A Guide to Choosing Chafer Shapes

Choosing a chafer shape can inconspicuously influence the ambience of an event and add convenience to the serving process.Chafers are those fantastic contraptions that allow food to be served on a buffet, while being kept warm, usually by a flame under the chafer, a water bath heated by a flame, or by induction. They are seen at the buffet service of almost every event, hotel meals, and even home buffets. Though the any chafer will provide a tool for caterers, home entertainers, and hotels to comfortable and elegantly serve their guests, choosing the right chafer shape can have a subtle, yet defined influence on the overall dining experience. For example, soup should be served in a deep, circular chafer, in order to allow guests to comfortably scoop it out with a ladle. The same effect would not be had with a square chafer, even if it was deep, since the corners would make the ladling process more inconvenient. Chafer shapes can also have an influence on the ambience of an event. Choosing sharp edges versus soft edges can change the look of a buffet, while having a combination must be done carefully and with taste, set up implicitly and with purpose, so as not to look disorganized.
Here’s our guide to the different chafer shapes and the advantages and disadvantages they have to offer.

Rectangular Chafers

Rectangular chafers are probably the most common chafers seen on buffets. Lasagna, meats, and antipasti, can all be comfortable options to serve in a rectangular chafer. These dishes are all typically served with a spatula or tongs, tools which can be complemented by the straight edges of the rectangular chafer. As an added bonus, typical commercial kitchen sheet pans usually fit into these chafers, allowing kitchen staff to bring the food straight from preparation to the buffet, and perhaps making them the most comfortable chafer shape offered. However, for dishes typically (…Read More…)

A Guide to Flatware

flatware_resizedFlatware is present in every restaurant, on every table, but the quality and look selected by the venue differs from restaurant to restaurant. Some venues offer a wide range of flatware tools, specific to many different types of foods and drinks, while others only offer a few basics. The latter type of venues will often prefer to save the extra expense and forgo purchasing such specifically geared flatware tools. Beyond the different types of flatware tools available, the numbers used to describe stainless steel products and the different flatware weights offered can be confusing as well. This guide will put some of the options into perspective.

The Numbers

18/10, 18/8, 18/0- the numbers used to represent different types of stainless steel flatware can be overwhelming. Stainless steel is a metal usually made from a mixture of chromium, stainless steel and nickel, with some other metals sometimes incorporated as well. The concept behind the numbers is very simple: the first number indicates the percentage of chromium (a type of metal) compared to the total weight of the item, and the second number represents the amount of nickel content in the stainless steel mixture. The rest of the alloy, not indicated in the numbers, is the percentage of steel in the stainless steel metal mixture.

Why do these percentages matter? Chromium is a light-colored metal prized in alloys because of its toughness and stain resistance. Almost all stainless steel products contain steel and chromium. In higher quality stainless steel mixtures, nickel is added as well for its non-corrosive and stain resistant properties, as well as shininess.

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Parchment Paper Vs. Wax Paper

Wax paper can be used for preparing truffles and chocolate designs, preventing the need to worry about the paper sticking to the finished product.Every cook has felt the dismay of realizing that those roasted vegetables are in no way going to make it off that tray in one piece. You should have put more oil on the pan, or on the vegetables, or both. How are you going to cover it up so the plating doesn’t come out looking sloppy? You don’t have a choice, the order must go out, so you plate it as well as you can and try to cover up the imperfections.
And so the next time you attempt the seemingly simple feat of roasting some vegetables, you douse them vegetables in oil, and the tray too, just for good measure, and end with a finished product that, though beautiful and in one piece, tastes more like oil than the main ingredients. And so next time, you should try using parchment paper.

Parchment paper and wax paper are undeniably useful tools in any kitchen, commercial or home. Though, yes, you can manage without them, the sheer influence they will have in improving the kitchen experience makes them worth the investment. Yes, see it as an investment: less oil used, less time spent scraping off the burnt remnants off the pan, and better food presentation. Though in the end, you may break even in terms of financial aspects of the investment, the saved frustration will be greatly appreciated. Cooks make wide use of parchment and wax papers during food preparation, but in order to make the most of these tools financially, as well as guarantee a safer experience in the kitchen, the differences between them must be understood.

