How to Pick a Crab

The beginning of summer means the start of blue crab season for the East Coast. While blue crab is popular among many of the Atlantic states, it is just one of the many crab varieties you can choose to serve in your restaurant. Before you start offering it, however, it is important to learn how to eat a crab. This means mastering the technique of “picking,” or removing the crab meat from its shell. If you’re new to serving crab, keep reading for buying guidelines and serving suggestions, and check out our video on how to pick a crab.

How to Pick a Blue Crab

1. Remove the claws and legs by twisting them off at the base. Set them aside.

2. Peel back the apron found on the underside of the shell using a knife.

3. Detach the top shell from the bottom portion.

4. Remove the gills by peeling them away from either side of the body.

5. Use a crab mallet or claw cracker to crack open the claws and access the meat.

6. Enjoy!

What to Know Before You Start Serving Crab at Your Restaurant

Once you’ve decided to include crab on your menu, your first step is to choose what kind of crab you want to serve. Some options may be more accessible to you than others based on where they are found. Additionally, summer is not crab season everywhere, so keep this in mind if you want to serve fresh crab.

Commonly Served Crabs and Their Availability

  • Blue crab is found on the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico from June to October.
  • Dungeness crab can be found from central California up to Alaska from November to July.
  • King crab is found in Alaska and British Columbia from October to January.
  • Snow crab is found in the northern Pacific and Atlantic states from October to May.
  • Stone crab can be found in Florida and parts of North and South Carolina from October to January.

How to Buy Fresh Crabs

Buying live crabs is the best way to guarantee freshness. Once dead, crabs quickly become toxic because bacteria from their digestive organs enters the meat. Coastal locations have markets or wharves that are excellent for buying live crabs. While there, look for suppliers with clean tanks that are free of algae and murky water. Similarly, seek out tanks with aerators that maintain oxygen levels and keep the crabs lively. Sluggish crabs could be sick or close to death, so it is best to avoid selecting them.

Blue Crab

Be sure to choose crabs with all of their limbs. A missing leg would be an unpleasant surprise for your customer who wants to pick a whole crab!

If you can, hold the crabs and squeeze their shells. Meaty crabs have firm shells and heavy bodies. At the same time, a lighter crab with a brittle shell could be immature and contain less meat. Generally, the meat of a crab makes up ¼ of its total weight, so remember to choose crabs that are large enough for your intended portion size.

While female crabs are meatier than males, some parts of the country put bans or limitations on the amounts of females that crabbers can catch. This encourages reproduction and prevents supply depletion. As a result, you may be limited in the amount of female crabs that are available to you. Find out what the restrictions are in your area so you know whether to ask for male or female crabs when you are at the market.

How to Store Crabs Before Cooking

Once you’ve selected your live crabs, chill them as soon as possible until you are ready to cook them. Putting them in an open container of salt water in your refrigerator lets oxygen in and keeps these sea creatures alive.

When buying crab in non-coastal areas, it’s best to find an online vendor with high turnover and rapid shipping. That way, your crabs come to you before they become unsafe to eat. Because shipped crabs are often no longer alive, it is very important to keep them chilled before cooking.

How to Eat a Blue Crab

Cooked Crab

The most popular methods of cooking crab are boiling and steaming. Fully cooked blue crab is bright red-orange in color and has opaque meat. Once it is cooked, you can start picking.

A great crab picking experience includes more than just plain, cooked crab. Seasoning your blue crab with a spice blend can enhance its natural flavor for an extra kick. Also, offering melted butter and lemon or lime wedges gives your guests the opportunity to alter the taste to their preferences. To round out the meal, try providing a simple salad with light dressing and citrus flavors.


Now that you’ve learned how to eat whole crab, you can bring crab picking to your restaurant. Providing your customers with whole crabs gives them a hands-on experience that other dishes can’t achieve. While this meal choice could fall flat if a patron doesn’t know how to access his or her crab meat, educating your servers and hosts can help prevent this. For this reason, serving whole crab is a great way to keep your guests and staff engaged.

Posted in: Seasonal | Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Christine Potts

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Chicken Kebabs Recipe

Kebabs are beloved around the world for their smoky meats, savory roasted vegetables, and portable design. Lime and spice marinated chicken kebabs are a smart addition to any menu, and their flavors will transport your guests to northern Africa and the Mediterranean. Whether you serve kebabs on skewers, in a pita, or on top of couscous, this exotic dish is inexpensive to make and is sure to raise your restaurant's profits.

