pub kitchen regardless of the style of service or food on offer”.
When it comes to choosing a microwave, Phillips warned operators that heading for the cheapest option could be a false economy.
“As with most things in life, you get what you pay for and saving a few pounds on the purchase price could prove costly in the future with reliability and heat distribution issues,” he said.
“Buy the best you can afford, and be realistic about what you will use it for.”
Fortunately, commercial microwaves are available at a range of price points.
“A commercial microwave should cost from £200 for a light duty model suitable for snack bars up to £2000 plus for heavy duty high power, high volume models,” said David Watts, UK general manager of Samsung Professional Appliances.
Watts reminded operators to also pay close attention to the warranty and servicing on offer.
“Modern commercial microwaves should last for three to [more than] five years,” he said. “Most reputable brands offer three years full warranty,” said Watts.
It’s not just the price that differs between models, and Nick Oryino, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers’ Association (CESA), said it is important operators consider what their microwave will be used for.
“A microwave oven’s power output determines how fast it will cook / heat food,” he said.
“The variety of features available, such as variable power and multi-stage cooking, determines what function it has and what type of outlet it will suit.
“A true light duty commercial microwave oven, typically with a power rating of 1000W to 1200W, is suitable for low volume applications where speed isn’t critical.
“The most popular heavy duty models have power outputs of 1800W/1900W, though they can vary from 1400W to 3200W. They are designed for fast food heating and cooking applications over a prolonged service period.
“The higher output models are also better suited for pre-packed, portion-controlled frozen ready meals.”
To make the best possible microwave selection Ray Hall, managing director of catering equipment supplier RH Hall, suggested operators look to their menu.
“To choose the right kind of microwave, operators should look at what dishes they are producing and what you need the oven to do,” said Hall.
“If you require the microwave to be used mainly for the simple reheat and defrosting of foods then a straightforward commercial microwave will suffice.
To choose the right kind of microwave operators should look at the dishes they serve.
“However, if you wish to reheat and cook food products then a microwave convection oven is well advised.
“Items such as pastry will become soggy if reheated in an ordinary microwave whereas using a combination microwave convection oven the crisp golden brown and conventional finished result will be achieved [but] in microwave time.”
Once a new microwave has been purchased, Hall reminded operators that they should “be prepared for a bit of trial and error” and that “understanding is still the key to success with microwave cooking”.
“Consider each of the foods you are cooking – every food has a different moisture, fat and sugar content and different starting temperatures – eg. refrigerated, ambient, etc. and these factors all affect cooking times and can affect the final result,” he said.
Hall commented that there has been “a lot of negativity” towards microwave cooking in the past, “but there shouldn’t be”.
“Microwaves can cook great food in a fraction of the time it would take with other methods,” added Hall.
“Not only do they save time, but money and nutrients too.”