More Than Just Panini: 6 unusual ways to use your Panini press

With Panini sandwiches’ texture and look, it’s no wonder they are wildly popular in the United States.Imagine taking a bite out of a smoking hot, crisp, perfectly grilled Panini oozing with all kinds of cheeses. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, America thinks so too. Paninis have become one of the choice sandwiches in the past 15 years, and seem to boast promising income potential for venues around the country. But Panini makers can be expensive and bulky, which may deter some venues from purchasing them. However, once they realize the full scope of uses for which Panini presses can be employed, they may be convinced of the worthiness of the appliance. Here are six unconventional ingredients which can be prepared with a panini press.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are the top vegetable crop in the United States. They are an integral part of our diets, making up French fries, hash browns, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and more. They can be boiled, baked, fried, roasted, grilled, microwaved….or prepared in a Panini press. Hash browns can be browned to perfection in a Panini maker, while being pressed into a uniform shape for even cooking. Smashed, grilled potatoes become a no-brainer when made in this machine as well.

2. Chicken

Customers usually expect grilled chicken to be served adorned with those beautiful grill marks. However, it can be hard to get those marks on both sides of the chicken without overcooking it, when using a regular grill. Panini makers can solve the problem by quickly and efficiently getting the chicken marked while cooking it evenly from both sides, allowing better control of the doneness without worrying about the grill marks. This benefit goes beyond chicken: meat, fish, and tofu can be conveniently “grilled” this way as well.

3. Fruits and Vegetables

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Grilled vegetables make for delicious pizza toppings, sides, sandwich fillers, and salads. Though most restaurant kitchens have a grill top or grill pan which can be used for preparing grilled veggies, Panini presses can speed up the process by blasting the vegetables with heat from both sides. Smoked goose breast or bacon wrapped around asparagus can be grilled deliciously using a Panini press.
Fruits can also be grilled in a Panini maker. Nectarines, peaches, apples, grapes, pineapple, and pears are just some of the fruits that can transform a dessert or a salad when grilled. Herbs and spices can be added as well, creating a one-step easy preparation.

Flatbreads

Though Panini makers are usually used to toast already made bread, they can also be used to cook bread dough. Flatbread prepared in a Panini press can be used as a base for focaccia, pizza, and garlic bread. It can be topped with salads or meat, soaking up the flavor and adding a unique component to the dish. Flatbreads can make up appetizers, main courses, or bread baskets to offer with salads or at the beginning of a meal. The weight from the Panini press will ensure the flatness of the dough during cooking, by preventing it from rising. If the dough is sweet, a dessert or breakfast similar to waffles or homemade ice cream cones can be made.

5. Polenta

Polenta can be served soft or hard. Soft polenta is the polenta as it is right out of the pot, but if allowed to cool, it hardens to the point where it can be sliced and grilled. Soft polenta can be delicious with grilled corn mixed in, and as you probably guessed, corn kernels can be grilled in a Panini maker. Hard polenta can be grilled in a Panini maker to get a crisp outer texture and, of course, grill marks. Thin layers of hard polenta can even be layered with cheeses, and vegetables before grilling to create an unusual polenta appetizer or main course.

6. Cheese

Panini presses offer a simple way to make cheese crisps. Choose the cheese or mixture of cheeses, and just place them on the press. Herbs and spices can be added as well, giving an interesting look and varied color to the crisps. The wavy shape can form the cheese crisps into an impressive garnish. Halloumi cheese can also be grilled on the press for use in salads and sandwiches. Grilled halloumi has an aesthetic golden crust, and gets a soft, but slightly chewy texture on the inside.

As you may have been convinced, Panini presses are a versatile tool for both commercial and home kitchens. Especially in small spaces, multipurpose appliances are extremely convenient. Aside from creating the extremely popular Panini sandwiches, Panini presses can make it easy to prepare a wide assortment of other foods as well, making it a key tool for the kitchen.

Choosing a Commercial Mixer

Large commercial mixers with an electric lift feature will offer the most comfortable dough preparation process for bread bakeries and other food businesses with high output of dough products.

Commercial mixers are must-haves in pretty much every bakery and in restaurants preparing their own doughs. For many businesses, they are the limiting factor in determining the amount of work which can be done and the amount of dough which can be prepared; in other words, they define the amount of demands which can be met. Since a bakery which has the potential to sell 100 loaves a day will not be able to do so easily without a relatively large commercial mixer, the mixer can play a large part in defining the size and profits a venue can reach. In order to choose the right mixer for the venue, various specifications should be considered.

