Souping up the Restaurant Oven: Speed Cooking Cuts Prep Times by Huge Amounts
If your first thought when you hear the phrase “speed cooking” is of a pepperoni pizza turnover as it oozes molten cheese and tomato sauce in your first microwave oven, we may be about to change your commercial kitchen forever. When it comes to ways to cook food faster, the truth is there is an array of restaurant oven options that can provide consistent, quality results. You also likely won’t be required to use a ventilation hood over most fast cooking equipment, which will save you money in kitchen construction.
Commercial Microwave Ovens Form a Foundation for Speedy Restaurant Ovens
Since they’re the entries you’re most likely to be familiar with, let’s start here. A commercial microwave oven uses a magnetron to produce microwaves, invisible radiation that causes particles in the food to flip out – literally. As they turn over and back again, they create heat that warms the food.
This type of restaurant oven is helpful for tasks like defrosting pre-cooked foods before they’re cooked using another method, melting fats and chocolate, and quickly finishing toppings like cheese. Though they can come in handy, they’re not as much-used as they are in residential settings and are even shunned in haute cuisine establishments.
Pros of the Commercial Microwave
- Offer some of the fastest cooking and heating times.
- Have low energy needs relative to other restaurant ovens.
- A report from Harvard HEALTHbeat indicates vegetables retain more nutrients when cooked in a microwave oven.
Cons of the Commercial Microwave
- Cooking can be uneven, with certain parts of the food becoming very hot, while others remain cold.
- Process can dry out some foods and produce unusual flavors in others.
- These restaurant ovens cannot brown or caramelize foods.
Impinger Ovens Cook With Jets – And Yes, That Means Crazy-Fast Cooking
From the outside, an impinger oven looks like a conveyor oven, given that it does have a conveyor that enters the cooking chamber on one side and exits on the other, carrying the food through the heat. But, there is one major difference. While conveyor ovens heat the chamber and rely on the time the food spends there for cooking, impinger ovens use jets of hot air to surround your food in heat. That allows it to do its work 15 to 30 percent faster than a conveyor oven and certainly qualifies as speed cooking.
Pros of the Impinger Oven
- Far more efficient than most types of restaurant oven, since the heat is directed at the food.
- Wrap your food in hot air, which allows for even and fast cooking.
- Heat and airflow can be adjusted for perfect conditions.
Cons of the Impinger Oven
- With such targeted heat, it’s easier to burn food.
- Some people complain that food cooked in an impinger doesn’t taste as good.
- Requires a larger footprint than other two types of fast cooking restaurant ovens thanks to conveyor.
What do You Get When You Cross an Impinger Oven with a Microwave Oven? Fast Cooking.
Given the even-heating abilities of the impinger and the speed cooking of the microwave, it was only a matter of time until someone combined the two. Enter Merrychef and TurboChef, two restaurant oven models that do just that, in addition to throwing in a bit of convection for good measure.
This type of high speed oven uses a microwave oven for much of the heating, while convection systems that circulate hot air allow for tasty browning. Impingement air jets can help further speed up the process and eliminate one of the major complaints of commercial microwave ovens – that their heating can be inconsistent.
Pros of the High Speed Oven
- Remarkably fast cooking, as much as 15 times faster than a standard restaurant oven.
- Have programmable settings that ensure the perfect conditions for each dish.
- These restaurant ovens allow for even heating with convection and impinger heating.
Cons of the High Speed Oven
- Hard to adjust during cooking, since most operation is by program.
- Operation can be loud, since there are so many moving parts.
- While heat efficient thanks to eliminating the conveyor openings of an impinger oven, they can be costly on energy since there are (again) so many things that are active in its operation.