Legend has it that a chocolate bar melted into the pocket of an engineer during a test experiment on a device named magnetron, resulting in the invention of the heating unit we all know of today as the microwave oven. A by-product of such an experiment, the microwave oven would contain the magnetron, the high powered vacuum tube that generates microwave radiation, helping hundreds and thousands of homes and commercial kitchens all around the world to heat their cooked meals in seconds.

When used correctly, microwave ovens can be one of the most effective pieces of equipment in professional kitchens offering great performance and reliability for many applications and workloads, whether it be heating, defrosting, melting butter and chocolate, or finishing off a cooked dish. Choosing the correct microwave is crucial for meeting individual requirements, maintaining reliability and maximizing the return on your investment.

As a starting point, consider the design of the oven; this is likely to provide you the most reliability under heavy use in a tough kitchen environment. 

Problem - A big issue for all commercial microwave ovens is the ingress of fat or grease that accumulates in the oven, resulting in arcing and failure of almost all components.

For example: Some manufacturers use an extremely thin stainless steel cavity assembly that has been welded together in a cheaper manner. What this means is that even the smallest amount of fat or grease not cleaned from the oven or a metal or non-safe microwave dish will result in the arcing of the stainless cavity. What’s more, the thinness of the steel can also force irreversible damage to other components making it less cost effective to repair and void of any warranty.

The key differentiator for many ovens in such a case is the resistance to this ingress.

Solution – The use of a thicker stainless steel, greater sealing and better design can certainly help prevent this ingress. While arcing of the cavity can still occur, a thicker steel and a more manual joining technique, together with a quick polish at the arcing point, will more likely air in the longevity of operation rather than the disposal of the oven altogether. At the same time, you can be sure that magnetrons, printed circuit boards, stirrer fans are all sealed and protected from exposure to the damage caused by fat and grease.

Another essential component in the longevity of microwave ovens is ensuring that the magnetron (the power and heart) is kept cool by the fan. In quality microwaves, this is done by the use of tight ducting aimed directly at the magnetron. 

Problem - A lack of ducting is likely to result in the magnetron’s failure. The symptoms for this specific failure however are the same as those of arcing due to the fat or grease ingress leaving the customer with a costly repair that is again not covered by warranty. 

Solution - Correctly specified ovens will not result in burnt out magnetron tips that are misdiagnosed due to the fat or grease ingress, protecting the customer from regular repairs costing hundreds of dollars.  

Power Output & Speed
A microwave oven’s speed is normally determined by the power output, not input. Measured in watts, many kitchens benefit from a higher output oven due to faster heating times. 

For example (heating times):

1900watt – 28 sec
1600watt – 37 sec
1300watt – 46 sec
1000watt – 60 sec
900watt – 67 sec

Evidently, the greater the power output the faster the oven, hence the less time is required to heat the product. Capable of operating for longer periods of time, high power heavy duty ovens can prove to be the far more cost effective and efficient choice than other lesser quality models.

Daily Usage
While a microwave oven’s power output is an important feature to consider, in most instances it is not the deciding factor when making a purchase. Most often, microwave ovens tend to rate in terms of their recommended daily usage. Sure, all microwave ovens are designed to perform a specific workload over a set period of time, but what is essential is to select the correct model according to your usage pattern.

Subconsciously, many users are led to believe that their microwave oven is only used for a number of minutes a day. Guided by this false pretense, many microwave ovens also state their user time in terms of ‘uses’ instead of minutes.  To say that a microwave can be used 100 times a day is misleading when considering the time it will take for different products to heat.

For example: Lasagna may take 3 minutes to heat each time. Over the course of the day, 10 lasagnas will in total use 30 minutes of microwave time. Alternatively, if a muffin takes 15 seconds to heat, 10 muffins will use 2 minutes and 30 seconds of microwave time.

1 x Lasagna -> 3 min
10 x Lasagnas -> 30 min

1 x Muffin -> 15 sec
10 x Muffins -> 2 min 30 sec

Looking at the above example, it is clear that the lasagna will reach the recommended daily usage much faster than the muffin. For the highest return on your investment, consider the most cost effective microwave oven for your workload in accordance with your individual usage pattern.

Cafeideas supports many industry leading microwave oven brands available to purchase online and in store. Click here and discover a wide range of commercial ovens to suit your needs.