By Brian Montgomery
Microwave ovens have long been the go-to for foodservice operators looking to quickly cook or heat up food for customers that can't wait. And they're great for re-heating things, and some are even able to steam. But as wonderful as the basic microwave oven is, there are certain things that they just can't do--toast a sandwich, bake cookies or bread, or even cook a crispy pizza or brown meats.
Sure, you could get a convection oven, or even a combi oven. Both of these do a great job in their respective areas, but then you're sacrificing the speed. Combi ovens are certainly versatile, but not really practical for doing one or two servings at a time.
Cue dual-technology rapid cook microwave ovens! Although the premise (and technology) for them has been around for decades, they never really caught on until more recently, mainly due to pricing, size, and level of refinement. Changes in the industry itself helped bring about these changes.
Imagine a convenience store wanting to offer more than hot dogs from a roller grill, or microwavable burritos. Or, a movie theater that wants to sell toasted sandwiches or personal pizzas alongside popcorn and candy. Or a coffee shop, food kiosk, or other location that wants to expand its menu but doesn't have enough kitchen space (or a kitchen at all)! it all boils down to this: How to increase your product offerings in a location that isn't really set up for it.
And that's what is so great these machines. For example, Amana's high speed combination ovens (ACE14, AXP22) and their Menumaster line, Merrychef, and Turbochef products all can prepare foods from three to fifteen times faster than conventional cooking methods without sacrificing taste or quality! Although each of these manufacturers' products differs slightly in exactly how they achieve such stellar results, the basic premise is the same.
Speed, Versatility, Compact Size
A rapid cook oven like these uses microwave energy, which helps them cook the food quickly, but adds in radiant, convection-type heat, via air impingement, forced convection, or infrared heating elements--some models even combine several of these heating styles. That gives you the crisping and browning that you just can't get in a microwave alone.
Consistency and Control
Another hallmark of this type of oven is the level of precise control they give you over the cooking process. All come with recipe presets (varying in numbers), and most let you program in different recipes, for one-touch operation and consistent, repeatable results every time. No matter who is using the oven, even if you have multiple locations, your items will be prepared the same way every time. Your customers will love that, and so do health inspectors!
Use it Anywhere
If the speed and consistency advantages haven't sold you on a rapid cook oven yet, here's one more advantage--nearly all available models come with a UL-approved catalytic converter to capture steam, smoke and grease particles, letting you operate the oven without a ventilation hood!