The Best Commercial Microwave | 2021 Buyer’s Guide

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The humble microwave is perhaps one of the most underrated appliances in the commercial kitchen.

While domestic models have a reputation for low capability, their more robust and technologically advanced commercial cousins are a busy venue’s secret weapon.

Whether you're cooking, defrosting, melting or reheating, a commercial-grade microwave is a must-have. This appliance can save time and reduce your energy bill because you don't have to preheat it or leave it running to maintain the right temperature. Microwaves are also compact and easy to use without the need for complex installation, plus they don’t heat up your kitchen when they are in use.

Whether you're cooking, defrosting, melting or reheating, a commercial-grade microwave is a must-have.

These days, you can also find hybrid/combination microwave ovens which use an additional heating element to cook food that matches the quality you would expect from a conventional oven.

Commercial microwaves are very different to the standard models you would use at home. To make it easier to choose one for your venue, we have pulled together everything you need to know about commercial microwaves, including information about some of the most highly recommended models.

While there is no one-size-fits-all commercial grade microwave solution, it always makes sense to get as much advice as you can before you make a purchase. This way, you will know what to look out for.

Once you have read this guide, if you still have questions about buying a microwave, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our helpful Customer Success team at SilverChef.

Here's what our commercial combi oven guide covers:

1. Buying a commercial microwave: what to consider

2. Some of the best commercial microwave ovens

3. Ten questions to ask before you buy a commercial-grade microwave

4. Commercial microwave FAQ

5. Commercial microwave terminology

Buying a commercial microwave: what to consider

There are several elements to think about when you are looking to buy a commercial microwave for your kitchen.

Take a look at some of the more important things to keep in mind.

Size

When you're shopping around, you will notice a huge range when it comes to commercial microwave's sizes.

Consider height and width as well as depth when choosing your microwave. Ensure the appliance will sit with the entire base resting on a counter or microwave shelf without being too closely butted up against other items or hanging over the edge of the shelf.

Look at the door's size when it is open as well; will there be enough space to access the contents?

Take measurements of the room you have available for your microwave(s) before you shop.

You should also check the microwave cavity will be able to accommodate your plates, trays and containers. You don’t want to purchase a microwave with the idea of reheating 12-inch platters in mind, only to realise they don't fit.

Type of commercial microwave ovens

Domestic vs commercial

It's not likely you would purchase a domestic microwave for a commercial kitchen. Here's why:

  • Commercial grade microwave ovens are made from tougher, more durable materials than their domestic counterparts.
  • Commercial microwaves tend to be easier to clean because they have no turntable.
  • The flat base makes it easier to fit containers inside.
  • Commercial microwaves are designed to be used multiple times per day.
  • Commercial microwave ovens tend to be manufactured to offer greater protection against radiation (e.g. with protection inside the glass panels, rather than on a sticker placed on the door).
  • Domestic microwaves will break down very quickly if you operate them in commercial kitchen conditions as they lose power and efficiency.
  • Commercial microwaves are designed to be repaired, so you don't have to throw them away if something stops working.
  • You will get more consistent and reliable results from a commercial microwave.

Manual vs programmable

Once your kitchen has established its menu, a programmable microwave will let the team defrost, cook or reheat with a couple of button presses.

While a manual model may be cheaper, it won't have this programmability. This will result in your chefs spinning multiple dials or pressing several buttons to do the same tasks.

While a manual model may be cheaper, it won't have this programmability. This will result in your chefs spinning multiple dials or pressing several buttons to do the same tasks.

If your kitchen uses the microwave sporadically, say for example you are a cafe, and some customers want their muffins warmed up, you may be able to save money by choosing a manually operated microwave.

 

Convection/hybrid microwave ovens vs regular commercial microwave ovens

Just when you thought microwave ovens were simple, technology delivers ‘rapid cook’ models, which are also referred to as speed ovens. They are sometimes called hybrid microwaves or combination microwaves. These appliances use a combination of microwave, convection and impinged air to cook food. Prices range from $8,000 to $30,000.

So, what’s the difference between a conventional and a speed microwave oven?

As you know, a traditional microwave can heat food, but it tends to be best for foods with a great deal of liquid, e.g. soups, sauces and gravies. You can also steam food in a microwave because you're using water. The problem with microwaves is getting that fresh, crispy finish, which you will have experienced when attempting to make a frozen meat pie edible in this type of machine.