Parchment Paper

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What it is: Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is usually a cellulose-based or silicone-lined paper. It is often used as a disposable, non-stick surface, mostly for baking and roasting. By lining a cookie sheet or roasting pan with this paper, the pan will require minimal washing afterwards, since the parchment paper is both grease resistant and moisture resistant. Parchment paper can be found in rolls, sheets, or precut to fit pans of different sizes and shapes.

Pros: Parchment paper can have various useful applications in the kitchen. The non-stick surface facilitates moving the foods from the cooking surface to the dish on which it will be served, without ruining its appearance, while the grease and moisture resistant characteristics minimize the cleanup which must be done in between baking subsequent batches.

Cons: Using parchment paper on roasting pans generates an extra expense. Parchment paper is more expensive than wax paper.

When to Use: Parchment paper is convenient to use when cooking any ingredient in the oven since it is heat resistant. Besides being used to line pans when roasting and baking, it can be folded around fish and vegetable dishes for cooking “en papillote.”

Wax Paper

What it is: Wax paper is, as may be deduced by its name, paper covered with a thin layer of wax. Wax paper is similar to parchment paper in that it is moisture proof and nonstick. However, it is not heat resistant, limiting its potential applications in the kitchen.

Pros: Wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, making it ideal for use when heat is not required.

Cons: Wax paper should not be used in the oven! It is not resistant to heat, and can be a fire hazard if used in the oven. Additionally, the melting of the wax in high heat conditions can give the food an undesired taste.

When to Use: Since wax paper is less expensive than parchment paper, it should be used for food preparations which don’t require the paper to be placed in the oven. It can be used as a base for decorating cakes and cookies and as a surface for cooling truffles and chocolate decorations in the fridge. Folding parchment paper into a small, cone-like structure, filling it with a sauce such as chocolate sauce, and cutting off the end of the tip, creates a tool for writing on a cake, decorating plates, and garnishing pastries.

The Bottom Line

Parchment paper and wax paper can both be useful in any kitchen, especially commercial kitchens. However, they aren’t absolutely necessary. If a kitchen plans to purchase only one type of paper, they should choose parchment paper since it can be used for a wider range of applications. When both are available, wax paper should be used for “cold” preparation of foods, while parchment paper should be used in the oven. By balancing the use of these two types of cooking papers, businesses can reach the safest and most cost effective solution.

How to Brew Different Types of Coffee

Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant, grown in various regions around the world such as India, the Caribbean, and Ethiopia.According to the National Coffee Association, 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. I, for one, view drinking a cup of coffee as the defining point in starting my day. The public’s addiction to coffee has been expressed in more than just statistics of $40 billion spent of coffee in the U.S. each year; the many different types which have been created over time in all parts of the world, attest to the popularity of the drink.
If the market share of the drink is not enough to convince businesses that coffee is worth keeping on hand, the versatility of the bean makes an even bigger case for using coffee. Chocolate-covered coffee beans can be used as garnish, while concentrated, brewed coffee can be used in desserts. From mousse to coffee flavored brownies, coffee lends itself to use in sweets. Coffee can also be used in spice rubs of meats, and sauces for chicken and meat, adding a slightly bitter, deep flavor.
The first step to selling coffee in a coffee shop or restaurant is knowing how to prepare the different popular types. This article provides basic information about the most common types of coffee, offering a good starting guide for how to prepare coffee and which equipment to purchase to best serve customers.

1. Espresso

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Espresso is a small, very concentrated shot of coffee made by forcing very hot water through finely ground coffee beans, under pressure. Espresso is most easily prepared using an espresso machine. The beans should be freshly ground for maximum flavor, and the water should be high quality. A thin layer of foam at the top of the shot is formed from oils and other components of the coffee beans, and is associated with the quality of the beans. Businesses selling coffee should invest time and effort into make their espresso as good as it can be, since it also serves as a base for many other coffee drinks such as cappuccino and café latte.

2. French Press

French press is a relatively simple coffee brewing method, which consists of brewing and filtering the coffee in one pitcher. The grinds are topped with hot water, and after three to eight minutes, depending on who you ask and the freshness of the coffee grinds, the strainer can be pushed down. Using freshly ground beans will make for the most flavorful coffee. The method takes a relatively long time, but is a great way to get the best flavors out of the beans and into the water, when done right.

3. Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is prepared based on a similar method as French press, but without the filtration. The coffee grinds and sugar, if wanted, are place directly in the serving cup, hot water is poured on top, the coffee is stirred, and then the drinker waits for the grinds to settle before drinking the coffee. Leaving the grinds in the cup allows the flavors to be extracted from the grinds throughout the drinking process, but requires the drinker to pay attention to the amount of coffee left in the cup: eating the grinds is very unpleasant in many opinions and should therefore be avoided. Turkish coffee is almost always served black (without milk).

4. Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is more than just cold coffee. Throughout the brewing process, the grinds do not come into contact with hot water. The cold extraction results in different chemical compounds in the finished product, when compared to hot-brewed coffees. Namely, cold brew coffee is appreciated for its low acid content and higher levels of caffeine when compared to hot brewed coffee. Cold brew coffee is prepared by placing the grinds in a pitcher with water, and letting it sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight. It is a great type of coffee to serve in the summer, but is not usually heated and served hot, after preparation. Since cold brew coffee rarely has the bitterness which some hot brewed coffees have, it can easily be drunk without adding milk, and can also be a great base for ice cream and other desserts.

5. Drip Coffee

Drip coffee is the most commonly brewed coffee in diners and homes. The technique consists of pouring hot water on top of coffee grinds in a filter, and collecting the drip as it comes through. As the water makes its way through the layers of ground coffee, it extracts the color and flavor compounds. This method produces a relatively light coffee, since the time for which the water is in contact with the grinds is minimal, and it is not coupled with high pressure and temperature, as with the espresso brewing technique. Also, some of the flavor compounds may stay trapped in the filter, leading to a less flavorful cup of coffee.

Coffee is undoubtedly one of the world’s favorite drinks. Various cultures have entire ceremonies centered on coffee preparation. The best coffee preparation technique depends on the drinker’s flavor preferences, and in general each coffee lover knows exactly how he/she like his/her coffee, and has a defined, preferred preparation technique. Restaurants and coffee shops should offer a few different types of coffee, if possible, in order to best cater to all customers.

The Dos and Don’ts of Caring for Chafers

Proper care for chafers and chafing dishesChafing dishes, also known as chafers, are an important tool for buffets. They make it easy for food businesses to offer customers large amounts of food for taking at their own leisure, with a minimal number of employees constantly dealing with serving the food, and without sacrificing on temperature. Caterers and hotel buffets may be the biggest users of chafers, but even restaurants and college dining services offering catering for special events may choose to use chafers for convenience. Whereas service counters in venues with permanent buffet stations have a more permanent and usually less fancy feel, chafers can be set up in any location to give the buffet service a higher-class feel. Though well-maintained chafers can give events a classy vibe, without proper care chafers can be irreversibly damaged. Since appearance is one of the most defining factors in diners’ perceptions of events, having attractive chafers can help create good reputation for the food preparation services by making the event feel classy and clean.

The Dos of Caring for Chafers

Do purchase good quality chafers, which will generally look better and last longer than cheap alternatives. Good quality chafers are made with materials which require minimal maintenance, or can be aesthetically rejuvenated with simple maintenance, and are resilient to rough use over time. The quality of a chafer is not based solely on the type of material, rather also the quality of the material. Even stainless steel chafers come in different qualities. Therefore, before purchasing chafing dishes, it is recommended that businesses read reviews about the product to ensure satisfaction.

Do make sure your chafer has water in the water-bath section at all times. Lack of water can lead to burnt food and ruined chafers. To estimate the water level quickly, lift the pan and listen for a boil or sizzle, which are both signs that the water level is too low. This recommendation applies to bain marie style chafers. If an induction chafer is being used, cooks should occasionally check to make sure the temperature is not set too high in order to prevent food from getting burned.
Do stir food when it is in the chafer to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and/or getting burnt. (…Read More…)

Tips for Selecting a Paring Knife

The right paring knife can make an extremely comfortable kitchen tool.Paring knives are a basic, multipurpose kitchen essential that can be used by every cook. They are relatively small and often made to look like mini chef knives, but their uses vary greatly. Paring knives are the best option when controlled cutting or cutting of small ingredients needs to be done. They can also be used for fruit and vegetable carving as well as cutting other small details. For example, they are probably the best solution for hulling strawberries, removing the ends of green beans, mincing garlic, and sectioning citrus. Yet no number of paring knives will make such processes worthy of plating, unless a good quality and comfortable paring knife is used. Here are some things to look out for when choosing a paring knife.

