Q&A with Marcin Zmiejko, associate principal of WC&P, Denver.
FE&S: What are the biggest benefits of high-speed ovens?
MZ: Also called rapid-cook ovens, high-speed ovens came out of nowhere around 2000, offering operators the ability to quickly cook really complicated menu items. As a result, these ovens have become extremely popular in fast-food chains, which often use these units for menu testing. Rapid-cook ovens combine cooking technologies for use as a conventional piece of cooking equipment. For example, a Philly cheesesteak sandwich would require a griddle to cook the meat, an oven to toast the bun and a cheese melter to finish it off, but the entire process can be accomplished in a rapid-cook oven.
FE&S: What are the biggest challenges with high-speed ovens?
MZ: It can be difficult choosing a model since manufacturer patent issues have resulted in differentiated offerings. For this reason, extensive training is typically required by manufacturer reps on these units, which look like a microwave but are much more sophisticated.
FE&S: Do these ovens require ventilation systems?
MZ: Some models require type 2 ventilation mainly to dispel odors, but most high-speed ovens have ventless capabilities. These units don’t need much space or support, which makes the equipment popular with operators.
FE&S: What are the most prevalent service issues with high-speed ovens?
MZ: This equipment uses magnetrons like microwaves, which eventually need replacing. For this reason, I strongly recommend operators sign up for a maintenance program. We also recommend that fast-paced, high-volume operations, such as quick-service restaurants, have at least two ovens in operation. This ensures service isn’t interrupted if a breakdown occurs.
FE&S: Are there utility requirements operators should be aware of?
MZ: High-speed ovens almost always require 208 volts and either 30 or 50 amps to operate, depending on the unit.
FE&S: Are there newer technologies operators can leverage?
MZ: These ovens 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 training and provides more opportunities to easily add menu items more often. Because manufacturers need to program the equipment, this feature may not be worthwhile for restaurants with a single location.