Restaurant Education

How to Sharpen Your Chef’s Knife

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Most chefs know that a sharp knife is a safe knife. That’s because a sharp knife requires significantly less pressure to be applied for it to do its job. Dull knives require more, making them more likely to slip and cause injury. Most chefs also know that a sharp knife is also an efficient knife that will help you improve your cooking and make your job in the kitchen a lot easier. Cutting jobs simply go much faster with sharper knives. Sharp commercial cutlery will also enable you to create more uniform cuts, which will aid in more even cooking and improve the taste of your dishes.

Honing vs. Sharpening

If you have a higher quality set of knives, you may have honing steel. That’s the long, abrasive steel rod with a handle that you see TV chefs running their knives across. The honing steel is a tool made to maintain the edge of blade, to keep it smooth and straight. It isn’t for sharpening and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for sharpening. Use it once every few cutting jobs to maintain the quality of the cutting edge.

Sharpening Your Kitchen Knives

If used with regularity, you should sharpen your blades about every 60 days, especially the most used ones like your chef’s knife. The best way to sharpen your knives is with a whetstone. There are other methods, especially sharpening machines, but they tend to grind away too much of the blades surface, which will greatly reduce the knives useful lifespan.

Five Steps to a Sharp Knife

A good set of well-maintained knives should last you a long time. Here are the five steps to caring for your blades.

  1. Lay the whetstone on a cutting board or non-slip counter top with the coarse side facing up
  2. Grasp the handle in one hand and hold the edge of the blade to the surface of the stone with the other at about a 22 ½ degree angle
  3. With medium pressure slide the blade forward and across the stone. Left to right or right to left will depend on whether you are right- or left-handed. Maintain both pressure and angle as you run the entire length of the blade across the stone. Do this 10 times on each side of the blade
  4. Flip the stone over so that the fine side is facing up and apply 10 similar strokes to each side of the blade
  5. Finally, apply five to eight strokes per side with a honing steel. Be sure to maintain the same 22 ½ degree angle used for sharpening

Rinse the blade under water and carefully (it’s sharp) dry with a soft cloth or towel. Your knives are now as sharp, or sharper, than when you first bought them.

8 Food Safety Tips for your Kitchen

cambroEvery restaurant wants to provide not only the best tasting food, but food that is safe to consume. Below are 10 food safety tips you should follow to ensure you are protecting your employees and restaurant customers alike.

1. Wash your hands. Those that prepare the food in a restaurant should be regularly washing their hands. This should especially be done before and after handling any raw foods. Contact after working with raw meats or produce can infect already cooked items.

2. Wash your produce. Wash produce, even if it looks clean. If eating a fruit that can be peeled, scrub the surface to be sure any germs on the outside do not make their way into the interior section.

3. Use clean plates. Serve food on clean plates or trays. If surfaces used for raw meats are not cleaned correctly before cooked meats are placed there afterwards, bacteria are spread.

4. Replace serving plates. If fresh food is placed on an old tray, then the food becomes contaminated.

5. Take advantage of food thermometers. Use a food thermometer and be aware of Minimum Cooking Temperatures for each item. If an exact temperature is not provided, know the characteristics of the food to know when it is ready to serve. For example, different seafood items have certain colors or textures once they are prepared properly.

6. Find the right hot temperature. Keep your hot foods at 140 degrees F or above by using the right restaurant equipment and supplies. Before cooking, thaw frozen meat in a fridge, microwave, or under running water.

7. Find the right cold temperature. Keep your cold foods at 40 degrees F or below. Foods – hot or cold – should never sit out on a counter for longer than two hours.

8. Use two cutting boards. Be sure to have two cutting boards in the kitchen – one for raw meats and one for ready-to-eat foods. This will keep the risk of cross-contamination at bay. Many commercial kitchens use color coded cutting boards and knives to help alleviate this problem.

How to size Grease Traps

grease trapFats, oils, and greases have no place in drains. A commercial grease trap is the ideal solution to keep them out. Grease traps slow the flow of water allowing the oils and grease to cool and then collect them to be cleaned out. Burkett Restaurant Equipment offers a variety of grease traps. To properly size one you need to use the following formula:

Commercial grease traps are sized according to the rate of incoming flow, in gallons per minute (GPM). Associated with this incoming flow rate is the trap’s capacity. This rated capacity, in pounds, is listed at twice the flow rate. For example, a 10 GPM trap has a rated capacity of 20 pounds.