A hybrid/convection/speed microwave oven has an additional heating element to add the cooking capability of a regular oven or air-fryer. This allows you to get a baking/roasting style finish on the food that traditional microwave models have never been able to provide.

A hybrid/convection/speed microwave oven has an additional heating element to add the cooking capability of a regular oven or air-fryer. 

These models can be a fantastic addition to your kitchen because you get the benefits of a microwave and convection oven in one. They don’t generally require a great deal of ventilation or a range hood. The drawback is the price. You’ll be looking at several thousand dollars so ensure you will use your advanced microwave oven to get value for money.

Instructions

If you lose the paper instructions, will it be easy to find out what you need to know about operating the appliance online? You don’t want to end up with a dazzling array of buttons that nobody knows how operate.

Settings, features and functionality

Commercial microwave ovens can overwhelm you with their almost-limitless features and settings.

Before you make a purchase, consider how your chefs will use the machine and what they will be looking for. There is no need to overwhelm them with hundreds of features unnecessarily. At the same time, some easy-to-use programmable settings will improve efficiency and consistent food quality in your kitchen.

Display

How easy is it to see and understand the display panel on your microwave? This is a small factor which could make a difference. A digital display is ideal for at-a-glance updates on cooking times.

Usability

Do the doors open with ease?

Is there an awkward button that makes the machine shift on its shelf every time someone tries to open it?

Can the door be closed and sealed without the need for too much force?

Again, these are all small things, but they can add up to make a difference to your kitchen's smooth workflow.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is the location of the control panel. A model with dual control panels is one option; some brands place controls above and below the cavity to have flexibility around where you place the machine. Up high and you can lose the lower control panel. Vice versa if your microwave lives under a bench.

Cooking Power

You have already seen ‘light’, ‘medium’ and ‘heavy’ duty microwaves mentioned in this guide.

Generally speaking, a light model will cook at up to 1000 watts. This is still more powerful than a domestic microwave.

A medium model has an output of 1200-2000 watts. With a heavy duty microwave oven, the output is 2000-3000 watts, making it ideal for high-volume venues.

The stronger the power, the faster the cook time. This will improve productivity in a busy kitchen. As mentioned, check you have the electrical capacity to power a heavy-duty model.

Types of food

A light model of commercial grade microwave should be fine if you are only reheating or warming food. You will need to switch to medium or large for defrosting frozen food or bulk-cooking.

Even with the most expensive microwave model, some foods won't be suitable to cook in this appliance (unless you have a hybrid/convection microwave). Stick to tasks such as heating soup, gravies or sauces, slowly defrosting food, steaming vegetables or baking potatoes.

Ventilation

Unlike combi ovens, fridges, freezers and some other appliances , you don't have to worry a huge amount about ventilation for your microwave. However, it still needs a little 'breathing room' around it; ideally around five centimetres.

Commercial microwave cleanability

As mentioned, you can get a cavity liner that may make your microwave easier to clean.

Removable panels are another feature which will make it easier to wipe down the microwave interior.

Add cleaning to your team’s schedule to remove food particles and clean the microwave’s filters. You don’t want an expensive callout fee simply because there is food trapped in the door latch.

Materials

Generally, a commercial microwave will be made from stainless steel and will have a stainless steel cavity. This helps it to withstand constant use.

Some models have glass doors, others have metal doors. If your team appreciates being able to see inside the microwave, you may want to stick with a glass door model.

Check hinges, latches, handles and doors to make sure they are robust and durable.

Technology

Some commercial microwaves have a range of innovations to make use easier. For example:

  • USB ports so you can upload different cooking programs across franchise venues
  • ‘30-seconds to go’ notifications
  • Self-diagnosis for troubleshooting
  • ‘x2’ technology, which lets you immediately repeat the cooking process so you can prepare two of the same dish without having to reset the timer and power
  • Programmable notification sounds
  • Childproof lock for customer-facing microwaves

Warranty

Everything that plugs in has the potential to break down, especially when it is working round the clock the way a microwave does.

Before you buy a commercial microwave, make sure the parts are covered by warranty.

Read the fine print closely. There may be a clause which voids a warranty if you don’t service the machine in a particular way.

Mostly, commercial microwave warranties cover faulty manufacturer parts, so be aware that a warranty isn't a fail-safe for when things go wrong.

