Believe it or not, the holiday season is right around the corner. This time of year always tends to creep up on us, but for the restaurant owner, letting it slip by is not an option. Now is the time to prepare for the multitude of diners coming your way. Consider this, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) found that in 2013, 33 million Americans dined out (or ordered in) on Thanksgiving, and nearly 46 million consumers dined out during their Black Friday Shopping.
However daunting and dreaded restaurant inspections may be their intention is actually quite honorable. A health inspector is there to make sure food serving establishments are practicing smart food safety and promoting clean working environments; their job, ultimately, is to check that no threats are being posed to public health.
Anyone who enjoys eating out can thank them for this. Because these inspections are unannounced throughout the year, your restaurant's staff should be prepared for the visit at any given time. Doing so ensures you're not only prepared but also being the safest, most sanitary version of yourself all year long.
We've put together a trusty infographic to help your restaurant's next health inspection run smoothly. In this file, we uncover the top 5 reasons restaurants fail their inspections along with the details that are most commonly missed.Continue reading
Most of us have had pickles on a hamburger or with a deli sandwich but other fermented foods are beginning to take the spotlight for some of their health benefits. Your digestive system (often referred to as your “gut”) depends on good bacteria to help it break down food and keep your body’s systems in good working order. Unfortunately, our modern diet and other environmental factors do not always support this good bacteria.
Fermented food is a great way to help living organisms keep the bad bacteria in check and to balance your gut health. These are some of the most popular types of fermented foods should you be looking for a way to introduce fermentation into your diet.Continue reading
Since 2005, the Texas State Fair has been the home of an annual showdown of Texas’s most unique food creations. Some of the top dishes bring us the most innovative deep fried foods since the french fry. As a salute to the 10th year of the Big Tex Choice Awards, we present to you the Top 10 Most Unusual Fried Foods at the Texas State Fair.
2005 - Deep Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich
Relive the gooey-est parts of your childhood with the Fried PBJ and Banana Sandwich. A PBJ Sandwich that’s been frozen is then dipped in batter and quick fried. Top it off with some powdered sugar and you have 2005’s winner for Best Taste.
2006 Fried Coke
How do you fry a liquid? By infusing the flavor into a batter and deep frying it. Then drizzle it with pure fountain syrup, whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and, of course, a cherry on top to make a truly unique taste experience.
2007 Deep Fried Latte
You’re at the Texas State Fair in 2007 and you need a jolt of caffeine. No worries, just try one of the runners up for the Big Tex Choice Awards: Deep Fried Latte. This lightly fried puff pastry has a hint of coffee and is topped with cappuccino ice cream. Add sweet syrup, whipped cream and sprinkle with instant coffee for a sugar/caffeine high that will get you through the rest of the fair.
2008 Fire and Ice
As much of a show as it is a dessert, one of the 2008 finalists was Fire and Ice. A pineapple that has been battered and deep fried then topped with whipped cream. Not just any whipped cream, but banana flavored whipped cream that’s been frozen in liquid nitrogen. Strawberries and syrup top the smoking desert that proves where there’s smoke, there’s flavor!
2009 Deep Fried Butter
Deep Fried Butter is one of those dishes that make you think “how do you?” or even “why would you?” But the winner of 2009’s Most Creative category isn’t as bad as you might think. Taste-wise anyway. In fact, Sue Gooding, spokeswoman for the State Fair said to the Today Show, “When you taste it, it really does taste like a hot roll with butter...It tastes great.” That’s because the whipped butter is sweetened and then surrounded by dough and of course, fried. It even had options of garlic, grape or cherry flavors for the more adventurous.
2010 Fernie’s Fried Club Salad
Another one for the “how did they do that?” category is the 2010 finalist, Fernie’s Fried Club Salad. A 12” spinach wrap is filled with diced ham & chicken, iceberg lettuce, carrot strips, cherry tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese and hickory smoked bacon. Then the whole wrap is deep fried until crispy and served on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce. Toppings include sourdough croutons on a stick that have been deep fried and your choice of creamy Ranch, Thousand Island or Caesar dressings.
