December 3, 2018

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Food safety, rising food costs, labor shortages, and shrinking margins are constantly top-of-mind for successful restaurant operators. Sourcing sous vide-cooked meat can alleviate these concerns while improving your food safety, service times, and yields.

Technomic surveyed over 600 independent and multi-unit restaurant operators to understand the challenges their restaurants face when cooking meat from raw. 

The study found that growing restaurants, regardless of the restaurant segment or cuisine type, recognize the benefits of sourcing sous vide-cooked meat for its quality, flavor, and consistency. Commercially-cooked sous vide meat offers many benefits when compared to meat cooked from raw in the back-of-house:

  • Consistent Cooking 
  • Extended Shelf Life 
  • Improved Food Safety
  • Easier & Faster Preparation
  • Better Yields & Reduced Food Waste

Let’s explore how sourcing sous vide-cooked meats can benefit your brand.

[Sourcing sous vide products provides] efficiency back-of-house—we are using less labor. We reduced waste, complexity and time spent by staff—not to mention the food safety element. We can duplicate recipes and be consistent—utilize the same products at any of our restaurants.

—Casual-dining Operator

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SOUS VIDE PROVIDES CONSISTENT COOKING VS. TRADITIONAL BACK-OF-HOUSE METHODS

You know the importance of providing your customers with a consistent eating experience whether they're visiting your flagship store or your newest location. Inconsistently-prepared menu items can be detrimental to your brand, especially if you're expanding and opening new locations rapidly. 

Sous vide-cooked meats are proven to be more tender and flavorful than conventionally-cooked meats, with a level of precision and consistency nearly impossible to duplicate when cooking from scratch in your restaurant.

Commercial sous vide cooking replicates the process of table-top sous vide immersion circulators used by Michelin-starred chefs and molecular gastronomists, only on a much larger scale. Commercial sous vide cooking makes perfectly-cooked proteins achievable for mainstream brands, even amid costly restaurant labor turnover.

In commercial sous vide cooking, the raw product is placed in a food-safe package, vacuum-sealed, then immersed into a temperature-controlled water bath. Cooking algorithms and thermometers precisely control both the water and food temperatures throughout the cooking and chilling process. This meticulous control over the water temperature and product cook cycle has a transformative effect on all cuts of meat and poultry—from the most delicate to the toughest—resulting in tender, juicy, flavorful products.

Scientifically-proven time and temperature formulas and continual monitoring ensure near-perfect repetition in meat texture, color, and tenderness, and promote a consistent eating experience for every customer, every time, at every location.

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EXTENDED SHELF LIFE

Vacuum sealing plays a crucial role in the sous vide cooking process for a few reasons. 

First, it facilitates effective heat transfer to the meat, cooking it slowly and evenly. When raw meat is cooked using traditional methods, it is often overcooked on the exterior where it’s exposed directly to the heat source. This rarely happens with sous vide-cooked meat. Vacuum-sealed bags are fully immersed in a water bath allowing heat to uniformly cook every facet of the meat.

Second, vacuum sealing creates an anaerobic environment preventing the oxidation of fatty acids. This protects the meat from discoloration, off odors, and off flavors, and extends the product’s shelf life. 

Vacuum packaging paired with sous vide cooking prolongs the shelf life of meat by reducing biochemical, enzymatic, and microbial degradation during storage and limiting spoilage and shrink within your operation. 

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IMPROVED FOOD SAFETY

Thoroughly-researched and validated scientific cook time and temperature guidelines governed by the USDA are the secret to commercial sous vide cooking. Low temperatures must be paired with appropriate cook times to significantly reduce foodborne pathogens such as SalmonellaE. coli., and Listeria.

Rapid, post-cook chilling is essential in the sous vide process for its role in impeding the growth of dangerous foodborne pathogens. Once the meat has been chilled, it can be stored refrigerated or frozen until it is served at your restaurant.

Sourcing sous vide-cooked products substantially mitigates risks from raw meat cross-contamination or under-cooked meat and reduces or eliminates your need for dedicated space to prep, cut, and hold raw meat in store.

We didn’t want to have raw chicken because of food safety concerns. It’s also a flavor and texture decision. We believe that sous vide chicken locks in the flavor profile and creates the texture we like.

—Fast-casual Operator

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BACK-OF-HOUSE EASE 

Sourcing sous vide-cooked meats can cut your in-store prep time by as much as 50%. That means labor savings for you and faster service times for your customers.

According to the FDA Food Code, sous vide-cooked products only need to be reheated to 135°F before serving, saving you valuable preparation time in-store versus fully-cooking raw products to higher temperatures for longer times. 

In an internal study conducted at Ed Miniat, sous vide-cooked chicken breasts were ready to serve in half the time as raw chicken breasts when reheated on various restaurant equipment (see chart below). That translates to fantastic benefits for your operation, especially during peak times, when preparation and cooking speed can be the difference between a positive or negative customer experience.

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While it’s not necessary to further cook or heat sous vide-cooked meat, some operators choose to re-heat or add a finishing touch to their product. 

Finishing sous vide-cooked meat is easy and efficient with just about any type of restaurant equipment. Simply drop the heat-safe bag into your rethermalizer or combi oven; or open the bag and place the meat on your grill, flat top, wok, or fryer to add grill marks or develop a beautiful char. Finishing sous vide meat also allows you to provide a fresh-cooked experience that customers love.

Sous vide-cooked meat is a fantastic option for small locations with limited equipment. If your brand doesn’t have the equipment to provide a finishing char in-store, you can partner with a commercial sous vide manufacturer who has grilling or searing capabilities. This provides both a delicious and visually-enticing eating experience for your customers.

The equipment in the kitchen, skill of employees—restrain us. Sous vide items can be added to the menu in smaller locations, opening up a whole lot of real estate that we previously had to pass on.

—Full-service Operator

Choosing sous vide-cooked meats and poultry will not only improve your back of house operations, it will result in your customers having a faster, more delicious eating experience in your restaurant.

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IMPROVED YIELDS & REDUCED FOOD WASTE

Muscle fibers shrink when they’re exposed to heat, resulting in moisture and yield loss. The higher the heat, the more rapidly and drastically the fibers contract. But when low temperatures are applied slowly and gradually, as they are during sous vide cooking, muscle fiber shrinkage is significantly reduced, allowing the meat to maintain its moisture and retain precious yield points

Food waste can take many forms—overcooking or undercooking caused by improper techniques or unskilled labor; lack of portion control resulting in give away; or out of date product that must be thrown away. 

[Sous vide products provide] ease of preparation for line-level associates with any talent or experience level.

— Fast-casual Operator

Partnering with a commercial sous vide meat manufacturer who offers custom pouch sizes tailored to your operational needs, puts you in control of your profits by providing better portion-control, the option to heat as little or as much as you need during service, and improved inventory control.

The control of product that we’re getting [from sous vide] allows us to bring a greater variety of products to our customers.

— Fast-casual Operator

Ensure a consistently-delicious, safe eating experience for your customers while reducing your prep time, food waste, and shelf life concerns with the proven benefits of sous vide-cooked products.

Have questions or want to know how sous vide can help your brand grow?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of sous vide cooking, we recommend Modernist Cuisine, vol. 2; Chef Thomas Keller's book, Under Pressure; and the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, vol. 1, issue 1.