More than one-third (38 percent) of US adults, including half of all millennials, say they are currently more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago, according to the National Restaurant Association, Washington, DC. What holds many restaurants back from entering the DoorDash, GrubHub and ubereats world is time. It takes time to properly cook and prepare meat and poultry dishes. And while many operators have back-of-kitchen prep processes in place, it still is often not enough to handle the demands of convenience dining.
That’s where meat and poultry processors can assist by offering fully cooked, heat-and-serve products that taste fresh and authentic. These products are particularly useful in commissary-style food preparation where sourcing fully cooked meats makes sense from both food safety and quality control perspectives.
By not bringing raw meat into the facility, the presence of unwanted spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms is reduced. Further, fully cooked meat processors prepare product to specifications, in terms of appearance, color, taste and texture. This ensures consistency in the meal.
Some fully cooked meat and poultry products are prepared using real cooking techniques, such as grilling, fire roasting and smoking. However, for better quality control, these products are often prepared by more controllable cooking and then treated to have the taste and appearance of a more complicated cooking step.
Grilled chicken breasts, for example, may be cooked by steaming or poaching. Then the chicken goes through a branding cylinder to create grill marks. To ensure real grill flavor, they may be marinated with a system that delivers the tastes of smoky, charred and seared.
Even products prepared using real cooking techniques will often be marinated to ensure full flavor is delivered after the reheat process. These flavors also ensure consistency in taste. Some provide an extra layer of flavor that simply is not achievable in commercial cooking. It’s the extra layer that turns a good product into a great one and keeps consumers coming back for more.
“We have a fire-roasted flavor that draws out sweetness while adding a subtle smoky, wood-fired profile,” said Christopher Warsow, corporate executive chef and manager of culinary applications, Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Illinois. “Fried flavor provides an amazing toasted, oily richness that can only be tasted when a product is served fresh from the fryer.
“Toasted flavor has a browned, almost caramelized profile, what you obtain from the Maillard reaction,” he said. “There’s even a wok-seared flavor. Real wok cooking imparts what is known as ‘wok hei,’ or ‘breath of the wok.’ This creates a smoky umami aroma and taste that is key to truly great Chinese-style cooking.”
There are many varied smoke flavors, with the most popular being applewood, cherry, hickory, mesquite and pecan. Each wood varietal imparts a different flavor nuance. To create a signature smoky profile, wood flavors can be blended.
US Foods Holding Corp., Rosemont, Illinois, is enabling foodservice operators to get creative with flavorful pre-cooked meats that do not compromise on the tastes of lengthy cooking processes. This allows them to better participate in the growing fast-paced convenience-dining market, which includes delivery, take-out and grab-and-go.
“We recently surveyed more than 500 independent restaurant operators and found that only 53 percent felt confident in their ability to utilize delivery services,” said Stacey Kinkaid, vice president, product development and innovation at US Foods. “Right now, we know that delivery and on-the-go dining is causing major shifts in the restaurant world. In fact, more than 80 percent of consumers report using services that let them enjoy restaurant food outside of the restaurant, at least monthly, according to Technomic.”
The new offerings include Chef’s Line All Natural Hickory Smoked Diced Pork Belly. This slow-cooked meat is smoked for four hours, eliminating costly time, labor and special equipment in restaurants. There’s also Patuxent Farms All Natural Sliced Fire Grilled Chicken Breast. This flame-seared whole muscle chicken breast is fully cooked with defined grill marks and comes pre-sliced.