Maintenance and commercial microwave repair

While domestic microwaves have a limited lifespan, you should be able to get 5-10 years out of your commercial microwave. However, you will need regular maintenance to keep it in good working order.

While domestic microwaves have a limited lifespan, you should be able to get 5-10 years out of your commercial microwave.

 When you purchase your microwave, ask about maintenance.

In terms of repair, try to buy from a commercial microwave manufacturer that has spare parts available. Ask before you buy how you will go about getting your model repaired if it breaks.

Second hand vs new commercial microwave

You will always be able to find second-hand commercial microwaves, there are plenty on the market.

Here are some tips when buying a previously owned model:

  • Avoid resale sites which don’t give you a service history and warranty.
  • If you do buy from Gumtree or a similar platform, get someone who knows appliances to check out the one you want to buy before you spend any money.
  • Think about choosing SilverChef's used commercial kitchen equipment, which is fully refurbished, run tested and tagged so you know it works like new and meets safety standards.

You could also consider SilverChef's Rent-Try-Buy® solution to enable you to get the commercial microwave you want now, with the flexibility to return, upgrade or purchase later. Lease-to-Keep™ is another great way to spread the cost of a more expensive microwave purchase if you're spending more than $10,000 in total on kitchen upgrades or equipment.

Some of the best commercial microwave ovens

Commercial kitchens are spoiled for choice when it comes to microwave ovens. Here are some of the most recommended models for sale in Australia.

Amana microwave ovens

Amana is a US-based brand that has been around for over 80 years and was among the first to bring the microwave oven to the public.

The range includes commercial microwave ovens and commercial rapid cook / convection microwave ovens. There are several models to choose from in each range, encompassing light-heavy duty and offering several control panel options. There is also a steamer microwave which helps you rapidly create commercial-quality food.

These popular commercial microwaves are known for being durable and long-lasting.

Sharp commercial microwave ovens

Sharp is a globally-recognised Japanese brand.

Their commercial microwave ovens undergo critical testing to ensure performance and reliability. They are purpose-designed for high-volume kitchens, with durable stainless steel, robust handles and strong hinges.

Models are stackable and have Dual Magnetron and Stirrer Dual magnetron systems. This increases microwave output power, and means that if one magnetron fails, you can still use your oven at half power until a technician arrives.

Select a model with functions including:

  • Express defrost
  • Repeat cooking functions
  • Multi-power cooking cycles (so you can set a cook time and vary the power levels during that time)
  • Air intake filter indicator so you know if the filter is becoming clogged
  • Variable sound settings
  • Easy to change lightbulb

Panasonic commercial microwave ovens

Panasonic has offered high-performance microwave ovens since the 1960s. You can expect superior warming power and uniform cooking results.

Online displays from Panasonic demonstrate how you can cook a fried veal cutlet, roast beef, garlic prawns, chicken dishes and sweet breads, plus there are plenty of videos showing how to use the ovens correctly.

Panasonic's modular ovens can be stacked, and there are program preset options to save time and power. Prices range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the needs of your kitchen. The pricier models include steam functionality, removable microwave shelf, digital display and stainless steel finishes.

Daewoo commercial microwave ovens

With headquarters in Seoul, South Korea and offices around the world, Daewoo is another well-recognised appliance brand. Reviews describe Daewoo commercial microwaves as “user friendly, efficient and effective”.

A 1,000 watt commercial microwave from Daewoo has the following features:

  • 900W microwave output
  • 2300W grill
  • 1850W combination
  • 1850 convection
  • Stainless steel cavity
  • 10 power control levels
  • Zero standby "ECO" function
  • Stainless steel cavity
  • Home Fryer (Crisp cooking)
  • Auto cook program
  • Reminder End Signal

Bonn commercial microwave ovens

Bonn’s clever microwave cavity liners are easily removed for cleaning and can help to reduce servicing costs because they protect your microwave from fat and grease splatter.

This manufacturer's range extends from light to heavy-duty commercial microwaves. The heavy-duty options are ideal for use in busy venues and offer hundreds of user-defined programs. Other features include a large capacity, dual magnetrons, rugged hinges and steel handles.

Robatherm commercial microwave ovens

Part of the Roband brand, Robatherm commercial microwave ovens range from light to heavy-duty and have programmable, multi-stage cooking options. These machines have robust features, a flat interior base and are built to withstand industrial use. Heavy-duty models have dual magnetrons and 1900 Watt power output. You can also choose a USB model so you can upload ready-made programs.

