Celebrate National Cooking Month with Five Underrated Cooking Methods

Here at WebstaurantStore, it's no secret that we take our cooking seriously. Whether we're in a kitchen or out around a firepit, there's nothing like making our favorite foods with fresh ingredients. That's why — with Spring finally here — we're celebrating National Cooking Month with some of the least-used cooking methods. From creative takes on classic ideas to exotic techniques from other cultures, these are just a few of the most fun ways to celebrate a month of food!

Indirect Grilling

Indirect Grilling

Indirect grilling is the slow-roasting, long-term alternative to traditional grilling that heats food from the sides. The biggest advantage is that indirect grilling prepares your foods especially well for smoking and marinades.

You can indirectly grill food in a number of ways, including setting up a charcoal pit or using your own cooking range. For a pit, slide the coals to one side, hang the food from nearby hooks, and light the fire from the side. To use your own range, simply turn on one side of your burners and place your food close to the flame, but not overtop.

What to Make

Indirect grilling can cook the same foods as traditional grilling. Beer can chicken, salmon steaks, bacon, and kebabs are some of the more popular choices, as they respond especially well to slow-cooking and smoking.

Thermal Cooking

Designed to maximize heat retention and minimize fuel use, thermal cooking is one of the most affordable alternatives to traditional food preparation. Simply bring your food up to temperature, place it inside the cooker, seal the lid, and wait.

The biggest advantage of thermal cooking is its near-zero fuel usage, saving money at the cost of long cook times. Thermal cookers are also versatile by the nature of their design, allowing users to bake confections and other delicacies, and they're conveniently portable.

What to Make

Thermal cookers work especially well with pastas, proteins, and vegetables. In addition, you can bake muffins, cupcakes, and other small confections.

Sous Vide

Sous Vide

Sous vide is one of the slowest cooking methods, but it's also one of the most consistent. This cooking technique works by vacuum sealing ingredients into bags, placing them in a water bath, and activating a heated circulator. The circulator heats the water to cooking temperatures and holds it there to fully cook your food. As a bonus, the water and sealed bags make it impossible to burn, scorch, or overcook ingredients.

Because sous vide can take days to fully cook food, it is frequently used to prepare ingredients far in advance. It's also great for cooking meats to a succulent, medium-rare quality and saturating vegetables with moisture to keep them tender.

What to Make

If you're preparing food for a large party, you can cook and hold all of your ingredients in one location until serving. For steak enthusiasts, sous vide is also one of the best ways to prepare a tender, flavorful, and moist filet mignon.

Chaunk

Chaunk

Chaunk — also known by baghaar, popu, and other names — fuses cooking oils and spices to produce strong, aromatic flavors. The spices are often used whole or minced to obtain the best-tasting results, while the oil coats and soaks into the food itself.

Chaunk revolves around frying spices in oil. Simply add cooking oil to a fry pan, bring it to simmer, and add the spices you want to use, like garlic, cumin, ginger, or curry . In moments, you have rich, flavorful oil for your foods.

What to Make

You can prepare a variety of foods using chaunk, though curry is one of the most common. Because the most frequently-used spices in this method are some of the strongest, chaunk is a great way to add heavy flavors without using high-calorie ingredients.

Hängi

Hängi

Hängi is a combination of grilling and steaming that yields piping-hot, tender, and moist entrees rich with flavor. Because food can be exposed to 24 hours of consistent heat, some vegetables can even develop unique flavors, textures, and aftertastes.

Cooking with hängi includes digging a shallow hole, firing stones to white-hot temperatures, encasing your food in soaked cloth, and placing the cloth on the grill. The hot stones slowly grill your foods to help them retain their natural flavors, and the soaked cloth prevents foods from drying out. Altogether, you grill and steam food at the same time for unique, full-flavored results.

What to Make

Hängi can cook anything that you would also prepare on a grill, including kebabs, steaks, burgers, fish, and more, and it can also be used to steam clams and other seafood. The only real limit is your imagination.


Tell us your favorite cooking methods via Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus with the hashtag #nationalcookingmonth!

Posted in: Holidays | By Christopher Zook

Vegementary: Accommodating Vegetarians with Soy Products

Vegementary: of or relating to a fundamental understanding of vegetables and other foods suitable for vegetarians

April is National Soyfoods Month, so this is the perfect time to introduce soy to your menu for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores who require a low-meat diet. We consume soy in many products like granola bars, trail mixes, and dairy-free foods, but we don't often think of it as an entrée. Here is an introduction to soy, why it's such a powerful legume, and how you can use it to create protein-packed meals for diners.

What Is Soy?

Soy is a vegetable that produces bean pods, and its beans are rich in protein, fiber, isoflavones, amino acids, lecithin, and phospholipid. Scientific research states that a soy-heavy diet may decrease cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins, lower blood pressure, and reduce menopausal symptoms.

People who require a low-cholesterol diet, have milk or peanut allergies, or are vegetarians often rely on soy as a nutritious and delicious supplement to their diet. As a bonus for food service professionals, soybeans are also a sustainable source of protein that is often more cost-efficient than meat.

Products

Soy products

Some of the most common soy products include:

  • Soy flour: ground soybeans, similar to texture of wheat flour
  • Tofu: soybean curd, cheese-like, soft to firm texture, mild flavor
  • Tempeh: cooked soybean cakes, firm texture, mushroom flavor
  • Soy nut butter: ground roasted soybeans, similar to taste and texture of peanut butter
  • Miso: fermented soybean paste, flavor varies and can be sweet or salty
  • Soy dairy-free products: includes yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, and ice cream
  • Soymilk: made from soaked and ground soybeans, similar to milk in texture and flavor
  • Edamame: cooked and seasoned green soybeans before they've dried
  • Soy sauce: dark, salty liquid used for flavoring in Asian cuisine

Soy On the Menu

By including soy in your menu, not only will you be supporting sustainable protein sources, but you'll also have a new target market! It's easy to use soy foods to provide protein-rich meals for vegetarians and people on limited meat diets with so many soy products available. Consider using soy in some of the ways suggested below to introduce flavorful, meatless dishes to your menu.

