Every professional chef and cook know that the quality of ingredients they choose has a significant effect on the quality of their final product.
But they also know that the quality watch does not end after procuring the ingredients. It doesn’t matter to customers whether you purchased quality and expensive ingredients if your chef/cook are mishandling those ingredients.
How do you ensure that you retain the quality of your ingredients and extend it to your finished product?
1. Proper ingredient handling
The word handling in this context goes beyond the physical contact between a person and the ingredient. Ingredient handling includes the different activities involved in receiving, transporting, storage, and weighing to manufacture products. It is essential to know that proper handling affects the physical attributes of the food and its safety as well. Temperature plays a significant role here, as you will read later on. The ‘temperature danger zone for food safety is between 5°C and 60°C. Bacteria can’t increase at temperatures outside of this zone.
Receiving ingredients is a crucial control point for the kitchen staff, where they inspect and screen items received in the kitchen. Some packaged ingredients come in dirty, dusty, torn or broken, resulting in cross-contamination. Perishable items such as meats and any items required to be frozen should be received frozen. Your kitchen should have procedures in place to ensure that items received are sorted out properly. Not only that, there should be a large enough receiving area to attend to the items without exposing to the outside environment. If not possible, ensure that the chosen receiving space is well lit, clean and dry.
If your chef prefers to purchase and transport ingredients from the source supplier, the containers used should be clean, have good integrity, insulated and seals well.
Every staff member should know the essential basic concept that food items should be stored at the correct temperature, especially seafood. Ensure that your coolers and freezers are functioning correctly. Coolers should be kept between 2.2°C and 4.4°C, and freezers at 0°C.
Ensure that your coolers and dry storage area are clean and organised. This practice will make it easier to monitor the quality and freshness of your stock. It is a generally good practice to keep up the quality of food standards in the kitchen and improve food costs in terms of waste and over-ordering.
2. Consistency in flavour
Though we “eat with our eyes” first, taste and flavour remain the top reasons people like a dish. This is why the chef, sous-chef or kitchen manager frequently tastes every dish for seasoning and critiques the work of those who did the seasoning to ensure that flavour is right.
Your desired and offered flavour profile ( Asian, Italian, e.g.) can achieve consistency if the right ingredients are used. Ingredients authentic to that flavour profile can help enhance the taste, making it more identifiable. Choosing alternative ingredients when you run out should be given proper thought. There must be compatibility in taste and should not overpower the dish unless intended. However, if you are offering a fusion of various flavours, make sure that you are consistent with the taste to avoid palate confusion.
Consistency can also be achieved by learning and following a recipe. But as we all know, seasoned chefs and cooks sometimes do not strictly follow one. This is when moderation plays an important part, especially in the case of salt. It is easy to go heavy-handed with salt unless one strictly follows a recipe. It is easy to add more salt than take it out. However, there are hacks that people can research to counter the extra salt in the dish. Make sure that the person in charge of cooking is trained in the art of moderation.
Just as with salt, hot spices are easier to add than remove. It is important to note that your spicy dish can even be your restaurant attraction, depending on your market. And the level of preferred spiciness of foods can even vary from different locations. What is mild in one state can be considered scorching hot in another.
Every skilled chef knows another critical part of seasoning is the acid /fat balance, particularly when creating salad dressings and sauces. Fats have an oily, bland taste which can be made more tasteful by adding acids.
3. Heat Control
Heat control is about applying the right heat level to achieve the desired cooking outcome. The best quality ingredients can be botched if under or overcooked.
Be mindful, though, that incidents can happen too while the food is kept warm or cold before they are served. Overcooking happens if they are kept for too long in a warmer, especially if the chef prepared ahead to accommodate a large number of guests.
4. Skilled Chefs and cooks
All of the points mentioned above will be for nothing if the chefs are not dedicated to practising them. I said that because we chefs are supposed to know all of them due to our study and training. Cooks who are trained and disciplined are also valuable in supporting and perhaps running the business, if applicable.
The important things to know are the basics, such as the cooking methods mentioned above and more.
Have someone on your staff accomplished in any of the dishes on your menu. Ensure that they, in turn, train and supervise the team producing them.
Anytime Chefs support food businesses and venues by providing professional Chefs with the right temporary or permanent staff, creating a new team for venue openings, or simply keeping down the staffing expenses during peak or low periods.
Give us a call if you need assistance finding temporary staff on demand, recruiting permanent staff, and full consultation to start or revamp your business. Our management is composed of chefs, which is why we can deliver a higher and more personalised level of service. We genuinely understand and empathise with your needs!
After acquiring the ingredients, food quality and safety are heavily impacted by the procedures that your chef and kitchen staff practice. Factors such as the proper handling, temperature, seasoning, and cooking method ensure that your quality ingredients result in a quality product that your customers can enjoy. Above all, hiring skilled and disciplined Chefs and kitchen staff can ensure that these practices are well implemented. Don’t forget to review these practices for updates and relevance now and then.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,