How to Make Lime and Spice Marinated Chicken Kebabs

While there are a wide range of kebabs out there, we chose to make lime and spice marinated chicken shish kebabs. This recipe features traditional African and Mediterranean ingredients like yogurt, paprika, and coriander, but also incorporates herbs like cilantro and parsley that aren't often found in that part of the world. Additionally, we spiced these skewers up by replacing bell peppers with Mexican poblano chili peppers. Wondering how to cook chicken kebabs at your restaurant? Check out the video and recipe below to learn more!



Ingredients

Yield: 4 kebabs

  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • Juice from 1 lime (save zest for garnish)
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro (save 1 tbsp. for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 yellow squash cut into 1 1/2" pieces
  • 2 poblano peppers cut into 1 1/2" pieces

Step by Step Instructions: How to Make Lime and Spice Marinated Chicken Kebabs


  • 1.

    Cut the raw chicken into 1" cubes.

    2.

    Place the chicken into a mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil.

  • 3.

    Add 1/4 cup of plain nonfat yogurt.

    4.

    Squeeze the juice of one lime into the mixture.

  • 5.

    Add fresh herbs.

    6.

    Add dried spices.

  • 7.

    Stir all of the ingredients in the bowl together until they're fully combined.

    8.

    Build your skewers by alternately spearing the chicken, cherry tomatoes, squash, and peppers.

  • 9.

    Place the skewers onto the grill and cook them until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

    10.

    Serve the skewers over couscous and garnish with chopped cilantro and lime zest.

Cost Breakdown of Lime and Spice Marinated Chicken Kebabs

TOTAL COST: $7.74

  • Yogurt: $0.32
  • Herbs and Spices: $0.58
  • Chicken: $1.69
  • Vegetables: $4.21
  • Couscous: $0.82
  • Skewers: $0.12

MENU PRICE: $17

PROFIT PER ORDER: $9.26

What Are Kebabs?

Kebabs (or kabobs) are a Middle Eastern dish that's made by grilling different meats (usually chicken or lamb) on skewers over an open flame. The word "kebab" is derived from the Persian words for "grilling," "frying," and "burning," and this delicious meal is served in cuisines around the world. This dish is commonly prepared on a grill, but you can also bake kebabs in the oven.

There are two main types of kebabs: shish kebabs and doner kebabs. The differences between the two are detailed below.

  • Shish kebabs are what we traditionally think of when we hear the word "kebab," as "shish" is the Turkish word for "skewer." These can be made with a variety of meats and vegetables.
  • Doner kebabs are also Turkish in origin and feature meat that's cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The outer layer is thinly sliced into shavings and usually served with sides or in a pita.

History of Kebabs

Kebabs have a long history that dates back to prehistoric times, when early humans discovered fire and began cooking meat on sticks. Ancient Greeks used skewers to prepare meat over open flames, and archaeologists have discovered crude skewers in Greece that date back to the 17th century BCE.

Turkish and medieval European soldiers used their swords to grill their dinner over small fires on the battlefields. Shish kebabs were also perfect for nomadic tribes in northern Africa and the Mediterranean, as they helped tenderize gamey meat and also improved its flavor. Additionally, traders and merchants who traveled from Europe to Asia loved kebabs because they were filling and easy to prepare on the road.


Whether you run a Middle Eastern bistro, food truck, or barbecue restaurant, chances are that shish kebabs are or have been on your menu. This dish is easy to prepare and perfectly portable, so it's sure to be a crowd favorite. If you don't want to use wooden skewers, you can also check out Bon Appetit's recommended metal skewer or shop all metal skewers here. No matter what you choose, lime and spice marinated chicken kebabs are a delicious meal to add to your establishment's repertoire.

Posted in: Recipes | By Nora Fulmer

How to Offer Private Cooking Classes in Your Restaurant

With so many restaurant options available to diners these days, it’s important to think of ways you can set your business apart from all the rest. Private cooking lessons are one way to increase interest in your cuisine and encourage people to eat at your restaurant. Cooking classes are great for brand exposure because providing guests with a fun experience will get them talking about your business, which can go a long way for word-of-mouth advertising. So, if you think cooking lessons might be a good idea for your restaurant, but don't know where to begin, we'll help you figure out some things to consider as you get started.