Keep in mind to consider not only how much grease you may generate, but also the size of the bowl on your sink. Similarly to overflowing a funnel, if your grease trap is too small it won’t be able to keep up with the rate of water flow.

It is important to size a grease trap larger than calculated (round up to next available size only). A grease interceptor that is extremely oversized will have longer periods between pump-outs. The rotting grease will adversely affect the structure of the grease interceptor.

Get Cooking in the Great Outdoors

MAG-LPAGA30-2Memorial Day is a good indicator that the weather is (finally) breaking. By now, you’re getting your table and chairs out of storage, umbrellas unrolled, and outdoor patios, sidewalk cafes, and beer gardens are gearing up to open for business.  While residential grade grills are used for seasonal outdoor cooking, they have a hard time standing up to general wear and tear of the elements and daily use.

A fun alternative for foodservice operators with patios and outdoor seating is preparing some or all meals ordered outdoors….well, outdoors. Many places already have an outdoor bar, so why not consider purchasing a portable commercial grill? Much of this depends on your menu, of course, but the option to open up your outdoor seating and grilling burgers and brats is exciting! Portable commercial grills are also beneficial for taking your food (and brand) on the road to local sporting events, festivals, county fairs, or other offsite catering events.

Burkett Restaurant Equipment offers a wide variety of portable grills including propane and charcoal, steel top or chrome plated, and different sizes to suit your needs. Start shopping for your best summer today!

Five Tips for Designing a Responsive Site for your Restaurant

turtle-kraals-responsive-website-design-remakeIt’s no secret that more web users are accessing the internet on their mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets. In order to ensure you’re helping your current and potential customers find your business while they’re away from their desks, you need to develop a responsive site. Responsive website design makes it possible for visitors to easily view and navigate a site whether they are viewing it on a desktop, tablet or smart phone.

Often, people look for a place to eat or get coffee while in their cars or walking around. Whether they are hungry or just doing research, a website that is difficult to navigate on a phone or tablet can drive potential customers away. Below are five tips to help you get started in designing a responsive site for your business.

  1. Simplicity: Aim for a simple design. Big, elaborate designs will just increase your page loading time…and we all know how much people like to wait for a page to load.
  2. Avoid PDF Menus: PDFs require a lot of re-sizing and scrolling on smaller screens, not exactly user friendly. Stick to a regular HTML page for your menu.
  3. Use Prominent Navigation: Remember that the majority of people accessing your site on a smartphone or tablet only have their fingers to navigate through your site. Make your navigation buttons large enough for easy use.
  4. Include Google Maps: Integration with Google Maps on your Contact Us or Location page makes it easy for users to find you and receive directions from where they happen to be when they searched for your business.
  5. Keep Content to a Minimum: Short and simple is particularly good for mobile users and small screens. Don’t overload the site with long blocks of texts, on small screens that means your users will be scrolling indefinitely. Besides, who really has the patience to read that 500 word retelling of your restaurant’s history?

Buying Guide: All About Cookware

A set of saucepans, stainless steelAlong with your range and oven, good cookware is one of the most important long-term investments you can make for your restaurant, or even your home, kitchen. A well-stocked kitchen likely contains most of the pieces listed below. Browse our guide to build your perfect cookware collection.

Frying Pan

Frying pans have curved side walls for easy stirring and sliding food out of the pan. They’re ideal for scrambling, sautéing, searing, and…well…frying. Their sloped sides prevent steam from forming in the pan.

Sauté Pan

Sauté pans have a wide bottom area for maximum heat conduction. They are ideal for sautéing, searing, deglazing, poaching, and stir flying. Their straight, tall sides help contain food and expose all sides to heat and minimize spattering.

Stir Fry Pan

Stir fry pans offer deep, curved sides to promote excellent food movement. These flat bottom pans sit level on cooking surfaces as opposed to a traditional wok, which has a round bottom.

Straight Sided Sauce Pan

A wide bottom area allows for maximum heat conduction in straight sided sauce pans. They are ideal for creating and reducing sauces and cooking vegetables. They often come with a lid to control evaporation and accelerate cooking.

