WITH commercial kitchens about to be under more strain than at any other time of year, chefs and kitchen staff will doubtless be looking for ways to cut down on preparation and cooking times.
As customer expectations are arguably higher than ever, however, compromising on standards really isn’t an option.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of that sometimes overlooked piece of kitchen kit – the microwave.
Suppliers say the right commercial microwave can provide a range of benefits to outlets over the festive season, claiming the ovens are well-suited to preparing a wide range of festive food.
Vegetables, gravies, fish, rice, cakes and puddings (including Christmas Pudding) are among the foods highlighted by equipment suppliers as being well-suited to preparation in a microwave.
“Aside from the obvious speed of cooking, microwaves are versatile, space-saving (units can easily be stacked), have low running costs and are also extremely affordable,” said Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall.
Aside from the obvious speed of cooking, microwaves are versatile, space-saving units.
With the start of the festive season only days away, licensees and chefs were advised to carry out some last minute checks of their current microwave(s) to ensure they are up to the tasks ahead of them.
“Users should check their festive menu and decide which cooking tasks will be handled in the microwave,” said Brearley.
“Tests should be carried out in advance to ensure that the microwave being used has the correct wattage to produce the right results for the menu items in question.”
Also consider the age and past reliability of the machine, said firms, as well as whether the current equipment is under warranty. If it is, it can be a good idea to look out any paperwork and find out if the supplier is operating a call-out service over the festive season – just in case.
Consider replacing any older or faulty units as soon as possible; having a machine fail in the middle of a busy lunch or dinner service could spell disaster.
A simple cleaning routine will ensure your microwave will function throughout service.
Choosing the right microwave for an outlet will depend on what the unit will be used for, said firms.
Microwaves come in many formats and as such have numerous applications that can benefit operators if used to their full potential,” said Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager at Panasonic UK.
“During the festive season, when used for predominantly reheating wet food such as soups and sauces or for making chutneys or tempering chocolate, a standard oven will suffice.
“However, if your menu features items requiring a crisp, baked finish you should look at alternative models, such as the combination microwave.”
Brearley at RH Hall agreed.
He said food 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”.
Wattage should also be considered.
Brearley warned that, if a machine’s wattage is too low, it can cause delays in the kitchen. Too high a wattage, however, can “destroy smaller portions of food or the delicate and sugary types of products”.
And, as with any product, you get what you pay for.
“Cheap microwaves are cheap for a reason; weaker motors and door hinges, poor design and inefficient heat distribution all lead to a lower purchase price, and ultimately poor performance,” said Phillips.
Fully replacing a microwave may not be necessary, of course, but Brearley advised there are options if a licensee is concerned about their equipment.
Cheap microwaves are cheap for a reason; poor design will lead to a lower purchase price.
“If an operator is unsure of the reliability of their machine, but is not yet ready to invest in a replacement, consider a smaller back-up machine that can help with essential menu items in an emergency,” he said.
“Many suppliers offer affordable, entry level models, that still meet all commercial standards and quality.”
Regardless of whether chefs are using a new or existing microwave over the festive season, regular cleaning and maintenance were said to be essential.
Phillips at Panasonic UK said there are a number of steps that should feature in every operator’s cleaning regime.
“Certain recurring breakdowns are preventable,” he said.
“Burnt ceiling plates, cracked base plates and penetration by grease into working parts will not be covered by a manufacturer’s guarantee and the cost for repair will lie with the operator – but a simple cleaning routine at the end of every service will help ensure your microwave will function throughout service.
“You should remove the air filters daily and wash them, and if your machine has an easily removed ceiling plate, take that out and wash it too.”
Brearley agreed, describing regular cleaning as “one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked for getting the best from a microwave”.
He said chefs should ensure the microwave’s cavity and inner door are kept clear of food spillages at all times, which will not only prolong the life of the machine but also help keep heat times consistent.
It’s worth the effort. If a unit is kept in good order, it can act as “an additional member of the kitchen team”, said Phillips.
– test menu items in advance to ensure correct cooking times and top quality results.
– check the warranty of your machine and consider a replacement or back-up machine if necessary.
– skip on maintenance and cleaning in the run up to, or during, the festive season.
– expect a domestic machine to keep up during this busy time and make sure a proper commercial machine is in place.
– Supplied by RH Hall