1. Size

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Size is a one of the main considerations when selecting a paring knife. Since these types of knives are usually used for doing delicate cutting and cleaning work, they should be small enough to be comfortably held. Paring knives are usually 2 ½ to 4 inches long. The exact length should be chosen based on the use for which (…Read More…)

The Pros and Cons of Yelp

Studies show that a bad review on Yelp can have detrimental financial effects on businesses.

Yelp is a website where the public can rate and review various local businesses. Based on the average rating of one to five stars and the number of reviews, businesses are rated compared to other venues in the vicinity. According to Yelp’s “About Us” page, it was founded in 2004 to help the public find local businesses. They had an average of about 142 million monthly visitors in the first quarter of 2015, and users have written over 77 million reviews. Yelp provides business owners with an option to set up a free account, from which they can post photos and message their customers, as well as purchase ads. In this way, it provides a great platform for positive word-of-mouth to spread through social media, potentially boosting a venue’s image in the public eye. However, at the same time, a negative review can ruin a business, presenting a downside to the service.

Chez Pannise, for example, often a top-rated restaurants, has only four stars on Yelp and has received particularly nasty reviews such as:

“Look, 100 years ago or whenever Alice whats-her-name came up with the oh-so-brilliant idea of serving stuff that’s fresh and local (DUH, like rural people have been doing FOREVER), but guess what .. tons of places have taken the concept light years beyond anything ms. alice does and they do it far, far better…”

On the other hand, Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine, California, is the top-rated restaurant in the United States for 2015, according to Yelp, and has received praise such as:

“***DO NOT MISS THIS SLICE OF BBQ HEAVEN***
As a BBQ aficionado, this gem ranks in the top 1%!!
Owner Hank loves what he does and loves whom he serves!…”

The contrasting examples above make the case for keeping in mind the pros and cons of Yelp when opening a business page, and when deciding how to run a venue.

 (…Read More…)

A Guide to Food Portioners

Food portioners can be used to measure out dishes almost exactly, insuring the profit margin of a dish and providing a tool for aesthetic plating techniques.When pricing menu items and planning dishes, the defining factor is portion size. Whereas some potential customers will look for large portion sizes as the indication of a satisfactory venue, others will be happy with smaller portions, when they are offered a high level of food. Either way, the portions must be consistent. It simply won’t do to serve a small portion one time and a huge portion the next. Loyal customers will only be loyal if they expect the venue to keep up their standards. And on the business side of things, serving portions which are too large can cause the profit margin on the dish to be negligible, making the business less profitable. Food portioners offer a simple, efficient, and affordable solution for portioning most food items. This guide provides a review of some basic options available and outlines their potential uses.

Scales

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Scales are the most often used food portioning solution. They are useful for food businesses not only when portioning the dishes, but also for preparing baked goods which require exact quantities of various ingredients, as well as when receiving raw ingredients to ensure the weighing and billing was done appropriately by the supplier. When it comes to portioning pastas, doughs, meats, and fish, scales provide the easiest indication of size. Many burger venues offer patties by the pound, and those portions are weighed out using a kitchen scale to ensure that the customer is getting what they pay for, and that the business is making the expected profit off of the ingredients.

Food Portioning Cups

Food portioning cups are similar to measuring cups, and can be used to add previously decided upon amounts of a certain ingredients to a dish (such as herbs, for example) or to dish out an estimated amount of a component of a dish. For example, guacamole can be a very pricy dip, so instead of piling it on in different amounts based on the chef’s estimate of what the dish should be, scooping a set amount of it with a food portioner can be a smarter option. Food portioners can be useful for side dishes as well. Not only can they measure out adequate amounts of grains to add to a dish, if a grain such as rice is packed in, and the food portioner flipped over directly onto the plate, the grains can hold the shape of the food portioner, producing an aesthetic plating scheme. Food portioning cups can be used for the variety of applications mentioned above, and can also help provide customers with an idea of the nutritional value of their meal, if they ask how many ounces are included. Though food portioning cups can be seen as less critical for commercial kitchens when compared to scales, they offer a multipurpose tool to be used for the cooking process itself, as well as for plating.

