Commercial Microwave Buying Guide

The right commercial microwave oven can save your kitchen valuable time - every shift.

Every second counts when customers are waiting and orders are piling up.   

For commercial microwave ovens to be effective in foodservice kitchens, their capabilities must match needs. Microwave ovens are meant to help not to hinder the flow of kitchens. 

The type of microwave oven you choose can make a difference. How often you use it per day, how much “time” is in a typical service cycle and what type of foods you are reheating. Don’t forget to consider the containers you will be using to reheat products including the material, size and shape. 

Unless equipped with special features, microwaves do not brown food. But they can certainly speed up the process. Typically used for heating ingredients or reheating menu components, a commercial microwave oven is a worthwhile investment. 

Our commercial microwave oven buying guide will lead you through the decision making process. 

Commercial microwave oven

Benefits of Using Commercial Microwaves in Foodservice Kitchens 

  • Faster service 
  • Save valuable space 
  • Use less energy  
  • Safe and fast defrosting 
  • Increase range of menu option 
  • Install almost anywhere (no range hood needed) 

Commercial vs Residential Microwaves

Word to the wise about residential microwaves. Yes, they work just fine for home use, but they are not built for the rigors of a foodservice kitchen. They differ in size, power, functions and safety features.

Although it's tempting to save money and use a residential microwave in your foodservice kitchen, it will end up costing more money in the end through increased repair costs and multiple full unit replacements and therefore also waste valuable time.

Household microwaves wear out fast because they aren't built for that frequency of use. You could also end up paying from a safety perspective. Commercial units offer increase safety features which are preferred for staff safety and by health inspectors and insurance companies.   

Look at the fine print on a residential microwave.  You will find phrases like household microwave oven, for household use only or not for commercial use written. When these units are used outside of those circumstances, the manufacturers warranty will be void and again lose you more money.

Unlike many residential microwaves, commercial microwave ovens do not have a spinning table. They don’t need them. Their design is meant to “stir” the air more efficiently and therefore don’t need a table to spin. The spinning feature would not be helpful in most commercial settings as the quantity of food and the size of dishes, bowls, containers and platters are bigger and not always “perfectly shaped” to be able to spin. 

Commercial units stir the energy internally from either the top or the bottom of the unit to provide efficient and even heat distribution. 

The power, size, controls and additional features of commercial microwave ovens should put them to the top of your gotta have it list. Let's get into some more details.

Commercial microwave and putting food in a microwave

Types of Commercial Microwave Ovens

When it comes to commercial microwaves there are three main types light, medium or heavy duty also referred to by volume instead of duty. And you guessed it, is based on how much your operation uses the microwave in a typical day.  Uses per day is a good starting place to determine which works best for your kitchen, dining room, concession stand, wait station or convenience store. 

Light Duty  Medium Duty Heavy Duty
Microwave Microwave Microwave
# of uses per day Up to 50 Up to 150 150 or more
Power 1000 watts 1000-2000 watts 1000-2000 watts or more
Durability + ++ +++
Cost $ $$ $$$


Microwave Power 

The power of commercial foodservice microwaves is described in watts. As the watts increase, the amount of time it takes to cook or reheat food decreases.  And depending on how many times you use the microwave, can save hours over a shift or two. 

Here’s a simple comparison using 5 minutes in a commercial light duty microwave as an example – or the amount of time to cook a single medium baked potato. 

Residential Commercial Commercial Commercial
Light Duty Medium Duty Heavy Duty
Watts 750 1000 1500 2000
Cook Time 6:40 5:00 3:20 2:30
Uses per hour 9 12 18 24


Like all restaurant equipment for a commercial kitchen, you must consider the electrical requirements of the units including volts, amps and phase.  Even if that all works with your set up, remember to look at the plug type and the length of the cord. 

Microwave Size - outside and inside

The size of the microwave oven both outside and inside measurement are important considerations. The unit must fit in your available space. The capacity or inside cavity measurements must allow for the containers you use regularly for heating and defrosting, to save valuable time and minimize yield loss. Otherwise, staff are continually transferring between containers. 

Capacity is typically measured in cubic feet, but the linear measurements of height, width and depth are also important if, for example, you want a half size 6” deep food pan to fit. 

Microwave inside and outside


Microwave Controls and Control Panel 


Dial control panels can either be mechanical (you can hear the clicking as you turn the dial) or electronic with a smoother motion. Dial controls have incremental time measurements. Simple, user-friendly and ready to start working right out of the box, simply turn the dial to the correct time and start heating. 

Dial control microwave ovens are typically less expensive and have limited timer length and lack the extra features some busier kitchens need to save valuable time. 

Touch Pad 

Keypad, push button or touch pad style of microwave ovens have an electronic control panel. Allowing the user to type in the exact time they need. This style of control panel also offers other features including program setting and memory. 

Touch pad control microwaves are typically more expensive than dial versions, but the benefits of their extra features can outweigh the price difference.  

Types of microwave control pads

Microwave Construction Materials 

The materials used for the outside and inside of commercial microwave ovens determine durability and ease of cleaning and sanitizing. Although commercial microwave ovens are built to handle repeated use, quality varies between manufacturers and even between models from the same manufacturer. Typically as the amount of stainless steel in the unit increases so does the cost.   

Again, it comes down to your usage needs and budget. 

Commercial Microwave Handles and Doors 

If you consider how many times you will use the microwave in a day and times it by at least two, that is how many times staff will be grabbing and pulling on the handle.

There are two basic types of handles a Grab and Go versus a latch.  Grab and go is a simple pull or push to open and close the door. A latch handle requires an additional release whether a button or angling the handle to release the latch to open the door.   

Doors should swing open fully to allow unhindered access to the interior and should be see-through to monitor contents.

Handle and door of microwaves

Additional Commercial Microwave Features to consider


Depending on what you will be heating, reheating, cooking or defrosting, the maximum time you can set on the microwave could be a deciding factor. Some dial control pads only allow for a maximum of six minutes per cycle.  Going back and forth to the microwave to add more time is not efficient use of labour.

Power Levels 

Commercial microwaves differ in the number and range of power levels you can use to reheat and cook foods.  Power levels give the user increased flexibility to fine tune recipes for the best finished product.  

The simplest versions have one level. More advanced versions can have 10 or more power levels. Power levels can be thought of like the HIGH, MEDIUM and LOW of a burner or the adjustable temperature of an oven but are really a % of full power. 

Stage Heating 

Stage cooking allows the user to set multiple times and power levels for a single recipe without needing to constantly monitor the microwave. Basic models only have one stage but advanced units can have up to four.  Useful when you need to defrost then directly heat a menu item or when multiple power levels produce a better quality final product. 


Some commercial microwave ovens can be stacked on top of one another, but they need to be designed for this capability. Stacking microwaves can save valuable counter space. Just remember the height of your average user and the weight of product they will be removing from the microwave – they need to be able to see inside and safely remove heated contents. 


Varies between manufacturers and can even vary within the warranty. For example, a 3 year warranty could be a 1 year parts and labour and 2-3 year parts only or the warranty after a specific time could only cover certain parts. Read the manufacturers specification sheets carefully to ensure you understand what will be covered. 

The right commercial microwave oven for your operation will streamline your operation, saving you time and money. 

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