Size

As stated above, the size of a commercial mixer defines how much batter or dough can be prepared in a venue. Power and durability when mixing heavy loads go hand in hand with the size of the mixer. Whereas venues should aim not to be limited by the size of their mixer, purchasing an overly large mixer can be an unneeded cost and take up much-needed room in the venue. Since new businesses may not know the mixer size they will need after their initial opening, renting or purchasing a secondhand mixer may be a good way to start.

Lift Features

The way a commercial mixer lifts is often not an issue for small businesses. Any kitchen-savvy cook or baker recognizes and knows the typical manual lift which lowers the mixer to a comfortable height for filling, and lifts it to the appropriate height for mixing. However, for larger loads, electric lifts can be more comfortable. Especially for bakeries with high bread sales, the amount of dough which can be conveniently prepared at once is extremely important for business. The type of lift is one of the factors which will affect the potential output of the business. However, for smaller businesses, the added costs of such a feature may not be worth the investment.

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Clear as Glass: A quick guide to making glassware purchasing decisions

There is nothing like a tall glass of milkshake on a hot summer day.

Glassware is the best option for almost every beverage in almost every restaurant and bar. Though sometimes the multitude of glasses available for different types of beer, wine, and cocktails can be overwhelming, in some cases having a few different glasses on hand can have definite advantages for the drinker’s experience. Different glasses offer different benefits, depending on the drink. A downside to using glass cups is the cloudy buildup that sometimes accumulates, making the glasses seem less attractive. The stains are caused by the residue in hard water, making it important for businesses to consider alternative water options which will better preserve their glassware. By planning glassware types and quantity before purchasing, serving drinks with their compatible glasses, and properly maintaining glassware, food and drink establishments can maximize the usefulness and appeal of glassware.

Cold Drink Glasses

Cold drink glasses are usually tall, with many different styles and shapes to choose from. The condensation, ice cubes, and bubbles of a Coca-Cola in a clear, tall glass, on a hot summer day is irresistible. This effect provides a benefit of serving many types of cold drinks in clear glassware, making them the most popular option for restaurants and bars.

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How to Care for Flatware

Care for flatware properly by making sure to wash and dry it soon after use.Flatware is undeniably an integral piece of restaurant equipment. Different types of flatware offer different advantages, whether price, durability, or feel are taken into consideration. But no matter how luxurious the flatware, it will still be susceptible to wear and tear from use as well as the natural environment. The extent to which flatware can be used in a restaurant greatly depends on the amount of wear and tear it has received as well as the care and attention which has been given to itatt. With proper and consistent care, flatware can be used in a venue for the longest amount of time possible.

1. Purchase wisely

Caring for flatware needs to be done for any type of flatware, but purchasing good quality flatware can help make the process of maintaining it more effective and long-lasting. Whereas cheap flatware can easily get scratched and may be more likely to rust, high quality flatware requires regular maintenance,  (…Read More…)

A Guide to Takeout Container Materials

Paper takeout containers are a relatively environmentally friendly option, making them a great choice for more than just Chinese restaurants.

Takeout food is a huge market. From restaurants taking orders to-go to supermarkets selling pre-prepared meals, food on the go is slowly taking up a bigger and bigger portion of the food industry. All restaurants should also offer customers the option to take home any unfinished food, and therefore, there is good reason for almost any food business to keep takeout containers on hand. Each year, different styles and types of these containers are developed, with the most commonly seen materials being Styrofoam, paper, plastic, or aluminum foil. Businesses should choose which containers to purchase based on price, food, and environmental concerns.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam containers are a classic option for takeout joints. Styrofoam is made of a plastic called polystyrene, incorporated with about 95% air. There are many environmental concerns associated with Styrofoam due to its production using nonrenewable energy sources and its non-biodegradability. On the other hand, Styrofoam products are inexpensive, stackable, and lightweight. They remain cool to the touch, no matter how hot the contents, making them a great option for packing hot soup and stews. However, food stored in Styrofoam containers can become soggy, presenting a problem when packaging fried foods, hot sandwiches, and other dishes which become lower quality with moisture.