Tapered Sauce Pan

A tapered sauce pan features a small bottom diameter for less heat exposure. The flared sides allow for good stirring action. Tapered sauce pans are ideal when you need to cook at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.

Brazier

The wide heating surface of braziers allows you to cook meats and vegetables in small amounts of liquid. Braziers are ideal for slow cooking and for hot baths along with tapered sauce pans for melting butters, heading sauces, or for blanching vegetables. With their large diameter and short side walls, they are a great multi-use pot in any kitchen.

Sauce Pot

Sauce pots are shorter and wider than stock posts to make it easier to work over the pot. They feature a wide bottom area for maximum heat conduction and they’re ideal for slow cooking stews, sauces, soups, casseroles, and roasts while reducing the amount of liquid. They often have two handles for easy pouring and movement.

Stock Pot

Stock pots have a smaller diameter and taller height to preserve liquids longer. Their dimensions force liquids to bubble up through the ingredients, maximizing your flavor. Stock pots offer a thick base for a good slow simmer and are ideal for soups, pastas, bulk vegetables and seafood.

Griddle

A griddle pan is designed to heat or brown foods. It has a wide, flat bottom for a maximum cooking area. Griddles are a great place to cook eggs, grilled cheese, quesadillas, and sandwiches.

How To Build a Concession Trailer

SLE TrailerA well-designed food truck kitchen is an absolute must if you want your mobile kitchen to be efficient and safe. Careful planning in the design of the kitchen will save you money and time during the build-out phase and over time will increase the profitability of your truck.

A food truck kitchen design is primarily dictated by the minimal space you have as well as your required equipment and budget. If this all seems a little overwhelming, check out SLE Equipment (http://www.sleequipment.com) in Antioch, TN. SLE Equipment offers fully customizable concession trailers. You can purchase a concession trailer with commercial restaurant equipment installed such as griddles, hot plates, steam tables, refrigeration, freezers, gas packages, and generators. Or you can work directly with SLE to design and customize your trailer with the equipment you need.

Each listing on SLE Equipment’s site has multiple pictures and offers a video tour of the trailer so you can get to know it inside and out. If you have a general sense of what you’re looking for but still want ideas, SLE Equipment also features previously built custom trailers on their site. You can peruse trailers of similar size and function. In fact, if you like a custom trailer so much, SLE can build an exact replica for you!

If you like the idea of starting from scratch, SLE will provide a dedicated CAD Specialist to work with you in developing a design that meets your business needs. Within 24 hours of the CAD drawing, SLE Equipment will send you a cost quote. After your approval, you can have your custom-built concession trailer in as few as 4 weeks. Financing is available through various SLE Equipment partners, helping you afford your dream.

10 Tips for Managing Your Fryer Oil

fryer oil managerI recently read an article by Rob Slattery of Restaurant Hospitality that listed 10 tips for effectively managing oil. The article was informative and concise (yay!) and the sort of thing our readers need to know. Allow me to pass along the pertinent pointers.

Managing fryer oil as an asset is as important as choosing the right commercial fryer, or selecting the correct oil formula. Fryer oil is a critical component of food flavor, and a costly one. How can you ensure you’re managing it correctly? Follow the 10 steps listed below, and you can deter oil degradation, reduce costs and deliver consistently quality food to your customers.

1. Choose decision-makers wisely. Generally, kitchen managers are the best judges of when oil should be discarded. Less-experienced restaurant workers may be tempted to throw away used oil too soon. Automated oil management systems have lockout functionality, which requires a key to dispose and thus can be better controlled.

2. Don’t just count the days. When deciding whether to discard used oil, consider the general quality of food coming out of the fryer, including taste, aroma, color and texture. It’s best to manage oil on a “vat-by-vat” basis, as opposed to revolving around a day of the week or crew convenience.

3. Know your chemistry. Oil expands as it’s heated. So check oil levels in vats on a regular basis and top-off as needed. However, do not overfill the vats.

4. Monitor temperatures. One main enemy of fryer oil is heat. Combined with oxygen in the air, heat accelerates oil breakdown and degrades food flavor. Be sure to turn off unneeded vats and use fire-up and shutdown schedules. It’s also important to check vat temperatures on a regular basis and regularly recalibrate thermostats, if needed.

5. Filter regularly. Filter oil on a daily basis. Never underestimate the importance of filtering cooking oil. One missed day can reduce oil’s fry life significantly and negatively impact food quality.