Roband products are made in Australia and built to last.

Menumaster commercial microwave ovens

Menumaster is another well-known commercial microwave brand, manufactured for speed, efficiency, strength and durability. They have a range of models, including convection and infra-red ovens.

Look for the following features:

  • Removable and easily cleanable air filter
  • A stainless steel exterior and interior make it easy to clean and more durable.
  • Sealed-in cooking shelf for easy cleaning

Menumaster's Xpress High-Speed combination oven has the following features:

  • Provides easy “one-touch” cooking
  • Flexible high-speed baking to reduce training time, save energy and provide consistent results
  • USB compatibility using standard flash drives
  • Catalytic converter for ventless operation

Ten questions to ask before you buy a commercial-grade microwave

Think about your needs and budget before you get overwhelmed by the features of the different commercial microwaves on the market.

To help you decide, speak with other venue owners or chefs used to operating a commercial microwave.

Here are some things you can ask your peers:

  • Which commercial grade microwave do you use and why?
  • Are you happy with the way your microwave functions?
  • Is it easy to tell if food was microwaved at your venue?
  • How easy is it to clean and maintain your commercial microwave?
  • Is the provider reliable when you need their help?
  • Do your chefs/cooks/staff find it simple to use the microwave? Could a new staff member get the hang of it quickly?
  • What was your experience buying a used or second-hand commercial microwave?
  • How much did you spend on your microwave and was it worth it?
  • Which models are best if you need more than one commercial microwave?
  • Do you use a combi/hybrid commercial microwave or a conventional one?
  • Would you recommend the microwave manufacturer you chose?

Here are questions to ask your dealer or supplier about the best commercial microwave for your business:

  • Will this appliance suit the food production needs of my venue?
  • What warranty is included?
  • How easy is it to get parts from the factory if they are needed?
  • Is this appliance easy to clean?
  • Is there someone I can call for urgent repair?
  • What instructions are available and can I access them online?
  • Why do you recommend this commercial microwave?
  • What features may I need that I haven’t thought of?
  • Do I need a hybrid or will a conventional microwave do the job?

Commercial microwave FAQ

How to clean a commercial microwave

Your commercial microwave should come with cleaning instructions. If you have a removable cavity liner, you just need to remove it and wash it by hand or through the dishwasher.*

Otherwise, a regular wipedown will help. Your commercial microwave may also have removable panels to make cleaning easier.

Ask when you purchase the machine how to clean the filter and the latch, so food particles don't prevent the machine from functioning.

Note: This is generic advice. Speak to your supplier for specific instructions.

How much does a commercial microwave cost?

The cost to buy a commercial-grade microwave oven depends on its power capacity and functions.

Cheaper models will be a lower wattage and have more rudimentary controls and functions. As prices rise, you get much higher wattage (for reduced cook times), more programming options and hybrid/convection cooking functionality.

Prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

How to use a commercial microwave

Commercial microwaves are designed to be as simple to use as possible and programmed so anyone can use them but you still need to take the time to be clear on how yours works.

The basic operation is the same as a residential microwave: open the door, put the food in, set the time and power, and press start. However, there are a range of pre-programmable settings which will be unique to the machine you use.

Remember to avoid using the microwave without food in it. This can damage the machine.

Does a commercial microwave need to be professionally installed?

Commercial microwaves don’t need a great deal of technical installation. Make sure it fits in the space it is intended for.

Ask the vendor about installation when you buy. There may be some electrical requirements that you need help with.

Can you get a built-in commercial microwave?

It is possible to get a built-in commercial microwave, in a traditional or hybrid model. This may be necessary if your microwave is front-of-house facing and you want it to be part of your existing cabinetry.

Commercial microwave terminology

While many of us remember microwaves being introduced around the 1980s, the technology was actually discovered towards the end of the 1930s. The first patent was filed in the mid-1940s, and microwave ovens have evolved steadily since then.

The first patent was filed in the mid-1940s, and microwave ovens have evolved steadily since then.

How they work: The magnetrons inside your appliances produce ‘microwaves’. These are reflected within the interior of the machine and then absorbed by the food. The microwaves make the liquid content of the food vibrate, which causes heat. This cooks the food.

When you invest in a commercial microwave, it helps to understand its features and how you can make the most of it.

