If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, you’ll never forget the unrelenting pressure of chit times.
When building a menu, it’s easy to be seduced by extra thick cut 18 oz. steaks, and some customers are easily sold on a low, slow menu item that boasts a 72-hour cook time—but we must all remember the basics of kitchen cooking times.
The dreaded watch-checking customer
An order is taken at the table, entered, and sent back to the kitchen. Industry standard of kitchen-to-table service at a sit-down establishment is 15-20 minutes—anything longer and you are risking a negative customer experience from sensations of boredom—or starvation!
As customers ourselves, we’ve all been there before: you’re at the table with family and friends, the conversation lulls into silence, a moment passes, and someone suddenly looks around and exclaims, “I wonder where our food is?!”
If a customer associates your establishment with slow service, you can be certain it will impact their decision to return in the future in favour of a quicker meal somewhere else.
Pork to the rescue
Cooking time is a vital metric that needs to be observed, measured, and tested when introducing a new centre of plate item to your menu.
Many factors come into play when estimating the time it will take to properly cook and plate a dish:
· defrost times
· cook from frozen time
· internal temperatures
· grill/oven/deep fryer temperature
Right down to the cut of pork, beef, or fish—all of these need to be factored in when designing your dish. Your sweet spot to aim for is going to be 7-9 minutes from raw to cooked.
As it pertains to pork on the menu, today’s standard for optimally cooked is an internal temperature of 160 °F. However, this can present a challenge to cooking times, depending on the cut you are working with.
Here are a few of the usual suspects found on menu’s today, along with some tips on how to get the most out of each cut:
Pork chop or steak: A pork chop is a great candidate for fast cooking on a grated or flat top grill—the orientation of the cut on a chop has the muscle fibres running vertically to your heat source, allowing fast heat dispersion through the portion. This, along with consistent sizing of your steaks, means that you will be able to accurately predict your cook time on this cut.
Pork belly: The evermore popular belly presents a challenge to cooking time. Opposite from the chop—and depending on how it is cut—the muscle fibres in the belly will be running perpendicular to the source of heat, creating a resistance to heat penetrating through the meat and cooking your dish.
The belly unlocks its potential, though, when cooked for a long time at a low temperature—which, of course, is the opposite of what we’re looking for. One method for working around this is to complete your cook the day before and reheat at service. Or plan to have your low, slow cooking time come to a close as service begins that day and estimate your requirements for that night.
Pork button bones (dry ribs): Button bones are truly an underappreciated item from a foodservice operating perspective! Most commonly prepared as an appetizer, in a 375 °F deep fryer, pork button bones can go from frozen—meaning there is little to no chance of spoilage—to fully cooked “dry ribs” in 8 minutes. A fantastic option that ticks all the boxes—if you’re looking to add an item to the menu, definitely give these a closer look.
Creativity in the details
Designing your menu can be a very personal expression and a way of setting your establishment apart from the masses, but it’s important to always remember the fine details of running your business.
With the variety, versatility, and value of pork, there are endless opportunities to include it on your menu, allowing for self-expression while remaining professional and profitable.
Find out more on Ontario Pork’s retail and foodservice site today to about how pork can help boost your menu!