2011 - Fried Bubblegum
Don’t worry, you can eat this bubblegum! It’s actually bubblegum flavored marshmallows that have been battered and deep fried. Decorated with icing and powdered sugar, this light, sweet treat won Most Creative in 2011.
2012 Picnic on a Stick
As summer winds down and fall approaches, the weather is often perfect for a picnic. Trust the Big Tex Choice Awards participants to turn that concept upside down! Spicy fried chicken, tatertots and dill pickles are alternated on a stick and then dipped in batter, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Choose from BBQ sauce, ranch or honey mustard as you dipping sauce, ants not required.
2013 Thanksgiving Dinner
Most Creative? We agree! Homemade stuffing, turkey and corn...sounds just like Thanksgiving Dinner. But this dinner has a Texas twist. Stuffing and turkey are rolled into a ball, dipped in creamed corn, seasoned cornmeal and deep fried until golden crispy. Add old fashioned giblet brown gravy and an orange cranberry sauce to make your Thanksgiving dreams complete!
2014 Deep Fried “Breakfast for Dinner”
Americans love breakfast, even if it’s for dinner. One 2014 Finalist took breakfast for dinner one step further. Scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, bacon, potatoes, ham, onion, cheddar cheese and gooey cinnamon roll bits all stuffed in a 10” flour tortilla and deep fried. Dip this hearty fair food in creamy country gravy, salsa or pico-queso dip.
2015 Chicken Fried Lobster with Champagne Gravy
Who said fair-food can’t be classy? Lobster and champagne elevate your taste buds in one of this year’s finalist entries. An entire lobster tail is breaded, deep fried and topped with a champagne, lemon butter gravy for a whole new fair experience!
2011 Hans’ Kraut Ball - Pork sausage, onion, garlic, sauerkraut, mustard and delicious seasonings balled up, dipped in seasoned breadcrumbs and deep fried. Spicy Mustard, Raspberry Chipotle or Ranch dipping sauces.
2012 Deep Fried Jambalaya - Shrimp, cajun sausage and seasonings coated in lightly seasoned flour and fried. Served with a side of spicy ranch sauce.
2014 Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato - Skinless baked potato, butter, bacon and cheese is mixed, coated and battered with spices and flour, then deep fried and served with a ranch dipping sauce.
2015 Cowboy Corn Crunch - Sweet corn, minced jalapeno, creamed cheese and smokey bacon mixed in a tot and deep fried.
Today's diners have a whole new set of questions about your menu. Responding to increasing concerns about the social and environmental impact of traditional food sourcing methods, the "Locavores" prefer locally- and sustainably-sourced fare. They are calling it the local food movement, and it is gaining serious momentum.
The great news is that participating in this revolution might be a lot easier than you think, and adding local food to your menu can be very beneficial for your restaurant.Continue reading
Not all kitchen equipment is created equal. While some brands cater to accessibility through low prices, others pour innovation, technology, and resources into making their products state of the art. Alto-Shaam, with its highly innovative combi ovens, Cook & Hold ovens and renowned Halo Heat technology, embodies the latter end of this spectrum. We sat down with the brand’s Executive Chef Robert Simmelink, whose been working with Alto-Shaam for twenty-one years, to learn more about how the product line can save you money in the long term while boosting efficiency in the present. Here he answers some commonly asked questions.
Blast Chillers: Only For Large Commercial Kitchens?
Despite popular belief, blast chillers can be useful in kitchens of all sizes, not just large commissaries and other high volume applications. “The whole key to the blast chiller is it cools the food so fast that it locks in the flavor and freshness,” said Chef Simmelink. He recommends that kitchens large and small fill their combi ovens with food product -- such as rice -- every few days, and rethermalize them later. Rethermalizing takes half the time as cooking, and because the blast chiller locks in freshness, sticking it back in the combi oven makes it taste flavorful and fresh. “It takes the pressure off the kitchen,” he said.
The Cook & Hold Oven is known for many things, one of which is its ability to roast meats with high yield. What else should we know about the oven?