Take a look at some of the terms you will come across when you are shopping for a commercial grade microwave.

Base: With a traditional domestic microwave, you have a glass turntable and a recessed base. Commercial models have a flat base which is sometimes referred to as a flatbed.

Cavity liner: Make cleaning so much easier with a removable cavity liner that sits inside your commercial microwave.

Cold spots: Your microwave heats food unevenly. If you don’t use it correctly, the heat won’t make it to all of the food, resulting in cold spots.

Daily use: A vendor may want to know how many minutes a day you expect to use your commercial microwave before recommending a model. This number will vary depending on your venue and could be 200 or more per day. In comparison, most domestic models are designed to be used for less than 10 minutes per day.

Fan: The fan (or fans) in your commercial microwave oven do a lot of the hard work to ensure food is evenly cooked.

Gastronorm: Your chefs will be pulling containers in and out of your microwave constantly throughout the day. ‘Gastronorm’ refers to uniform sizing. Your chefs will be much happier if the containers they use fit easily into their microwave.

Heavy duty: A heavy-duty commercial microwave is very durable and is suited to high speed, large service volume establishments.

Hybrid/Combination: Your machine may be able to act as a convection oven or as a sophisticated food steamer as well as a microwave.

Latch: The latch on your microwave door will make sure it stays shut. Most machines won’t work if the door isn’t closed properly.

Light duty: You may be able to save money and only purchase a light-duty commercial microwave if you will only use the model a few times per day and only for short periods (e.g. for reheating or warming cakes/muffins etc.).

Magnatron: The part of your microwave which creates the microwaves. If this is broken, your microwave won't work. Some models have dual magnetron technology which improves energy and capacity. Heavy-duty models tend to have dual magnetrons.

Medium Duty: Upgrade from a light-duty microwave without going all the way to a heavy-duty model. Generally, a medium-duty microwave has higher wattage but a single magnetron but check with the manufacturer.

Manual: The settings on your commercial microwave may be ‘manual’, which means you use the controls to set the power level and time you wish to cook the food inside the microwave for. They could also be a combination of manual and programmable.

Microwave safe: For safety, it is not recommended you put metal objects or tinfoil in the microwave because they can cause sparks.

You should also avoid using any old plastic container, which may not withstand rapid temperature changes. If you are using your commercial microwave for longer than a few seconds, always use a microwave-safe container.

Microwave shelf: Your kitchen may have a wall-mounted microwave shelf to keep your microwave off the counters where chefs and other staff are working. These come in a range of sizes and are usually stainless steel.

Panels: Your commercial microwave may have removable panels on the inside, which will make cleaning easier.

Power output: The power output of your commercial microwave oven will help you determine how long to cook food for and which settings to use.

Programmable: For efficiency and ease of use, you may wish to invest in a commercial microwave with programmable settings. This will allow your staff to complete repetitive cooking tasks at the press of a button, for example, defrosting gravy that has been frozen.

Push-button/Digital Control Panel: Press the buttons to set time and power levels. Digital control models are generally capable of being programmed by your kitchen team to improve productivity. You may even be able to use a USB to program multiple microwaves with the same one-touch cooking times.

Stackable: Some commercial microwaves models are stackable so you can cook, reheat or defrost multiple dishes at once.

Turntable: Most commercial grade microwave ovens won’t have a turntable. Instead, fans are used to distribute heat evenly. Some light-duty models do use a turntable.

Wattage: See power output. Wattage can range from 1000 to 2200 and beyond. Keep in mind that you may need to speak to your electrician about whether you have enough power to operate a higher wattage model of microwave.

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Thanks for reading this commercial microwave buyer’s guide

Investing in a commercial microwave can speed up production and make life easier for your chefs without compromising food quality.

Investing in a commercial microwave can speed up production and make life easier for your chefs without compromising food quality.

This guide has hopefully helped you understand what to look for so you can narrow down your decision about what really is the best commercial microwave for your venue and decide between a traditional or convection model.

If you’d like the advice and guidance of a professional so you can choose the best microwave for your venue, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef – we have dedicated restaurant and cafe industry experts available to support you.

Prefer to dive straight in and start looking at the commercial microwaves available from our Certified Used team? Shop the range of commercial microwaves.

Want to know about finance options and what your rental payments on a light, medium or heavy duty microwave could be? Use our equipment finance calculator to run the numbers.

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