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Choosing the Best Commercial Microwave

Choosing the Best Commercial Microwave

  • 2020/06/28

Choosing the Best Commercial Microwave


Commercial microwaves are vital to nearly every food service operation, as they offer an expedited cooking method that saves time and improves efficiency. This microwave buying guide is designed to help you select the best microwave for your intended use!


Microwave Oven Wattage & Cooking Times

The two most important factors to consider when shopping for a commercial microwave are microwave wattage and usage level. The two factors are closely related the higher the wattage, the faster a microwave will cook. A dessert that takes 30 seconds to cook in a 1000 watt microwave might only need 12 to 15 seconds in a more powerful model.


The table below shows the approximate cook times for a baked potato. Any microwave can do the job, but for best results select the wattage level that corresponds to your output level:


left to right:  Light-Duty/Medium-Duty/Heavy-Duty                           

Light-Duty Microwaves

A light-duty commercial microwave (about 1000 watts) is great for establishments that utilize microwave cooking 50 or fewer times a day.

The following businesses would be better suited with a light-duty commercial model due to the increased durability and quality construction:

Wait stations: occasionally warming desserts, rolls, soups, and beverages

Break rooms: reheating lunches, beverages, and frozen meals

Breakfast bars: heating the occasional muffins, oatmeal, leftovers, and beverages

Concession stand: reheating food items that have been sitting out for a while


Medium-Duty Microwaves


Medium-duty commercial microwaves (about 1200 - 2000 watts) feature higher wattage to increase cooking speed, and can be used up to 150 times per day.

They are well suited for places that were using a light-duty model but have seen an increase in demand, like:

Convenience stores: heating sandwiches, snacks, and prepackaged foods

Coffee shops / cafés: heating beverages, as well as a higher volume of baked goods and lunchtime items

Bakeries: defrosting some frozen items, melting butter, quick baking of select items

Kitchen / back of the house: warming soups, sauces, and appetizers



Heavy-Duty Microwaves


Heavy-duty commercial microwaves (about 2000 - 3000+ watts) are quick, durable, and built to handle the demands of fast-paced establishments. They can be used 200 times or more each day.

These qualities make them perfect for the following types of locations and businesses:

Kitchens / back of the house: steaming seafood and vegetables; defrosting or heating entrees; melting cheese

Quick-serve restaurants: high-speed, high-volume heating of entrees where fast turnaround times are needed

Cafeterias: quickly heating large portions; continuous holding to reduce waste

Catering companies: quick heating and cooking of mass-produced product



Choosing the Right Microwave Size

Another important factor to consider is a microwaves physical size. The interior cavity needs to be able to accommodate your dishes and food items. As microwave wattage increases, size will often increase as well. However, you can still get between 0.6 and 1.5 cubic feet in oven cavity size when using a light-duty model.

Microwave ovens can range as small as 13-16wide, with heavy-duty models even being larger than 2wide and deep. An important rule of thumb to remember is that your microwave should have at least 2of clearance on all sides to ensure proper ventilation, which will reduce the need for maintenance and extend the units service life.



0.3 - 0.8 cu. ft. Microwaves

Accommodates most high-temperature food pans in 1/4 and 1/6 sizes, or small ovenable china dishes.

Fits small plates, bowls, ramekins, mugs, and measuring cups


0.8 - 1.0 cu. ft. Microwaves

Accommodates most high-temperature food pans in 1/3 and 1/2 sizes, or microwaveable plastic takeout containers.

Fits medium-sized plates, microwavable containers, and bowls.


1.2 - 1.6 cu. ft. Microwaves

Accommodates most full size high-temperature food pans or ovenable plastic muffin trays.

Fits most standard plates, dishes, pans, and other similar containers.



Types of Microwave Controls

Once youve chosen your ideal wattage and perfect size, the next step is to decide whether a dial or push button control model is best for your needs and budget.


Dial Microwaves

Dial microwaves are typically less expensive and ideal for the budget-conscious customer.

The dials are clearly marked with time increments, and some models have a cook time guide printed directly on the unit for guidance.

No times are able to be saved or pre-programmed.

Dials do allow for quick, simple set up.


Push Button Microwaves

Push-button microwaves are generally more expensive than dial models.

They do offer additional features, including the ability to program specific times into the unit so cooking is simple and foolproof, even for new employees.

Often have the memory to accommodate dozens of unique recipes


Common Microwave Features


Digital Display

You'll be able to conveniently go through options and set timers via a crystal-clear digital display. Digital displays make microwaves more accessible to employees.




Many modern microwaves come with memory systems that can internally store as many 100 different recipe settings, which are mapped with different button sequences.


USB Ports

To further simplify your cooking, some units include USB ports so you can save and access all of your saved programmable memories.



When operations need twice the output in a compact footprint, they'll often look to stackable units. This convenient design allows you to place two units on top of one another.



Microwave Tips and Best Uses

Spread food evenly across the plate or dish it is being microwaved on to distribute heat more uniformly throughout the product.

Use a fork to pierce potatoes, hot dogs, and other foods with skins before microwaving. This allows steam to escape and reduces the chance of the item bursting open.

Pause the microwave to stir and rotate food that is cooking or defrosting. This helps to eliminate cold spots and keep all food at a safe temperature. For large items, flipping them over part way through cooking can help to distribute heat evenly.

Loosely cover foods in the microwave. This allows steam to escape but limits splattering and keeps the interior of the unit cleaner.

Make sure that you are using microwave-safe containers. Not all plastic products can be heated in a microwave, and some will melt.

Also, listen up for any peculiar noises coming from the oven. If you hear any banging, grinding, scraping, or other uncharacteristic sounds, contact the manufacturer or your preferred technician to get it checked out.

Never use metal pans, utensils, or tinfoil in the microwave unless you have a special hybrid unit that explicitly states it is compatible with metals. Most are not, and using metal may start a fire.



How to Clean a Microwave

Microwave a bowl of water by itself to create steam that will loosen baked-on particles, which are likely a result of spattering due to improper ventilation during the heating process.

Remove the loosened particles easily with a soft cloth or sponge and hot, soapy water.

Then follow up by applying a sanitizing solution like Noble Sani 512. This sanitizer is safe for food contact surfaces and can be easily sprayed onto the microwave and wiped off after 10 minutes.

While maintaining the interior is vital, youll want to keep a consistent eye on the microwaves exterior, too. Follow the below steps for how to clean the outside of a microwave:


Above all, inspect the units ventilation holes or grills for built-up dust or grime, which can cause the microwave to overheat.

Take a clean, dry cloth and wipe away as many particles as possible.

Soak a separate clean cloth in warm water, then fill up a spray bottle with white vinegar. Saturate the cloth with vinegar, then wipe down any areas on the microwave laden with grease or other grime.

Lastly, finish the process by taking another cloth, soaked in warm water, and wiping away any vinegar residue, which can cause corrosion if left sitting for too long.


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