THE microwave is something of an unsung hero; subject to some misconceptions, it has become an integral part of many commercial kitchens, offering drastically reduced waiting times which makes it perfect for busy bars and restaurants.
So while the microwave’s significance to an outlet’s overall food offer can often be overlooked in the world of catering, the message from those in the know is clear: it’s crucial operators find the most suitable microwave to meet the needs of their venues.
Ray Hall, managing director of catering equipment firm RH Hall, said: “To choose the right kind of microwave, operators should look at their menu and decide what tasks the microwave oven should undertake. If the microwave is to be used mainly for simple reheating and defrosting of foods then a straightforward commercial microwave will suffice.
“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.
“It is very important to choose the correct microwave oven wattage. You need to select an oven with sufficient power.”
John Marks, area sales manager for Stephens Catering Equipment, backed that view, saying operators should think long and hard about what the best solution for their venues is by taking into account their individual menus and then volume requirement.
Operators should look at their menu and decide what tasks the microwave oven should undertake.
He said: “Microwaves are only designed to be operated a certain number of times a day and, based on this, it is not always wise to buy one heavy duty unit and operate it to within an inch of its life where buying two medium duty units may be more beneficial in the long run.”
Licensees should also consider recent advances in microwave technology when looking to purchase a new one, stated Ian Phillips, sales and marketing manager for Panasonic UK.
The company has recently developed a new product, which uses inverter technology, said to enable “faster, more even, gentler cooking, which uses less energy”.
The NE-1878 microwave was created after two years working with on-trade customers to “address some of the issues they had in their operations”, said Phillips.
When it comes to what dishes can be prepared well solely with the use of microwaves, the variety may surprise some, according to Marks of Stephens Catering Equipment.
He said: “With the number of food service companies now offering [microwavable] quality pub classics, such as sausage and mash, beef and ale casserole and lasagne, you can cook just about any staple pub dish in a microwave.”
Hall of RH Hall agreed, asserting many popular meals can be prepared quickly and to a high standard in microwaves.
He said: “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 foods conventionally and their versatility is underestimated.
“There are many options for operators to purchase pre-prepared meals that can then be reheated in as little as two or three minutes in a 1900W machine.”
And while it may seem obvious, one of the most common mistakes made when acquiring microwaves for a commercial kitchen is purchasing a domestic machine which is not powerful enough, said Marks of Stephens Catering Equipment.
“A commercial microwave is an important part of the modern pub kitchen; its versatility lends itself to single portion reheating, bulk portion cooking and defrosting,” he said.
“Commercial microwaves are designed for the constant abuse they receive in the commercial environment. They have stronger door parts, larger magnetrons and cooling fans which allow them to run for longer and are generally more powerful.
“You may also run the risk of voiding any insurance claims using a domestic product in a commercial environment.”
• Test your menu items in advance to ensure you have the right model for your menu, ensuring you have the correct cooking times for top quality results.
• Always choose the best model you can afford, with a proven track record of reliability and durability. Check the warranty and service back up available, as well as spare part availability.
• Consider touchpad programmable or manual controls, dependent on your menu – as well as additional operational features such as double quantity cooking and express defrost.
– RH Hall.