High-speed ovens empower applications that would otherwise not be able to cook very efficiently, economically or to high-quality standards. Without these ovens, many foodservice operators would need to install a full-size kitchen to cook food, which is not a viable solution. These units also can complement an existing kitchen to help with speed of service on items that take a prohibitively long time to cook.

istock 465575161For cafe operators looking for speed and versatility, high-speed ovens not only save space but can be easy
to use as well. This is why high-speed ovens have become popular in quick-service operations that often serve anytime meals, multiple dayparts and convenience-style foods.

Also called rapid-cook ovens, high-speed ovens use two or more heat transfer methods to accelerate cooking speeds. This equipment may combine technologies to accomplish this, such as microwave, convection, impingement and radiant heating. Although units in this category don’t always include a microwave component, the majority utilize this technology for rapid heating along with another aspect for browning.

Since most high-speed ovens are preprogrammed, and assuming food goes in at a fairly consistent state and start temperature, these units contribute to product consistency. Because bakery and coffee cafes typically have limited space, the small footprint of this countertop equipment offers a versatile operation that maximizes smaller footprints. The design of many high-speed ovens allows operators to stack these units, further maximizing space, capacity and volume.

The majority of high-speed ovens have stainless-steel construction both inside and out, with ceramic plates inside. Units also may include adjustable legs that are chrome-plated as well as ergonomic handles.

Most high-speed ovens measure between 20 inches and 30 inches deep. Capacities vary, with units accommodating ¼- to ½-size sheet pans, full-size hotel pans and 12- or 14-inch pizzas. Generally electric, high-speed ovens require at least 30 amps and either 208 or 240 watts of power. Temperature ranges vary, depending on the type of oven, but are typically between 150 degrees F and 550 degrees F. Microwave wattage ranges from 1000 to 2000, depending on the unit.

One of the biggest selling features of high-speed ovens is the ventless operation. This allows operators to install these units in virtually any operation or location and keep costs at a minimum. Ventless technology makes a big impact on limiting emissions and saving energy.

These versatile, easy-to-use ovens generally provide multiple set point temperatures, with some models offering automatic programming for close to 400 menu items. The data keys allow for the electronic transfer of cooking programs, which can save cooking time and aid in product consistency. Most models now provide resistive or capacitive touch-screen controls as opposed to push-button interfaces, which are more user-friendly and intuitive.

Connecting Wi-Fi-enabled high-speed ovens to the internet allows operators to upload recipes. This lets cafe operators leverage technology by sending menu updates to equipment in multiple locations and expand on limited-time offers more easily.

For front-of-the-house use or improved aesthetics, cafe operators can choose from various exterior colors, depending on the model. Some types also offer windows for users to view the cooking process taking place. An auto unloading feature presents the food to operators upon its completion.

Depending on the menu, cafe operators may want to select from a number of high-speed oven accessories, including Teflon pans, sheet metal pans, baskets and pizza screens.

Purchasing Considerations

istock 184700027These ovens have been in use for about the last two decades and are a go-to for operators looking to cook complicated menu items quickly as well as for reheating purposes. High-speed ovens can perform the work of a griddle, oven and cheese melter, saving space and the cost of multiple pieces of equipment.

Each model is different due to manufacturer patents, so extensive training may be required for staff. Although these ovens resemble a microwave, they can be much more complex to operate. For example, most units can be preprogrammed with specific recipes using a USB drive or card with a chip, which creates consistency across multiple foodservice locations. This reduces the need for continuous training and provides more opportunities to easily add menu items more often. However, because manufacturers need to program the equipment, this feature may not be worthwhile for cafes with a single location.

The majority offer ventless operation, although there are high-speed ovens that require type 2 hood ventilation for odors.

Consultants recommend signing up for maintenance programs with these units since high-speed ovens use magnetrons that eventually need replacing. High-volume cafes with larger menus may require two high-speed ovens, which also ensures service continues during a breakdown.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Especially when visible to the front of house, it’s important to ensure high-speed ovens remain clean with a pristine exterior.

Proper maintenance procedures and a cleaning schedule also will prevent service issues and minimize downtime.

Many issues on these units are preventable when ovens are cleaned properly, and most cleaning should be done on a daily basis.

Placement is also key as issues can occur if these ovens are positioned too close to hot and grease-producing equipment, such as griddles and fryers.

Due to a compact size, high-speed ovens tend to attract excess grease when in use. For this reason, the interior needs frequent cleaning to prevent microwaves from arcing against the cavity. Internal messes also tend to bake on the bottom of these ovens since microwaves are distributed from the bottom. This can crack components and contaminate wave guides, compromising operation. For this reason, spills should be wiped up immediately to help circumvent these problems.

High-speed ovens may have air filters that need regular cleaning, depending on the unit. Cafe operators should brush and clean cooling fans on a regular basis.

Oven service life is dependent on cycle times rather than years of use. These units tend to operate for about five years, depending on volume.

High-speed ovens will show an error code if there is a problem, yet may still be operational in spite of code displays. In this instance, a service tech should be called to check on the issue as soon as possible; otherwise, the problem may get worse and more costly to fix. When the cost of repair is more than half the price of a new unit, it’s time for it to be replaced.