A few popular restaurants that offer classes include Pierpoint, TwoChefs, and Mumford's. Each of these establishments has something unique to offer—whether it’s a kid’s class, locally-sourced focused, or basic knife skills. There are so many possibilities of what your cooking class can be.

So, if you think offering cooking lessons at your restaurant is something you’d like to try, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Decide on a Cooking Class Style

Soy products

When you offer cooking classes at your restaurant, you can decide how much you want your customers to be involved. Two popular cooking class styles are:

1. Lecture-style demonstrations where your customers sit back and relax (perhaps with a glass of wine) and watch you explain step-by-step how to put together a dish that they all get to taste at the end.

2. Hands-on learning where customers roll up their sleeves, put on some aprons, and actually make dishes themselves, under your guidance.

Both lesson styles can be effective in giving your guests a great experience, so you just need to decide what you feel most comfortable with and which style best suits the setup of your kitchen.

How Frequently Should You Offer Cooking Classes at Your Restaurant?

Depending on your availability, you will have to choose how often to host lessons. You could offer a lesson once to see how popular it is, and then continue with them if you get good feedback. Some chefs offer classes that are meant to be a one-time experience, while others are designed as a series of classes for patrons who want to hear more.

How Much Should You Charge Per Class?

As for the cost of private cooking lessons, this will depend on what you plan to serve, how involved your guests become, and the type of dining experience people expect from your restaurant. Base your rates on the extra amount of supplies you need and how much technique you're sharing with students. Are you in the city or the suburbs? Do you offer casual fare or fine French cuisine? All of these factors will impact your price.

How Many People Should You Host at a Time?

Make cooking lessons open to a designated amount of people, depending on the size of your kitchen. Maybe you love the idea of twenty people in your kitchen doing small prep tasks and learning basic techniques. On the other hand, you might prefer the idea of five people in your kitchen, so there's less distraction. Whatever your maximum limit, be sure to stick to it when people ask about available openings. If people call your restaurant asking for a lesson and you don't have any room, simply thank them for their interest and tell them to try again when your next lesson comes up.

Stock Up on Separate Supplies for Students to Use

For groups that will be helping you cook, consider buying supplies that are separate from what you typically use in your kitchen. This way, you don't need to worry about a customer ruining your favorite chef's knife or piano whip. When the event is over, you can wash everything and store it in an area for cooking lesson supplies only. Aprons, mixing bowls, extra chef knives, and cutting boards are some food prep basics that can help with cooking classes in your restaurant. You can also provide recipe print-outs, so customers can take notes and remember what they helped you prepare.

Make Safety a Priority

Of course you want your guests to have the best experience possible at your cooking class, so take some steps to keep everyone safe and happy. Safety considerations are obviously most important if you choose to do a hands-on lesson because your customers will actually be touching and interacting with ingredients and equipment. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you consider safety precautions:

Soy products
  • Write up a liability agreement for your guests to sign. Accidents happen, so make sure your business is not put at risk. Having a written agreement ensures that everyone’s on the same page and your guests understand that there is always a risk of injury when working in a kitchen.
  • Make sure you ask about any food allergies prior to the class.
  • Explain all the basic rules of kitchen safety and sanitation at the beginning of class. Hopefully, everyone will be familiar with these already, but it never hurts to review.
  • If your recipe requires the use of large cooking equipment, consider keeping that step as a demonstration, rather than having guests work with your commercial appliances.

At the end of your cooking lesson, share the meal you've prepared with all of your guests. Customers will love telling their friends they helped make dinner at a restaurant, and they'll encourage more people to join your cooking classes. Also be sure to advertise your private cooking lessons in your restaurant, on flyers, on social media, and on your website. It's unique to find a restaurant that will open its kitchen doors to amateurs, so you could become the trendsetter on your block.

Posted in: Management & Operation | By Jessica Wieser

How to Accommodate Vegans and Vegetarians with an Innovative Restaurant Menu

If you've noticed that your customers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, you should consider accommodating them with vegan and vegetarian-friendly meals. While adding these dishes to your restaurant menu may seem complicated and expensive, it's actually very easy to prepare these tasty meals. Whether you use tofu, tempeh, seitan, or legumes, accommodating vegans and vegetarians with an innovative restaurant menu will make customers feel welcome and boost your profits.