The Alto-Shaam team strives to show consumers different applications of the most popular products, such as the famed Cook & Hold Oven. “That oven should never be sitting empty,” said Chef Simmelink adding, “You can proof bread, braise stews and shanks. We even make stocks inside the oven overnight so you don’t tie up the burner and run the hood all night.” As the name suggests, Cook and Holds aren’t just for cooking – they’re also for holding. “A Cook and Hold can hold a roast rare for 24 hours without it overcooking,” said Chef Simmelink. Its technology allows for precision holding at food safe temperatures so you can spend your time focused elsewhere. (Did you know Alto-Shaam also has a Cook & Hold Smoker Oven?)
What’s The Difference Between Holding Cabinets and Warming Drawers?
Warming Drawers and Holding Cabinets are both back of the house holding applications. People often gravitate towards warming drawers versus a traditional holding cabinet if they have a small amount of product to hold. In that case, warming drawers can be conveniently built into a station. For larger amounts of storage, Alto-Shaam’s holding cabinets are the answer. Two compartment holding cabinets allow you to hold different kinds of food at their respective holding temperatures -- like red meat and turkey for example.
What’s the Difference Between a Soup Well and a Hot Well?
The only difference is the shape. Hot Wells are based off of a steam table pan, while Soup Wells or Kettles generally hold somewhere between 7 and 11 quarts of food. These products, which are seen in applications ranging from food courts to super market delis, and universities, are catered to cook and also hold. Both use the same Cook & Hold technology, surrounding the food product with gentle radiant Halo Heat, which allows the food to hold longer.
How is the Alto-Shaam Convection Oven Different From Others Out There?
According to Chef Simmelink, there are two main talking points. First, the distinct Alto-Shaam airflow across the entire oven cavity provides even cooking, eliminating the need to turn pans throughout the cooking process. Second is the durability that’s built into it during construction. “Convection ovens get beat up,” said Chef Simmelink adding that despite the rigorous commercial use, theirs is built to last. Features such as doors that open simultaneously and heavy-duty handles are but a few of the many quality attributes that help Alto-Shaam endure.
One of a chef's greatest tools can fit right in the palm of their hand or clip straight onto an apron pocket. Thermometers are a case study of simple efficiency and their place in the kitchen is indisputable. These significant tools manage myriad temperatures in the back of the house - be it the storage temperature of your food or the actual temperature of food before it's plated and served to a customer. Temperature is key to food safety as bacteria grows furtively all around us - including in the food we eat. Controlling bacteria levels comes down to controlling food temperature, and having thermometers on hand encourages the constant use and maintenance of food safety practices. In today's market, thermometers are available in all shapes, sizes, and levels of technology. In this guide you will find a basic break down of the most commonly used thermometers in the kitchen landscape.
When cooking poultry or meat, it's important to have a meat thermometer on hand to gauge internal temperatures and the thoroughness of cooking. These thermometers, which generally have a long 5 to 8 inch probe and smaller temperature ranges, are often inserted into meat prior to cooking and left inside throughout the cooking process. Serving an undercooked chicken or piece of meat to a customer is one way to pass foodborne illnesses on to your patrons. Having a dependable meat thermometer is an added precaution to make sure you don't do this. Meat thermometers ultimately allow you to measure whether your meat is cooked through, meaning that the temperature is high enough to have killed off harmful bacteria. Texture and color alone aren't enough to determine whether a piece of meat is "done;" with the use of a meat thermometer you can rest assured you're serving meat that is both safe and delicious.
These lightweight thermometers are carried by chefs to quickly check the temperatures of everything from casseroles to meat dishes. Outfitted with a thin probe, pocket thermometers allow you to quickly pierce and penetrate the interior of the dish. Many times, pocket thermometers come with plastic sleeves to protect the probe from germs and cross contamination.
Oven thermometers are usually constructed of stainless steel or other heat resistant materials given the high temperatures they're exposed to daily. These units are designed to measure the temperature of the oven's cooking cavity, and the faces often have enlarged, bold numbers and colored cooking zones for quick easy reading. While some models stand on the floor of the cavity, others hang from inside the oven, and some can do both, like this Comark model.
