THE microwave is something of an underdog in the commercial kitchen; hidden behind the scenes, it arguably plays a major role in many pub and restaurant kitchens. And as technology continues to evolve, microwaves are more important – and versatile – than ever before, according to catering equipment firms.
Glenn Roberts, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), told SLTN that the microwave remains an essential piece of kit.
“It’s still a must-have in most commercial kitchens – it’s such a handy tool for all sorts of regular tasks, from defrosting to a quick blast of heat, to making a sauce,” said Roberts.
Taking a similar stance, Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall, said if used properly, the microwave “will form a key part of the kitchen operation”. And, in his view, it’s a piece of kitchen kit that’s often undervalued.
“Today’s microwave ovens are sophisticated, yet easy to use and produce excellent cooking results in a fraction of the time it takes to cook food conventionally and their versatility is underestimated,” said Brearley.
“The most obvious benefit to any operator is speed, but there is a great deal of versatility that a microwave can offer.”
Today’s microwave ovens are sophisticated, easy to use and produce excellent cooking results.
In fact, thanks to advances in technology, microwaves can offer operators greater flexibility than ever before, reckons Roberts of CESA.
He said: “The development of combi and turbo microwaves, which combine different heat sources, means they can be used to brown foods, too.
“Their energy efficiency is an increasingly important benefit and the fact that they create very little waste heat or steam means they can be used anywhere – back or front of house.”
Taking a similar stance, Brearley of RH Hall said a subject of current discussion is the use of RF Solid State cooking technology, which he said “provides far better and more consistent power control, along with many other benefits”.
While the cost of this technology is currently very high, Brearley reckons as more suppliers look to offer high-speed ovens with a 13-amp option, there will be more market opportunities for this equipment.
Ian Phillips, sales and marketing manager at Panasonic UK, told SLTN that the firm’s launch of a commercial microwave with inverter technology is a major step forward in terms of the unit’s capabilities.
He explained: “A traditional microwave oven cooks using a transformer and will send out a single level of power in small bursts to cook food at different speeds.
Caterers should look for a full service back-up in terms of on-site warranty and availability of spares.
“When you dial your oven down to cook at 60% power, the microwave energy will be on full power 60% of the time, and idle 40% of the time, for the duration of the time selected, in phases.
“The inverter microwave will accurately deliver the power level selected for 100% of the cooking time.
“This gives much better, more even cooking results – and is gentler on the food, so no hot spots.”
Phillips added that the NE-1878’s all-metal door also offers a host of benefits to operators.
“This new [microwave] oven can sit proudly in full view, sporting its all-metal door, looking just like another piece of commercial catering equipment – and it is much easier to clean as there are no seals or ridges for food to get stuck in, prolonging the life of the [microwave oven],” said Phillips.
The combination microwave and high speed oven market is also continuing to grow, according to Brearley of RH Hall, who said the technology offers “the speed of microwave cooking, combined with the versatility of more conventional methods”.
Beyond advances in capabilities, Brearley stressed the importance of purchasing equipment which comes with a comprehensive warranty.
“Caterers should look for a full service back-up in terms of on-site warranty and availability of spares from their manufacturer,” he said.
“Expect at least one year’s warranty; some manufacturers offer three years. Genuine service back-up in a commercial situation is absolutely critical. With annual servicing in place and by buying a recognised, quality brand, there is absolutely no reason why your commercial microwave shouldn’t last between three to five years and even more dependent on site and how the oven is cared for.”
Microwave wattage is important. A domestic will typically range from 800w – 1000w; a commercial starts from 1000w, ranging up to 1900w or more – RH Hall
Commercial units are sturdier and more powerful than domestic models. Most domestic microwaves have a turntable; commercial units do not – CESA
A domestic microwave is designed for use at home; any other use will invalidate any warranty it is sold with. Another big difference is build quality – RH Hall
To withstand repeated use and to prevent a dangerous drop off in power, commercial units often have two magnetrons – the units that produce power – CESA