High-speed or rapid-cook ovens refer to any oven that uses two or more heat transfer methods to reduce cooking time by more than 50 percent. This equipment may combine microwave technology with convection, impingement or 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 source for browning.
The biggest benefits of this equipment are speed and versatility. These benefits make high-speed ovens popular in quick-service operations, schools, healthcare facilities and retail spaces, where operators prepare anytime meals, serve multiple dayparts or offer convenience-style foods.
These ovens support a variety of applications, but most often they heat and serve menu items at the front counter. Food that is already produced, such as pizza or appetizers that cook in the oven, can be finished or reheated in dual-technology ovens. Items that take more time to cook, such as soufflés, can be prepared quicker with the help of these ovens. Although the units also can be used for raw proteins, this is not common in commercial applications.
Larger operations commonly use high-speed ovens in conjunction with other cooking equipment, such as fryers, to increase speed of service. Units that combine microwave, forced convection and infrared radiant heat offer cook times that can be as much as 15 times faster than a conventional oven, which can help increase menu flexibility. Some compact microwave/convection oven models cook four times faster than conventional ovens.
These countertop units provide powerful, versatile operation in a small area, maximizing space for operations with limited footprints. With the increasing issue of limited back-of-house space, along with expanding menus, these ovens have become more popular.
The majority of high-speed ovens have stainless steel construction both inside and out and ceramic plates inside. This equipment may include adjustable, chrome-plated legs and ergonomically styled handles.
Another benefit is that these units are extremely efficient to run since most of the day is spent on idle. This drives operational costs down to just a few dollars a day on average for most operations.
Most high-speed ovens are designed for countertop use, with depths between 20 and 30 inches. Capacities vary, with units accommodating ¼- to ½-size sheet pans, full-size hotel pans and 12- or 14-inch pizzas.
These ovens are generally electric, requiring at least 30 amps and either 208 or 240 watts. 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.
It would be difficult to find a high-speed oven model that isn’t ventless, which is one of its biggest selling features and allows these units to be installed in virtually any operation or location. Most high-speed ovens are designed to be stacked, further maximizing space, capacity and volume.
These 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. Many models are moving toward resistive or capacitive touch-screen controls, which are user-friendly and intuitive, rather than push-button interfaces.
Some high-speed ovens are Wi-Fi-enabled and can be connected to the internet for uploading recipes. This allows operators to leverage technology by sending menu updates to equipment in multiple locations and expand on limited-time offers more easily.
Operators may choose from various exterior colors with some models, which is beneficial for units used in the front of house. Some types also offer windows for users to view the cooking process taking place. An auto-unloading feature on some ovens presents the food to operators upon completion.
A number of high-speed oven accessories are available, including Teflon pans, sheet metal pans, baskets and pizza screens.
In the next few years, it is predicted there will be a switch from vacuum tube-style magnetron technology to solid-state technology for launching microwaves into these ovens.