Deep Fry Thermometers:
Similar to oven thermometers, deep fry thermometers have high temperature ranges to upwards of 600ºF. Deep Fry Thermometers allow you to closely monitor the temperature of your oil prior to frying chicken, fish, or something in between. Doing so ensures that food isn't saturated or burned from overheated oil.
Refrigerator and Freezer Thermometers:
Refrigerator and Freezer Thermometers are essential tools for your cold storage units, ensuring food is being held at the right temperatures. Though most refrigeration units have digital temperature readings on them, having a back up thermometer inside the cooler gives you added security and backup precision. Our simple, lightweight options hang conveniently inside the refrigerator or freezer and are a low cost solution for all commercial applications.
Candy Thermometers help end users who are making homemade candies and other sweets using melted chocolate, caramel, and sugar. These simple thermometers monitor heat and keep sugary substances from burning. They generally have high temperature ranges with long probes.
Specialty Thermometers are a bit different than your standard analog or digital counterparts as they can use infrared lasers to monitor temperatures amongst other technical tools. Our selection online takes all the guesswork out of cooking thanks to their quick, precise temperature readings!
In the foodservice industry, there are many stages through which a food item travels until it’s on the fork or spoon of a customer. In order to maintain the quality, taste, and (most importantly) safety of the final product, it’s imperative that restaurants preserve the food during every step of the way. Last week, we discussed a few guidelines to remember when receiving food in your kitchen. Once the food is in your kitchen, it could sit there for hours, days, or weeks depending on the demand of the ingredient and frequency of use. Storing food properly maximizes its shelf life and protects it from contamination until it is ready to be prepared. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when storing food in your commercial kitchen.
Enforce the “First In, First Out” Rule
Commonly referred to as FIFO, this rule helps ensure both the safety and quality of every ingredient. Although this may seem like common sense, with new foods constantly entering and leaving a commercial kitchen, it’s easy to lose track. It’s helpful to have an organized system in place to make sure that older foods are used up before newer ones.
Whenever you receive a new shipment of food, arrange the newer foods behind the older food so that all of the older food is used first. Labeling is your best friend here. As we mentioned in last week’s post about safely receiving foods, make a habit out of labeling every item that comes into your kitchen with the delivery date. Without a proper FIFO system in place, older foods that aren’t easily accessible could go bad by the time you find them – which puts the food surrounding it at risk for spoiling.
Meat Belongs in the Bottom of Your Freezer or Refrigerator
You may think that storing your meat in a sealed container is enough to keep it from contaminating your other cold storage items. However, it is always best to store any meat as low as possible just in case of leak. Dripping meat juices are the last thing you want lingering in your refrigerator or freezer.
Use Clear, Air-Tight Containers
Exposure to air will usually expedite the process of spoiling food. Keep all of your foods in air-tight containers that will seal freshness in and keep air out. While you could use food pans and lids for this purpose, clear food storage boxes are recommended as they allow you to see exactly what food is inside. If you do use a container that is not clear, be sure to label it to maintain both food safety and efficiency in your kitchen.
Store Food Off the Floor
According to the 2009 FDA Food Code, all foods in a commercial kitchen must be stored at least six inches above the floor. Some cities enforce the rule even further in their health codes, requiring a minimum height of 12 inches. By keeping food off the floor, you eliminate the risk of water or dust polluting the food. Dunnage racks and keg racks are both great for storing food above floor level.
Keep Your Kitchen Clean and Organized
As we mentioned previously, using racks and shelving units help keep your food off of the floor and away from contaminants. However, similar to refrigerators, overcrowding them or leaving them unorganized is counterproductive. Maintain a certain order on all of your commercial shelving units.
Also, be sure that your kitchen is spotless at all times. Floors, refrigerator shelves, and shelving units all need to be cleaned frequently in order to keep away dust, bacteria, and dirt.
