Reheating Food in the Microwave: What's Acceptable and What's Not?

Posted by Patrick Maness +

When people imagine what goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant, they tend to picture a kitchen with sharp knives, hot pots and pans, and a variety of blenders and cutting boards. Few, however, want to think of a microwave. All the more if it’s a restaurant with a reputation for great food.

And let’s face it: Microwaves and great food don’t often show up in the same sentence.

But microwaves do have a place in the kitchen, even in fine restaurants. No one is going to recommend preparing your entrées in one, but there are very specific uses for a microwave — even in the poshest of places.

An invaluable tool

Though people may try to resist them, a commercial microwave is a tool in much the same way that a blender or a cheese grater is a tool. It has a range of uses, and it's capable of doing some things very well and other things quite poorly. Like any tool, though, in order to get the most out of it, you need to know how to use a microwave properly.

If you do, you’ll probably come to see that the commercial microwave oven is not only a convenience, but a tool that can really help you increase customer satisfaction.

Quicken your prep work

Microwaves really shine as cooking assistants. While most chefs wouldn’t dream of cooking an entire meal in one, a microwave can move things along without affecting the overall flavor or quality of the food. For example, putting uncooked meats like sausages, pork chops or chicken breasts into the microwave can expedite the cooking process, so long as you remember to wrap them in a wet paper towel to prevent dehydration. Once the meat is out of the microwave, finish it off on the grill or griddle so it has a crisp, browned finish.

Another use is with grilled sandwiches, such as Reubens, that are made with cold cuts and can be a challenge to heat all the way through on a grill.

Heat to serve

For restaurants that bring out rolls or chips and salsa with the ice water, serving these items hot can add another level to the guest's dining experience.  The secret, of course, is not that the chips come straight from the fryer or the bread right out of the oven; it’s that they spend a short ten or fifteen seconds in the microwave.

Desserts and other baked goods that have to be prepared ahead of time benefit from the same short stay in the microwave. 

Like a griddle, steamer, broiler or slow cooker, commercial microwaves have a specific purpose. Though many have a strong opinion about how they are used in restaurants, if you know how to use one properly, it can speed up your turn-around time and lead to higher customer satisfaction.

How do you use microwaves in your restaurant's kitchen?

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