Types: Commercial microwave ovens can be one of the most indispensable tools in a kitchen. These units differ significantly from their residential counterparts in terms of durability, technology, controls and capacity. Newer microwaves feature technology that allows for better energy penetration into the center of food, which helps prevent overcooking.
Capacities/Footprints: Cabinet sizes on most commercial models range from 13" to 25" wide, 13" to 25" deep and 13" to 19" high. Usable cavity space generally ranges from .8- to 1.56-cu.-ft. Larger-size cavities can hold a 13" platter or two 4"-tall full-size steam table pans with covers.
Energy Source(s): Smaller microwaves operate on either 115V or 120V; larger, heavy-duty ovens require 208V to 240V. Microwaves' power output is measured in watts. Most low-volume operations will receive enough performance from a 700-watt oven. Busier outlets are more likely to require 1800- to 2200-watt ovens.
Manufacturing Method: The units' case typically features stainless-steel construction with a ceramic interior on the bottom. Adjustable legs are commonly chrome-plated, but powder-coated handles are also a popular feature. Heavy-duty hinges are designed to withstand the wear and tear of repetitive door-slamming.
Standard Features: These include programmable memory pad selectors, multiple-portion touch pads, manual operation capabilities, a cycle counter to track oven usage, electronic timers with digital displays, see-through doors and lighted cavities. Removable or easy-to-clean air filters help reduce the effects of grease-laden air on oven components. Most microwave ovens come equipped with an automatic shut-off device to prevent overheating. Doors have two independent but interlocking systems that automatically shut off the oven when a door is ajar. Doors also come with seals and absorbers to eliminate the chance of radiation leakage.
New Features/Technology/Options: Microwaves are available with top- and bottom-feed technology for more consistent heating. While some units are capable of storing up to 100 cooking programs for easier preparation of best-selling menu items, other models provide stage cooking, allowing users to program specific cooking times and microwave power. Some microwaves automatically adjust the cooking time for pre-programmed menu items when multiple quantities are being prepared. This feature not only prevents overcooking on the edges and surfaces of food items, but also results in more consistent food temperatures and textures.
Prime Functions: Microwave ovens cook, defrost, selfsteam and reheat foods. Operators mostly use them in concert with other types of cooking equipment to speed production and help keep ambient kitchen temperatures low.
Key Kitchen Applications: Many types of operations, including bars, quickcasual restaurants, banquet halls, hospitals, nursing homes and hotels, use microwaves to defrost and rapidly bring foods back to the proper serving temperature.
Convenience-store foodservice operations commonly use microwaves to prepare frozen packaged products. Some endusers also use microwaves to steam seafood and vegetables. In general, microwave ovens tend to work well with any foods that have more moisture, such as vegetables, pastas and certain grains.
Purchasing Guidelines: Before choosing what size microwave is needed, the cooking vessel size needs to be determined. End-users should also consider how they intend to use their microwave ovens and determine the appropriate wattage. For example, if the intended application is bulk-defrosting, operators should consider a higher wattage. If a menu warrants a microwave that can store cooking programs, a model offering stage cooking or a multiplequantity option may be necessary.
Maintenance Requirements: Microwave ovens are considered electronic devices and as such they require cool air to keep them from overheating and functioning properly, which can pose a challenge when positioned above a fryer or steamer. By the same token, keep air intake filters clean to allow proper airflow and both grease and moisture to evacuate the oven cavity. Never turn on a microwave oven if it is empty, since the unit needs to emit energy through product absorption. A clean microwave cavity enhances the unit's operational efficiency. Debris inside the oven's cavity may burn or catch fire and will prevent uniform heating patterns, compromising cooking consistency.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Use of a food thermometer or an oven's temperature probe to verify that foods have reached their safe temperatures is recommended. When defrosting food in a microwave, it should be cooked thoroughly after thawing.