Veganism vs. Vegetarianism

vegetarian

Wondering what the difference is between veganism and vegetarianism? Vegetarians don't eat meat or seafood, but do consume animal byproducts like eggs, cheese, and butter. Vegans, on the other hand, don't eat meat, seafood, or animal byproducts. There are also several sub-categories of vegans and vegetarians that modify these diets in different ways, such as pescetarians and raw food vegans. If you're interested in accommodating these customers but aren't sure where to start, keep reading!

What is Soy?

Soy-based foods are often used as meat replacements, as they're easy to prepare and are packed with protein, fiber, and amino acids. Soybean (or soya bean) plants are a species of legume native to East Asia and are commonly used in feeding livestock or cooking.

Consuming soybeans reduces bad cholesterol and lowers blood pressure, so these dishes will be ordered by health-conscious consumers alongside vegans and vegetarians. Even better, soybeans are a sustainable and cost-efficient alternative protein source to meat, and growing them is far more environmentally friendly than meat processing.

Products that Contain Non-Fermented Soy

A variety of meat replacements and other popular foods contain non-fermented soy. Here are a few of the most well-known examples:

soy products
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a defatted soy flour product with a crumbly texture that's often used as a replacement for ground beef.
  • Soy milk is made by soaking dried soybeans, grinding them, and adding the grounds to water. The resulting product is ideal for making drinks for lactose-intolerant patrons.
  • Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into soft or firm blocks. Tofu is an excellent meat replacement due to its mild flavor and ability to take on the flavors of the ingredients it's prepared with.
  • Edamame are cooked and seasoned immature green soybeans often served as appetizers at Asian restaurants.

Products that Contain Fermented Soy

On the other hand, there are a handful of fermented soy products that are perfect for serving vegans and vegetarians. The list below covers some of the most popular options:

  • Tempeh has a firm texture, mushroom-like flavor, and is made by pressing soybeans into cake-like forms. This meat analogue is a great replacement for ribs, bacon, and chicken.
  • Soy sauce is made from brine and boiled soybeans and commonly eaten with sushi.
  • Miso is a bean paste that's popular in Asian cooking and is used in pickling or served on its own as a soup.
  • Natto is a blend of soybeans and various safe bacteria that's commonly eaten with soy sauce and mustard.

Soy Dishes to Add to Your Menu

If you're wondering how to integrate soy into your restaurant's menu, check out the recipes below:

What is Seitan?

Soy products

Seitan is a processed wheat gluten product with a dense, chewy texture that's similar to meat. Like soybeans, it's a great source of protein that will leave guests feeling full and satisfied. Seitan is made by washing wheat dough with water until its starch granules have been removed. The resulting product is an insoluble mass of gluten that's formed and cooked before consumption. If you serve guests with gluten intolerance, you can also prepare gluten-free seitan using gluten-free flour.

Seitan Dishes to Add to Your Menu

Looking to accommodate vegetarians and vegans with seitan? Check out the delicious recipes below:

Other Meat Alternatives to Accommodate Vegans and Vegetarians

Soy-based products and seitan aren't the only foods you can serve to vegans and vegetarians. These popular meat alternatives are also great options when serving these patrons.

Portobello Mushrooms

portobello burger

Dense, meaty, and delicious, portobello mushrooms are a smart choice for creating vegan- and vegetarian-friendly "hamburgers." They're also a healthy option that can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and promote healthy digestion. Check out this recipe for portobello mushroom burgers:

Other Vegetables

In addition to mushrooms, you can use firm vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, and beets to accommodate vegans and vegetarians. Similarly, cauliflower is a healthy, delicious replacement for hamburgers and steaks. Whether you roast, saute, or grill these vegetables, your guests are sure to love the results. Use the eggplant and cauliflower recipes below as a starting point:

Legumes

beans

Dishes made with legumes are another cost-effective and delicious choice to incorporate into your vegan- and vegetarian-friendly menu. From lentils and chickpeas to black beans and aduki, legumes can be used to make a wide variety of meals. In addition to being easy to prepare, beans promote digestive health and can help fight type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Check out the recipes below for inspiration:


Whether you run a restaurant, upscale bistro, or food truck, creating an innovative menu that accommodates vegans and vegetarians is always a smart choice. Incorporating soy-based products, seitan, vegetables, and legumes into your lineup also promotes better health and nutrition, which your customers are sure to love.

Posted in: Menu Tips | By Nora Fulmer
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