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Pizza Marketing Tips

Know your strength, and don't be afraid to flaunt them for the best pizza marketing.Pizza is a top favorite dish and relatively easy to prepare, which may be why so many venues offer it on their menus. From street fare to pizza shops to fine dining venues, pizza has reached every nook and cranny of the food world. The commonality of pizza on menus emphasizes the importance of advertising and marketing in order to draw in customers and convince them that your pizza is worth a try. Here are some of our pizza marketing tips.

Know Your Crowd

Targeting the right customers is the key to drawing in business, building customer loyalty, and shaping marketing strategies in any type of business or service. Pizza is often thought of as a simple, fast food option. However, a pizza complete with pesto and well-aged cheeses, or pizza with Alfredo sauce instead of tomato sauce, mushrooms, truffle oil, and high quality parmesan can easily grace the fanciest menus. Depending on the type of pizza and the type of venue, the target customer group will change. The customer group you are trying to reach should shape your marketing plan. For example, if you are advertising a high end venue, you may consider purchasing an ad in a local paper and focusing on the restaurant itself, rather than the pizza specifically. On the other hand, if you have a casual pizza restaurant, you may consider purchasing a radio ad and creating a jingle, in order to make your number memorable for customers looking to order out. Since high end restaurants usually don’t advertise one main food item, the rest of the tips in this article will be geared towards pizza restaurants.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Out of sight, out of mind is such a common and cliché phrase because it is true. Think about the last time you decided to order takeout food from a pizza parlor just because you happened to notice their new, clean, brick oven as you were driving past the venue? For most people, the answer to this question is probably never. The truth is, when you are looking to order some take-out food to pick up or be delivered, you are probably most attracted to the most hassle-free solution. That hassle-free solution will naturally be the pizza shop which makes it easiest for you to see the menu and place your order. What this means for businesses is that offering menu handouts and business magnets can define the profit margin which the venue can potentially reach. It can place the business at the forefront of customer’s minds and dining choices. Ads on the radio with catchy jingles has been proven to enable listeners to remember the ad better, as well as the phone number sung at the end of the jingle. Placing advertisements in the local newspaper can help get the name and number of the restaurant out to potential customers as well. Even sponsoring local sports events with free pizza, while handing out a brochure with each slice, can get the name of the venue out there. Finding multiple outlets to be in potential customers’ faces as often as possible can have huge effects on the amount of business a venue receives.

Know your strengths

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It’s not enough to just target your most-likely customer group and be in-your-face about your business. You must also know how to advertise and market your business to put an emphasis on your strengths and be as honest, yet attractive to potential customers, as possible. For example, if you use especially delicious homemade tomato sauce, flaunt it! If you have unique and varied toppings, make sure everyone knows it. Boast about your unconventional qualities as a business, while seeking ways to draw attention by thinking out of the box. Not so creative but offer great deals? That’s a great thing to show off as well! Having special deals such as giving away a free bottle of soda with each order of a family sized pie can be a great way to draw business. Throughout high school, my friends and I would always go to this one pizza place that had the best pizza offered at the lowest price bracket. It was always packed, simply because they offered decent food and a great deal.

Marketing your pizza is all about making yourself stand out among the more than 60,000 pizzerias in the United States. Yes, that number may be an exaggeration since the typical pizza restaurant is only up against similar venues within a certain radius from it, but the numbers do hint at cutthroat competition that can break a business. Though the would-be restaurant owner entrepreneur may dream of offering the highest quality food possible, the market sector has shown time and time again that it is often worth compromising partially on ingredient quality in order to invest the money in marketing. The best restaurant is worth nothing without loyal and new customers creating a steady cash flow, and the best way to get that restaurant traffic is through thoughtful and pointed marketing. Thinking about the target customer group, the advantages of your business over similar ones in the area, and making sure that your name and number are constantly out there and available to customers, will help make your marketing successful and beneficial to your business.

A Guide to Measurement and Measuring Cups

Measuring in grams versus ounces can make cooking and baking slightly more challenging.One gram or one teaspoon here or there can sometimes have a serious impact on a food. Just imagine the sticky mess that can result from adding just a drop too much water to a dough, or the awful taste of pepper spilled into soup while attempting to eyeball the amount added. I’d say most of us have been there, done that, and ended up tossing our hard work. One of my serious considerations for going to culinary school, as opposed to pastry school, was that I don’t have the patience to meticulously measure out every ingredient. And on top of that, there’s the different measurement systems. There’s no escaping the recipes in grams and milliliters, nor pounds and cups. I was drawn to the idea of knowing the ingredients so well that I could eyeball the amounts. Yet there are some things that are just not eyeball-able, but rather require measuring tools to be used.