  1. Bake breads, pitas, and desserts using soy flour. Because it's similar to wheat flour, you can use it in any other cooking or baking application to add more protein.
  2. Vegetarian sandwich

  3. Create stir-fry dishes, burgers, and kebabs with diced or fried tofu, and give customers a protein boost by blending silky tofu into dips and smoothies.
  4. Tempeh is great for burgers, kebabs, and stir-fry dishes, as well. Substitute ground meat with crumbled tempeh to make tacos or vegan chili.
  5. Use soy nut butter to replace peanut butter in sandwiches, cookies, or peanut sauces.
  6. Make soup with miso. There are several kinds of miso with different flavors, so experiment with them by adding them to noodles, rice, salad dressings, or other condiments.
  7. Offer edamame as a side or an entrée by itself. Add other ingredients like corn, chickpeas, black beans, onions, and peppers to your cooked soybeans for a highly nutritious meal.

Get creative with meat substitutions, and don't be afraid to use spices to flavor your soy dishes. If you're looking for more recipe inspiration, soy has been a staple of Asian cuisine for centuries, so that's a good place to start looking!

Posted in: Features | By Melissa Walters

Be a Part of Your City's Restaurant Week

Cities large and small are all gearing up for a new season and another springtime restaurant week! This week long convention made its appearance in 1992 in NYC as a way to help restaurants increase business, and it’s since grown into a nation-wide tradition!

Now that spring is here, it’s time for you to come up with fresh meal ideas, set out some patio seating, and concoct refreshing cocktails. From creating a menu and setting prices to advertising and providing excellent service, we’ve provided some great tips to help you gain new customers and increase traffic in your establishment during your city's next restaurant week!

How Does Restaurant Week Benefit My Business?

Restaurant week is a great way for businesses to draw in new customers and impress them so they become regulars, or to keep their existing customers satisfied and interested. However, many people question if giving out a week of deals will actually help their business or if it will put it at a loss. Although restaurant week does offer lunch and dinner entrées at a discounted price, owners recognize that their participation in this event will bring in much more traffic than any other week, which will make up for the lower dollar amount of a filet mignon. They also believe that if their staff provides the ultimate dining experience to their new and returning guests, they can be confident they’ll soon be back for their next dinner out on the town.

Create a Menu that Helps You Reach a Business Goal

“Healthy

Do you want to be daring and try new menu items, or do you want to showcase your most popular dishes? The menu you create should ultimately depend on what you want your business to gain out of restaurant week. If it’s your goal to bring in new diners overall, maybe you want to have a menu that showcases your most popular selling entrées, appetizers, and sides. Or, maybe you’re trying to compete with new businesses across the street offering unique menu options that your target market is all about. This could be the time to experiment with your menu, and try out new cocktails, dishes, and desserts.

Offer Packages at Different Prices

From something as simple as a 10 dollar lunch entrée to a gourmet 45 dollar multi-course dinner, it’s important to make guests with varying budgets feel welcome in your restaurant. If you set three price options, you’re more likely to attract more customers, families, and groups. A common practice is to have a menu that highlights three price packages. The more expensive option may include a better cut of meat, one cocktail per person, or a bottle of wine for the table. The cheapest option may be a signature soup and salad, complemented by a dessert!

Give Customers More Than They Expect

Food presentation

During restaurant week, it’s extremely important to go above and beyond. Train your staff to realize that, although they may not earn their regular amount of tips during this week since customers are ordering off a fixed menu, that they’ll make up for it in the weeks to come when their restaurant gains more loyal regulars. People can also be leery of restaurant week because they know how busy restaurants get, which can impact their dining experiences. That’s why, from the moment any customer walks in the door, they should be treated like a VIP guest. Make sure menus are clearly displayed, tables are neatly set, and dishes have an impressive presentation. Any and every small detail can make or break the experience. One dirty plate, one grouchy server, or one sloppy meal can turn first-timers away, and make a regular reconsider their dining choice the next time they go out.

Partner Up with A Local Business

“Healthy

A popular method many restaurants have been utilizing is partnering up with another new and emerging business. Consider teaming up with a local winery, brewery, or distillery, and offer a complete food and drink package. Whether you’re simply offering samples of wine before any appetizers are served, or you’re pairing a specific wine, beer, or whiskey with certain entrées, people will want to take advantage of alcohol being included in the price of the meal. This is a great way to help another business increase its branding, and it will show that your restaurant is a true part of the community, which is what restaurant week is all about!

Restaurant week is an exciting, fun, stressful, and beneficial event all in one! Whether you’re a veteran to the tradition, or this is your restaurant’s first year participating in the event, both new and regular customers will be excited to learn you’re participating!

Posted in: Features | By Ashley Kufera

April 2015 WebstaurantStore Coupon Code Update

April is here and Spring is in full swing! We have some great Springtime savings with our April Coupon Code: Smoothie mixes for those working on trimming down for Summer, a beautiful chafer, chafer fuel, and beverage dispenser for Spring wedding season, and the Margarita Madness blender and margarita glasses from Core to prepare you that early May event, Cinco de Mayo. Take advantage of these prices while they last!

Don’t forget that Earth day is April 22nd. There is no better time to promote to your patrons that you are using our Green Restaurant Supply products! Also keep in mind that April is the time to stock up for one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants: Mother’s Day, which is May 10th.

Use Coupon Code: APRILSALE
Posted in: Tabletop | By Steven Ziegler
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