While the main function of a refrigerator is to keep foods fresh and safe for consumption, this only works if it is producing the right temperature. Get your staff into the habit of checking the refrigerator thermometers at least once a day to make sure that they are working properly. Just a few degrees above the normal temperature could spoil the food in a refrigerator.
Don’t Stuff Refrigeration Units
One way to make sure that your freezers and refrigerators maintain a safe temperature is to avoid overloading them with too many foods. With too many items stacked on the shelves, your refrigerator will need to work extra hard to keep the temperature low. This can increase the temperature in certain areas that are not receiving enough cool air, and could even cause your refrigerator to completely stop working – both of which create unsafe cool storage conditions for your food.
In Doubt? Throw It Out.
At any stage of food handling – whether it’s receiving, storage, or preparation – if you ever feel unsure about the safety of a food item, get it out of your kitchen as soon as possible. If the food is indeed spoiled, keeping it could lead to the contamination of surrounding items and puts your patrons at risk for food poisoning. If you’re ever in doubt, simply throw it out.
Every September, the foodservice industry celebrates National Food Safety Month. Everyone knows there's no easier way to lose customer loyalty than being the culprit of a patron's food borne illness. Because restaurant kitchens breed team environments, it's important for everyone, from the executive chef to the dishwashers and porters, to be educated on proper food safety. Doing so not only keeps the restaurant up to code but also maintains a high quality standard for the business, not to mention a strong reputation. In honor of National Food Safety Month, we will be posting a series of educational blog posts pertaining to all aspects of food safety, from receiving food to storing it, serving it, and the many steps in between.
Food safety education isn't just for professional chefs either. In fact, everyone can benefit from food safety knowledge because we all eat and handle food, therefore we're all at risk for the same illnesses and repercussions. Some of the upcoming blogs will feature helpful information for both residential and commercial cooks, while others will pertain more to the professional industry. This year's Food Safety Awareness theme is "Let it Flow," which focuses on the flow of food in restaurants. Knowing some basic rules will definitely help kick start your food safety practice. This blog begins with "Receiving" food. Here are a few tips.
What Temperature Should Food Be Received At?
This question is dependent on the kinds of food you're receiving, though most potentially hazardous foods should be received at 41ºF or lower. Below are a few exceptions.
- Live Shellfish, Shucked Shellfish, and Milk: Should be received at an air temperature of 45ºF or lower then cooled to 41ºF or lower within 4 hours.
- Eggs: Should be received at an air temperature of 45ºF or lower.
- Frozen Food: Should be frozen solid when received.
Why Does Food Need To Be Received at these temperatures?
Three words: "The Danger Zone." These three words probably ring a bell, and rightfully so! The Danger Zone is the temperature bracket (41ºF to 135ºF) where bacteria grows most quickly on food. Leaving food out in these temperatures can cause bacteria to double in as little as twenty minutes. Therefore, there is urgency in making sure food is at the proper temperature when it's received and then promptly stored.
What Should Be Done Upon Delivery?
When food arrives at the establishment, there is a checklist to be aware of. When food is in transit there is an increased opportunity for items to shuffle around and for cross contamination to occur. Knowing this, it's important that whoever is receiving the shipment inspects it thoroughly. Here are the common questions to ask and the things to look for when receiving a shipment. Should any of these not adhere, you have the right to refuse the delivery.
- Are the food containers in good condition? Check for any damage as they can often crush or tear in transit, thereby leaking and potentially cross contaminating.
- Are the temperatures where they should be? It's important to check them with a sanitized thermometer before signing for the delivery. These pocket thermometers do the trick.
- If you're receiving canned goods, make sure they're not swollen anywhere as this may be a sign of product spoiling or damage.
- Mark the delivery date on food products before storing away.
- Are the delivery vehicles in good, clean condition?
- Are frozen foods completely frozen? Make sure there is no thawing occuring upon delivery.
- Lastly, does the supplier deliver product on a timely schedule? It's important that food is stored away quickly after it's received to keep food held at the right storage temperature. Hold your suppliers accountable to the scheduled delivery time.
These are some of the most important tips for receiving food product.