By Cup and By Weight

Cups come in all different shapes and sizes, yet recipes demand a standard that can be guaranteed only by measuring cups. The customary cup in the United States is under 240 milliliters whereas the metric cup is 250 milliliters, a slight, but sometimes important difference. The United States and Britain have yet to transfer over to the metric system which the rest of the world follows. The disparities in the systems can cause confusion abroad. Admittedly, knowing that the weather is 18 degrees Celsius means nothing to me, despite having lived abroad in a metric-using country for quite some time. And if you ask me my height in centimeters…well, I have no idea. Thankfully, there are scales which measure both British and Metric units. And for that stick of butter needed in grams, or those liters needed in cups, thank the internet. The biggest challenge in playing with unit conversions in recipes is in converting volumes to weights. One cup of flour is not equal to one cup of water when it comes to weight. If the proper measuring cups are not available, a little research will need to be done, which can add preparation time and hassle.

The Solution

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The solution to the mix-up and complication with measuring cups, weights, and units is to have the proper measuring equipment on hand. Measuring cups and basic scales are not expensive and will often go a long way in helping create new menus, improve food quality and quality consistency in a venue, and simplify the cooking and baking processes for employees. As an added bonus, measuring equipment such as scales and measuring cups can also be used as food portioners for ensuring uniform dish sizes for each order and allowing exact calculation of profits on each dish. When having the proper equipment is not an option, conversion charts can be used. These can either be printed and then hung somewhere in the commercial kitchen or, if they are rarely needed, employees may take a break to look up the conversions on the internet. Venues can also convert their recipes to match their measuring equipment. If a recipe calls for one stick of butter, but the butter in a venue is purchased in bulk and not wrapped by sticks, the recipe can be reprinted as calling for 4 ounces of butter, rather than one stick.

The metric and British systems cause complications when it comes to unit conversions. However, these complications must be dealt with and overcome in the kitchen, in order to produce the best foods. Just a tad too much or too little salt can have a big effect on the diner’s portrayal of the dish and the kitchen staff’s food preparation skills. Though experienced cooks are likely to get it right, some dishes demand exact quantities to turn out great, making it important to have the proper measuring equipment on hand. Very experienced cooks may know that one ounce is about 28 grams, or that to convert Celsius temperatures to Fahrenheit, you must multiply the temperature by 1.8 and then add 32. Some may be able to calculate or estimate such conversions in their head, but for the most part, these switches are a challenge, not only for kitchen staff, but for cooks worldwide and in general. Aside from the solutions suggested above of having conversion charts, purchasing the right measuring equipment, or converting recipes to fit the tools in a specific kitchen, venues may want to have a kitchen calculator handy in order to avoid innocent mistakes and recipe mishaps. Following these tips will help make food preparation simpler and more consistent in a venue.

Three Steps to Buying the Best Wok

Choosing the best wok for you

Buying a wok is overwhelming because of the huge range of options. By having a clear idea of the purpose it will serve, businesses can choose the best wok in three simple steps.

1. Choose the Material

Stainless Steel– Stainless steel gets very hot, but the heat transfer takes a relatively long time.

Cast Iron– similarly to stainless, steel, cast iron gets extremely hot, but also takes a long time to heat up. The metal is considered reactive, which can give acidic foods a metallic taste. Cast iron woks also tend to be heavy, making it hard to toss around the contents of the pan.

Carbon Steel– Carbon steel woks are relatively lightweight, distribute heat evenly, and are non-stick, making them (usually) the best option for sautéing.

All in all, since stainless steel and cast iron woks tend to take longer to heat up and distribute heat less evenly, they are less ideal for busy service in restaurants compared to carbon steel woks. Having lightweight woks makes quickly sautéing and tossing ingredients easy for chefs, since they won’t get tired out very quickly and will be able to make sure that the pan contents get cooked evenly.

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Top Four “Must-Have” Kitchen Knives

paring-knifeHow sharp are your knife skills? No, we’re not talking about how you actually wield a knife, but instead about your knife knowledge. If you’re uncertain regarding which knives you need to execute all of your favorite recipes, you’re not alone. With so many options, it can’t be hard to keep up. We’re making it easy for you with this handy cheat sheet of four must-have kitchen knives for every home or professional chef.

