The proper ways of cutting vegetables and meats are basic knowledge that every chef or kitchen staff involved in food preparation should know.
Proper food cutting improves food quality and presentation. When fruits, vegetables and meats are cut, chopped or diced the right way, you are more likely to get the best from these ingredients. Especially if the recipe calls for it. According to an article from NPR, how you cut vegetables has a significant impact on the way they taste.
Equally important to serving excellent and quality dishes, the proper techniques for cutting food and vegetables can also help you control your kitchen food cost.
Not only your chef or food prep staff must know how to perform this correctly, but they should also be doing it without having an extra eye on them. Often, the need to achieve the right size or portion of an ingredient can get in the way of maximizing the yield for that item.
Therefore the actual steps and methods of how to prepare the raw meats/fish/fruits and vegetables while maximizing product yield should be distinct when you train kitchen staff.
RELATED READ: 5 Key Tips to Portion Control and Protect Your Profit
And if you opt to hire short term chefs or kitchen staff for urgent staffing needs such as filling up slots in case of emergency leaves or peak periods, functions or special events, the chef you hire (or kitchen staff) should be able to adapt quickly and be able to perform efficiently to help you, the business owner, serve quality and save money.
How does it directly affects food cost?
- Purchasing pre-cut food is often more expensive, such as pre-cut salads in a bag or sliced fruits. Same with meats that are already cut up.
- When proper cutting is done, unnecessary food wastage can be controlled.
- You maximize the yield of a product.
Take a look at these four areas and review your own kitchens and systems:
- Right Tools and Equipment
- Sharp Knives – To effectively maneuver your way around the meat and make the thinnest cuts, these are a must. Dull knives can damage the meat surface. They don’t do a clean cut and can either mash vegetable cell walls, which can lead to either wastage or poor quality in slices. Interestingly, having your knives at their sharpest is also safer than having blunt knives. When blades are dull, it can be difficult to handle tough, thick and slippery meat which may cause the knife to slip and cut fingers/hands.
- The right size and shape of knives – cooking can be improved when the correct type of knife is used for a particular purpose. It gives your food the appropriate texture, and you can accomplish your task of cutting or slicing more efficiently.
You can read more on this post about different kinds of knives.
- Scissors – These are handy for snipping herbs or vegetable tips.
- Mandoline – Creates precise and consistent cutting.
- Peelers – have double blades that can peel whether strokes are upwards or downwards. Using it that way can shave valuable time off the prep work.
- Large cutting boards – the goal is to have a sufficient surface for cutting. When space is cramped, mistakes can happen. Wood cutting boards are great for handling meats because of the cuts in the wood surface. They can provide a good grip on the meat. But now, there are available cutting boards made of plastic that have grooves on the side to contain any messes and not have the meat juices running off the board and into the countertop.
- Right Technique
Some cuts of meat have what is called “silver skin”, a silvery-white sheen that is a thin membrane of connective tissue. They are most likely found on larger cuts of meat and the underside of ribs. Trimming this silver skin as well as fat can be appropriately done by placing the meat securely on a cutting board. Slice a small cut of the fat toward the top. While still holding onto the fat, set your knife in between it and the meat. Keep the meat taut by pulling the fat away from the meat and cut downward in a slicing motion. Make sure that the knife is tilted slightly toward the fat as you slice because you can end up going into the meat if you cut straight downward. Work slowly using clean, smooth motion. Don’t rush to remove all of the fat at once.
Use a spoon for scraping the skin off ginger. The skin is thin, and it has a knobby surface. If a knife is used to maneuver those curves and grooves, it is more likely that more than skin will be peeled off.
The squash family of vegetables have tough skin. One trick is to microwave it or simmer in a pot of water to soften the skin making the peel easier to remove.
This channel has a ton of videos on cutting that is efficient both in the process but also maximizes your yield per product.
- Right timing
Some fruits and vegetables cannot be pre-cut ahead of time until it’s time to put them to use. Due to oxidation, cutting them early on can result in discolouration and loss of moisture. Classic examples are potatoes, eggplants parsnips, taro root, celery root and artichoke, to name a few. Putting lemon juice or salt or soaking in cold water can slow the discolouration process, but if these can be cut close to the time of use, the better. When tomatoes and juicy vegetables /fruits are cut, the flavorful juices are likely to seep out.
But some, like hard vegetables such as brussels sprouts or any from the squash family, can be pre-cut with a slight effect on their quality.
- Right Training
There is a temptation to take shortcuts and not use proper knife skills when doing food prep during peak hours. These shortcuts, when practised over time, can slowly affect your potential profits, without you knowing it.
Excessive trimming often happens, and your kitchen should have an available copy of the expected yield percentage on each product. How much trim should be cut off?
More importantly, all the tools and equipment will be nothing in the hands of untrained people. There is a tendency for kitchen staff to do whatever is easiest so also focus on building the right attitude and values so that minimal supervision is required.
Ensure that your kitchen staff are properly trained with regular follow-ups.
There are several topics on proper training of staff here in our blogs, feel free to check them out.
Here are some of the related posts that you can read:
The effect of cutting of meats, fruits and vegetables to your food cost is controllable if given attention. As the business owner, it is well within your responsibility to ensure that your kitchen is equipped with the right tools and staffed with the right people.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,