Modern microwaves can fill many roles for on-trade outlets
SPEED is essential in commercial kitchens and nothing provides rapid cooking times like a microwave.
Whether operators are running a small wet-led pub offering a concise selection of bar food or a busy restaurant, microwaves are a crucial bit of kit.
Therefore it’s important to get the most from a microwave and that begins with buying the right one, understanding how broad a role it can play in the kitchen and looking after it properly, firms told SLTN.
Kris Brearley, sales director at RH Hall, reckons the versatility of commercial microwaves is often underrated.
“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,” he said.
“Many foods and dishes can be cooked very, very well in a microwave oven, with great results.
“The most obvious benefit to any operator is speed, but there is a great deal of versatility that a microwave can offer. Used properly, the microwave will form a key part of the kitchen operation and the ability to serve a full menu.”
Today’s microwaves are sophisticated, easy to use and produce excellent results.
John Whitehouse, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), which represents over 190 commercial catering equipment suppliers, stated that the functionality and convenience of modern microwaves makes them kitchen must-haves.
He said: “In a modern combi microwave, food isn’t just heated, it’s piping hot, brown and crispy as well. These rapid cook ovens can handle a wide variety of products, making it easy to add new options to the menu.”
That assertion was backed by Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager of Panasonic, who said that microwaves are now playing an increasingly multifaceted role in kitchens.
He said: “In the past, it would have been true that pub operators were mainly using microwaves to reheat sauces and heat up basic dishes but as chefs become more adventurous, they are discovering new ways to use their microwaves, such as for drying herbs, tempering chocolate or reducing small volumes of sauces to order.”
Microwaves can also help expand a menu and enable chefs to offer dishes that “may otherwise be time restrictive”, according to Phillips.
Some dishes can be pre-cooked, slowly, in the traditional way then reheated to order.
“Some dishes can be pre-cooked, slowly, in the traditional way – pork ribs or lamb shoulder, for example – then reheated in the microwave to order and finished on a charcoal grill or BBQ to achieve an authentic, smoky flavour and textured outer skin,” he added.
This multipurpose approach was demonstrated at this year’s National Breakfast Awards, said Phillips.
“We saw first-hand how creative some chefs can be just using a microwave oven to heat the components of their dishes; grilled bacon, tomatoes, and bananas, poached, fried and scrambled eggs, toasted bagels, melted cheese and baked black pudding,” he said.
When it comes to choosing the right microwave for different outlets, the functions the equipment will be expected to perform should be kept in mind.
Brearley of RH Hall said: “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 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.”
Another major consideration for operators looking for a new microwave is wattage, according to Brearley.
He said: “You need to select an oven with sufficient power, but just as importantly, do not over specify.
“If too low, frustrations can be caused by delays, and if too high, it can be difficult for the user to judge the timing of small portions.”
And now due to some improvements in the appearances department, modern microwaves needn’t be hidden away from customers, reckons Whitehouse of CESA.
He said: “While the traditional image that a microwave conjures up is that of an appliance hidden in the depths of a kitchen, there are modern aesthetically appealing options available for front of house, many of which are designed specifically for bars and high street food-to-go operations that are short on space.”
Whitehouse also advised licensees to ensure staff are properly trained to use equipment to prolong its life span.
He said: “Make sure everyone knows how to operate and clean the microwave.
“Ensure they understand the significance of any warning alerts that the machine may flash up, and know how to respond to them right away.”
What to avoid
Always choose from a commercial range of microwaves, operators shouldn’t be tempted to go down the domestic route – these units simply aren’t built for the rigours of a professional kitchen.
We would also recommend that cheap imports are avoided – the testing, safety and product back-up that are offered by the leading brand names are often not available with a cheap import.
– RH Hall.
Maximise the magnetron
Training is the key to day-to-day maintenance. Staff misuse is still the biggest cause of service call outs.
Keep the oven’s cavity and inner door clean of food spillage/deposits at all times. This will avoid cavity burn ups and prolong its life.
– RH Hall.
Manufacturers and suppliers should be willing to train your staff – take advantage of the training packages they offer.
A good quality commercial machine should come with a minimum of one year on-site parts and labour warranty.
– RH Hall.