Riding the wave

Sail through the festive season with a little help from the microwave

Christmas party season is fast-approaching, and as things begin to heat up in kitchens across the country, consistency is key.

microwave garlic bread
With this in mind, microwave manufacturers say their equipment can play a vital role over the festive period.
Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager at Panasonic UK, suggested that now may be the ideal time for operators to acquire a new microwave ahead of the anticipated increase in footfall over the festive season.
“During what is, for many pubs, the busiest time of the year, a microwave can assist with numerous recipe applications and the preparation of a broad range of recipes, with no deterioration in the quality of the food,” said Phillips.
The commercial microwaves available today are “no longer limited to ‘defrost and reheat’”, Phillips said, adding that modern microwaves give chefs the ability to offer “a wider choice, quicker and in greater volumes”.
When it comes to selecting a new microwave, Kris Brearley, sales director at catering equipment supplier RH Hall, said operators should look to their outlet’s menu as a guide to which model will be best for them.
“If the microwave is to be used mainly for simple reheating and defrosting of foods then a straight-forward commercial microwave will suffice,” said Brearley.
“However, if you wish to reheat and cook food products then a combination microwave oven is well advised.
“Items such as pastry will become soggy if reheated in an ordinary microwave whereas using a combination microwave the crisp, golden brown and conventional finished result will be achieved in microwave time.”
The power output of a microwave is key, said Brearly, and operators must find the right balance for their needs.
“You need to select an oven with sufficient power, but just as importantly, do not over specify,” said Brearly.
“If too low, frustrations can be caused by delays, and if too high, it will be difficult for the user to judge the timing of small portions.

cooked vegetables
“Whilst it is common for caterers to choose speed (the higher the output the faster reheat times), it is also very important to understand that for some food products too much speed will destroy smaller portions of food or the delicate and sugary types of products.”
Simon Frost, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), underlined the importance of a microwave’s power output, and highlighted a number of other factors for operators to consider when making a purchase.
“A true light duty commercial microwave oven, typically with a power rating of 1000W to 1200W, is suitable for applications like point-of-service heating, dessert/sweet dish reheating and low volume restaurants where speed isn’t critical,” said Frost.
“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.”
Getting the right microwave is a vital first step, but operators also need to spend time training staff on how to use it, said Frost, to ensure customers are presented with quality food consistently.
“[A] powerful reason for training is that staff are happier if they know what they are doing and understand the equipment they are using,” he said.
“So training will help with staff retention and consistent delivery of well cooked food.
“Manufacturers will give training. Some also run courses for customers, often free, to help them get the most out of the equipment.”