1. The Chef’s Knife

Every professional chef’s best friend, the classic chef’s knife is the definition of “versatile.” According to Institute of Culinary Education Chef-Instructor Brendan McDermott, a chef’s knife in the 8- to 10- inch range is ideal for a whopping 90 percent of all day to day kitchen tasks. Slicing fruit? Dicing vegetables? Carving chicken? Trimming steak? A chef’s knife can do all of this and more. Whether you’re a beginning chef in search of a starter knife or a professional chef looking to upgrade your collection, the right chef’s knife can make-or-break your prowess in the kitchen.
One last tip? Reserve the largest portion of your knife-buying budget for a top-quality chef’s knife. When chosen well and with proper care, it can last forever.

2. A Serrated Utility Knife

While cutting bread may be the first thing that come to mind when you think of serrated knives, they’re good for so much more than that — and shine where knives with smooth blades fail. Whether you’re cutting into a juicy peach or tomato or slicing through fatty meat or a sandwich, a serrated utility knife allows you to pierce and penetrate tough or waxy exterior without damaging the more delicate insides. The end results are not only better, but the work is easier: serrated knives require less downward force meaning reduced effort for you, too.
One task for which serrated knives aren’t suited? Chopping. Serrated knives should only be used with a sawing motion. Leave the rest for your chef’s or paring knife.

3. A Paring Knife

Paring knives may look like pint-sized versions of chef’s knives, but they’re anything but. While chef’s knives are multipurpose, paring knives are very specific in their use: they’re ideal for all delicate kitchen tasks which require precision. Coring an apple? De-ribbing a jalapeno? A paring knife makes short work of these jobs, as well as other tasks which are simply too small to be handled by a larger blade.
A caveat? Because paring knives are lightweight they aren’t ideal for slicing small hard veggies, like parsnips and carrots. If you can’t pierce without applying pressure, you’re using the wrong tool.

4. A Honing Steel

Your knives are only as good as the condition they’re in, and knives which are not well maintained are useless. Over time and use, blade edges curl, causing knives to become dull. While not technically a “knife,” a honing steel is an essential part of any knife collection because it helps keep the blade in alignment. Contrary to popular misconception, honing — or sharpening steels — do not actually sharpen. However, they do serve a very important role in keeping your knives in good condition between sharpenings.

Whether you’re buying a complete knife set or planning on gradually adding to your collection, it’s also important to keep one last thing in mind. While these four listed above are the usual suspects on roundups of must-have knives, they’re far from the only options out there.
Butcher your own large cuts of meat? Then a cleaver is in order.

Frequently work with fish and other delicate proteins? A filet knife will come in handy.

Host family gatherings and parties? A carving knife will see you through from the slicing meat to cutting melon.

Shuck oysters? Oyster knife.

And the list goes on. The truth is that that every chef’s ideal knife collection varies depending on their own cooking styles and preferences. As you continue to refine your cooking skills, your knife needs will change and evolve. So before asking yourself, “What knife do I need?” you might first consider the question, “What kitchen tasks do I need to accomplish?”

Guidelines for Food Safety During Catered Events

Good sanitation, proper food storage, and the right equipment are the keys to food safety during catered events.Food safety is a concern that every food business has heard about. Strict legislation has been passed on the topic, and the public has taken note of the damage which can be wreaked when food safety is compromised. Catered events pose a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to food safety, due to the nature of food service at such events. Many additional measures must be taken when handling and serving food at a catered event, as opposed to a regular restaurant. Catering businesses should map out the process from the time the raw ingredients are received, to the time to food reaches their diners, and pinpoint critical control points where food safety may be compromised. These points are often at the transitions between heating and cooling, where there are optimal conditions for harmful bacteria to grow. When analyzing the items and conditions which present a hazard to food safety, as a general rule of thumb, bacteria like what we do: all types of food, at room temperature to body temperature, and, like us, they also require water to grow. When applying this rule, it becomes clear that dry croutons are less of a risk for bacterial contamination than rice, for example.

Food Transportation

Catered events are occasionally located in a venue with the proper accommodations for preparing food from start to end. However, oftentimes this is not the case, and caterers must transport the food to the event and reheat it right before service. Food transportation can be (…Read More…)