6. Filter before you throw. Before disposing used oil, filter it. Premature oil disposal can take dollars off the bottom line.

7. Size matters. It’s important to ensure the correct filter paper or pad size is used, as well as guaranteeing the filter box screen and weights hold the paper or pad firmly in place so crumbs are unable to bypass it.

8. Steer clear of water. When placing food into the fryer, never empty frozen products into baskets over vats. The ice that comes in contact with frying oil attacks fat molecules and imparts a smoky flavor. Also ensure the filter box is thoroughly dry before inserting the filter paper or pad.

9. Eliminate soap. Soap used to clean fryers is also an enemy of cooking oil. It can react with oil to degrade food flavor and color and also causes oil to smoke. When cleaning filter boxes do not use degreasers or soap, spray with hot water only.

10. When possible, upgrade your approach. Consider leveraging an automated oil management and filtration tracking solution. This will allow for easy monitoring of oil activity performance and identify problem areas that may be diminishing food quality and consistency and negatively impacting your bottom line.

Tips for Cooking with Convection Ovens

convection ovenConvection ovens are a common staple in commercial and professional kitchens. However, if you’ve purchased a new oven for your home in the past 10 years, chances are you have a convection setting too. There is also a big chance that you’ve never used that setting.

Despite rarely being mentioned in recipes, convection ovens are known for cooking food faster and more evenly thanks to the internal fan that circulates hot air around your food. They are also more energy-efficient, meaning your convection oven will cook many meals more evenly and up to 20 percent faster while using lower temperatures. For many chefs – both professional and at home – knee deep in planning holiday menus, this news is like a beacon of light!

The key for anyone new to cooking with convection ovens is that they often require adjustments to either time or temperature—and sometimes both. If you’re trying to figure out how best to cook with your convection oven, we have you covered. Here’s some helpful advice, most manufacturers of convection ovens recommend dropping the temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and to start checking the dish when three-quarters of the normal cooking time has passed.

If you’re baking, take caution. The fan can sometimes splatter batters from pies, cakes and quick breads. That doesn’t mean bakeries should discredit convection ovens. Your baked goods will all be flakier, lighter, and loftier since butter releases steam almost immediately allowing your dough to rise higher. For cookies, take advantage of all available shelf space by baking with several trays at once. Because the fan disperses heat throughout the inside of the oven, you won’t have to rotate them as often as you would with a standard radiant oven. Follow these general rules and carefully monitor your first few attempts at cooking with convection heat. Before you know it, you’ll have a sense of how your convection oven cooks and what, if any, other adjustments should be made.

Interested in purchasing a convection oven for your home or business? Burkett Restaurant Equipment offers a range of options for you to shop from, including full size convection ovenshalf-size convection ovens, and light duty counter-top ovens for our residential customers. Follow the links to our site where you can find more information and chat with an equipment expert.

5 Tips for Renegotiating Your Restaurant Lease

publishing contractThinking your foodservice establishment could use a little extra money every month? Maybe you’re looking for a financial boost for remodeling or investing in new restaurant equipment and supplies. It’s not unreasonable to look to a lease renegotiation with your landlord as the answer.  There is a broad spectrum of reasons for re-evaluating your lease, including financial distress, property remodeling, or just looking to extend your current agreement. Lease renegotiation is more common now than in the past, and it’s possible for smaller chains and independent facilities. Right now, landlords are more willing to be flexible considering the low interest rates for refinancing and the attractiveness of property upgrades to other potential tenants.  Here are five tips for successfully renegotiating your lease:

  1. Review your lease, the marketplace and competition for similar tenants and stores. What are others paying in the same market for similar space? Is there competition in the same center or lots of vacancies?
  2. Be willing to share your financials with the landlord, especially if you’re asking for help because you’re struggling.
  3. Be confident with your redevelopment plans—structurally, operationally and through marketing—before asking the landlord to participate. There’s nothing that will strain a relationship more than to throw good money after existing problems and not change anything.
  4. Hire a professional to help. You’ve already got a full-time job running your restaurant, bar, or cafe and having a third-party in the middle creates a sense of urgency and importance.
  5. Come with an open mind and be willing to give something up. Both parties have to feel like they are getting some benefits from the new deal.
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