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Feb 20, 2008 01:06 PM

Microwave Use in Restaurants

I generally can tell when something has been microwaved - scrambled eggs at a breakfast joint, for example. Sometimes it affects flavour, but sometimes it does not. Regardless of whether it lowers the quality of a dish, it is something I am extremely critical of - even though it is faster and (probably) healthier than doing something on a grill, in water, etc.

It seems to be an increasing part of restaurant cooking culture. Cerca/Sysco actually sell 'mussels' that are flashfrozen and designed to be cooked by 10 minutes in a microwave at high power. While it allows restaurants to carry an item that is usually restricted by season, volume, and turnover, it also freaks me out like you wouldn't believe.

I would like to know how we all feel about microwaved foods in our restaurant experiences.

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  1. Sometimes when I get take out food and can't wait to get home, but have a bite in the car, I burn my mouth because it's so much hotter than it would ever be coming off the stove. I'm sure microwaves can be used properly (I use mine for certain tasks) but some places just use them to save time, and often ruin the texture of the food in the process.

    1. It's a tool. If it's used improperly then the results will be bad. If it's used properly, then it's fine. Just like a pot that is too hot or too cold, or a fork where tongs would be better....used properly it's all fine and used improperly, things aren't fine.

      The issues both replies so far have are with the improper use of a microwave.

      I don't have any problem whatsoever with it, if it's used properly.

      9 Replies
      1. re: ccbweb

        You said it well. It's a tool that needs to be used properly.
        As far as its use in a restaurant, what's the problem?
        Low-end "restaurants", donut shops, etc, use microwaves for a lot of their "cooking". And lots of people see how their "egg" was "cooked" and order it every day. I personally haven't had a microwave in my home for probably 5 years, and generally don't go to places that rely heavily on their use. I can see more upscale restaurants using a microwave as a very convenient way of heating up your serving of rice that's one of several components going on the plate, or making chocolate cake "molten". I don't love this use, and prefer to warm up my rice in the oven in a saute pan with a nice squirt of water, but it's a commonly accepted practice.

        WHO THE F SAID THAT MICROWAVE COOKING IS HEALTHIER FOR YOU???? Do you REALLY know what the radiation waves do to your food? How it affects the nutritional value of the food? So standing in front of the microwave is dangerous, but eating something that came from inside it is OK? How "effing" ludicrous! Those fearmongers and marketing people sure do their job well! Sure, overcooking your carrots in boiling water will detract from its nutritional value, and eating too much of the (mmmmmm) char from foods coming off the grill can possibly be a factor regarding certain types of cancer, so as ccbweb paraphrased, use those tools properly. and I add, eat deliciously charred food ocassionally.

        1. re: ChefDude

          I just googled "dangers of microwaving food"
          You should, too.
          Even if you don't BELIEVE everything you read, there's enough information out there to make you think.

          1. re: ChefDude

            Come on dude, I've eaten plenty of microwaved food without any ill effects. I bought a special egg cooker that gives me two perfectly "poached" eggs in 56 seconds. And, I don't need to cook them in butter or oil, so they're lower in fat. And I think nuked veggies have much better flavour and nutrition than boiled.

            On the other hand, I did work in a restaurant where the cooks would sometimes "zap" a steak if the customer thought it was too rare. (These were usually the idiots who ordered "medium rare", and then freaked out because there a hint of red in the middle.) I do agree that microwaved steaks don't have the taste and texture of grilled.

            1. re: KevinB

              Using the microwave to finish the interior of a steak makes sense. I do it some times myself if I've pulled the meat off the grill too soon. Microwaves penetrate into the interior. Putting the meat back on the grill would overcook the exterior. On the grill, heat has to travel through the already cooked exterior to reach the middle.


              1. re: KevinB

                Comparing nuked veggies to boiled veggies isn't quite right. A better comparison is nuked veggies to steamed veggies -- and steamed definitely tastes a lot better.

                And I really don't like the taste of microwaved food, even foods that are supposed to microwave well such as curries and soups. There is a subtle difference.

            2. re: ChefDude

              What do radiation waves do to food? The main thing is that they make polarized molecules (like water) bounce and jiggle around - in effect, they make them hot. That's what contact with the hot metal surface of the pot does as well.


                1. re: ChefDude

                  Thanks CD,

                  The articles on the site were very entertaining. But they, in no way, moved jfood for or against the use of MV and any health effects, either good or bad. At one point jfood thought it was a script for Seinfeld, using a report from Russia in 1950's and 60's as a basis for anything is silly. And jfood really liked the idea that the springs in the bed are going to change the natural magnetic field in your bedroom?

                  Jfood believes the MV is doing something to the food, heck it gets it hot. But he is also sitting in a car with his bluetooth, his GPS, listening to radio waves, with his cell phone on his hip only to go home and use his clicker to change the channel on a HD-TV so he can watch American Idol while doing email on his wireless computer.

                  But this guys seems a little over the top and trying to sell his own goods and agenda. Would love to see any real research if you have it.


            3. re: ccbweb

              My husband will use one in his restaurants to cook potatoes if he runs out of baked potatoes, etc.

              I agree that it is a useful tool.

            4. i don't think microwaves should be used in a restaurant kitchen for cooking-- but will say that in my experience one can be useful to defrost organic, preservative-free baked goods and tortillas, etc. that must be kept frozen. i'd wager the sysco mussels are disgusting though.

              1. In low end restaurants it's mostly microwave cooking. They have untrained staff in the kitchen and there's no one to train them, pay is extremely low, it's all about volume.

                As you move up the food chain (pardon the pun) less is cooked in a microwave, their use becomes more limited, the staff is better, etc...

                When you move up one more step, there isn't even a microwave in the entire restaurant.

                If you resort to eating in Chain restaurants, there's LOTS of microwaves!

                1. i suppose they have some use in some capacity, but it's when you're not expecting it and/or it's used improperly...blech...

                  went to a take out burger joint once with a friend, and while i wasn't expecting a gourmet meal....we both watched as our burgers were made in the microwave...a soggy uncharred mess...not good. Also went to a cafeteria style catering restaurant a couple of days ago and ordered a salmon in phyllo that looked very good. all the cheese had dissappeared and the pecans were rock hard...as was also a third of the whole thing. it was like salmon jerky.