Cafeteria Trays

Cafeteria trays are ideal food portioners for school caterers, since they provide a reusable, super-easy option for portioning. When considering using food portioners for cafeteria meals, the factors which are important go beyond caterer profit. With the awareness of obesity and the health problems associated with bad diet habits, eating the correct portion sizes and amounts of different foods has become a focus for schools and parents. Offering portioned cafeteria trays can help enable students to make wise food choices, and help the school caterer provide healthy solutions and good portion sizes while making a profit.
Food portioning tools are valued for their ability to ensure the amount of food being offered, and therefore the nutrition facts of a dish and the profit margin it will have for a food business. They also provide an easy way to measure out ingredients for a recipe. On the other hand, they can also be used to easily and aesthetically serve different dish components. Imagine an ice cream store serving ice cream with a regular spoon…doesn’t sound so attractive, does it? The ice cream scooper not only enables the server to easily serve the ice cream in an attractive way, it also allows the store owner or manager to price the scoop based on their expenses and effort for a given amount of ice cream. Food portioning tools are a must have for every food business, but which ones? Each food business will have to decide which food portioning tools are crucial for them, based on their menu and service strategy. Caterers offering buffets, for example, may be able to forgo food portioning cups in many cases. Food portioning is a basic factor that must be taken into consideration by every venue, even before sales start, in order to estimate profit potential and provide customers with a consistently positive experience.

Staying Cutting Edge by Keeping the Right Knives On Hand

Chef knives are classic, must-have, all-purpose options for a commercial kitchen.I’ve met so many home cooks who just don’t get why chefs are so attached to their knives and why they need so many different types. Some even think it pretentious that cooks insist on high quality, versatile knife collections. They cannot fathom the added speed and facility which good knives can give during food preparation. They are unaware of the dangers of using the wrong type of knife for a certain purpose or one with a dull edge. Here are short descriptions of five types of usual and slightly unusual knives and how they can help in a professional kitchen.

It is important to note that almost equally as important as investing in good knives is investing in a good knife sharpener. Even the highest quality knife needs to be kept in top shape in order to do its job efficiently and safely.

1. Chef Knives

Of course, any discussion about knives in a professional kitchen must include some type of statement in praise of chef knives. Chef knives have long, relative big blades and are a versatile option, cutting anything from vegetables to meat. Many different sizes are available, with both the blades and handles made from a variety of materials. The type of blade preferred depends on the cook, but having a knife composed of one, continues piece of metal allows for efficient cleaning. The size of the knife is important as well. Small-built cooks may have a hard time maneuvering extra-large knives, while some of the small, thinner chef knives I’ve encountered can be uncomfortable to hold and cut with, sometimes even chafing away at hand skin. (…Read More…)

Types of Cookware Materials – Buying Guide

Porcelain cookware can be used to finish off dishes and serve them aesthetically immediately afterwards.

In the 1700s, some Europeans believed that tomatoes were poisonous, due to fatalities associated with eating them. However, it was later discovered that the problem was not with the tomatoes, but rather the cookware used to cook and serve them: pewter. The high acidity of the tomatoes caused lead from the pewter to leach into the food, causing poisoning. Though the cookware of today is generally recognized as safe, the incidence that occurred in the 1700s highlights the importance of cooking foods with the right cookware. The types of materials available for cookware make it hard to choose which to buy and which to forgo. By having a variety of cookware, made from different materials, food businesses can make themselves as comfortable as possible. Materials can be selected based on the purpose they will serve as well as the budget of the venue.

Aluminum

Aluminum is typically one of the cheapest options for cookware. Though it is relatively versatile and lightweight, aluminum can react with acidic foods, leading to a metallic taste and aluminum consumption. Studies have shown that consuming aluminum may be dangerous to health, hinting that cooking with aluminum should be done with caution (acidic ingredients should not be cooked using aluminum cookware). Anodized aluminum is less reactive due to having undergone treatment, making it a better, but more expensive option when compared to regular aluminum cookware.

Cast-Iron

Cast-iron is often a top choice for stovetop cooking, since it distributes heat efficiently and is relatively heavy duty. Egg dishes such as Israeli shakshuka and stews can be started on the stove in a cast-iron pan and finished in the oven. (…Read More…)