Microwaves are an important piece of equipment which, for many shops, are in constant use everyday, but what should you look out for when buying one?
Every fish and chip shop has a microwave, the main reason being that they offer speed of cooking, which is essential for speed of service.
Great for defrosting and reheating a range of food from pies, saveloys, mushy peas and curry sauce, microwaves can also be used to cook complete meals, which allows friers to offer a wider choice of menu. David Watts, Buffalo brand manager for Nisbets, comments. “Any recipe that requires poaching, steaming or braising can be carried out in a microwave, making them an extremely versatile piece of equipment.
“Vegetables steamed in the microwave will retain more of their nutrients than with conventional boiling methods, so steaming vegetables this way is not only healthier for your customers but also frees up the hotplate – saving even more time.”
Microwaves have the added advantage of a smaller footprint than conventional ovens, great in fish and chip shops where space is often at a premium. What’s more, they are very energy efficient. When cooking vegetables, for example, they use three times less energy than that of a gas hob.
When it comes to choosing a microwave, it’s money well spent buying a commercial one. They are larger, more powerful and designed for easy cleaning, unlike domestic units which simply aren’t built for the rigours of a professional kitchen. Kris Brearley, sales director for R H Hall, also recommends steering away from cheap imports, adding: “The testing, safety and product back-up that are offered by the leading brand names are often not available with a cheap import.”
One of the most important aspects to get right is the microwave wattage. You need to choose an oven with sufficient power, but just as importantly, do not over specify. If too low, you can be frustrated by delays, and if too high, it will be difficult to judge the timing of small portions. RH Hall’s Kris adds: “Whilst it is common for caterers to choose speed (the higher the output the faster reheat times), it is also very important to understand that too much speed can destroy smaller portions of food, especially delicate and sugary types of products.”
Next, you need to choose the right kind of microwave for your business, which means taking a look at your menu and deciding what tasks the microwave oven will be undertaking. Kris adds: “If you require the microwave to be used mainly for the simple reheat and defrosting of foods then a straight 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.”
A unit like Maestrowave’s Combi Chef 7 is ideal here. It has 11 cooking modes so it can bake, roast, grill, steam, defrost, regenerate, microwave, boil or simply keep food warm, plus it can store up to 99 menus to ensure consistency time after time.
Another top tip is to consider specific features that will suit your business. The GK642 Buffalo Programmable Commercial microwave oven from Nisbets, for example, not only features 20 pre-programmed settings to save time, four power levels and a timer range of 40 minutes, but also a useful x2 button so the unit will work out how long to cook two portions without you having to do the maths.
Taking time to consider the number of microwaves required so you have enough units to cope will also pay off. There’s nothing worse than having staff standing around waiting to use a microwave that is already in use, as this will significantly slow down the whole process.
Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager for Panasonic, comments: “If two microwaves are required in the same location, then ovens that stack and save on worktop space will be an advantage – not all microwaves are stackable.”
Once you have chosen your oven, it’s imperative you carry out regular cleaning to ensure its effectiveness and reliability. Iain adds: “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.”
A daily cleaning regime should involve removing the air filters and washing them and, if your machine has an easily removed ceiling, taking that out and washing it too.
A great tip here is to invest in a cavity liner, like Microsave from Cavity Protection Systems, which is easily removed, cleaned and replaced in the microwave, protecting the entire cavity from grease and food particles which can cause damage to the microwave.
Valera introduces own brand of microwaves
Kitchen equipment supplier Valera has launched its very own range of microwaves which it says engineer out some of the failings and weaknesses of machines currently on the market.
The cavity, for example, has been constructed so as there are fewer places for spillages or leaks to occur and therefore less likelihood of damage to the internal components. The units have glass doors, as opposed to plastic, so there is no chance of the door mesh being damaged by hot plates and food subsequently finding its way into the inner workings of the door. The controls meanwhile have been designed to be simple and intuitive and feature a x2 and x3 function.
Three different 1800W models are available with the largest, the VMC1880, capable of holding two large plates or a 2/3 gastronorm container. All three are stackable and come with a three year parts and labour warranty.
Valera 0845 270 4321 www.valera.co.uk