holding food for take-out service

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by charron, Apr 14, 2010.

  1. charron

    charron

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    This summer will be the first for our take-out kitchen.  We aim to provide travelers and campers fresh-made, home-made foods quickly.  The 'quickly' part is the bit offering me the most trouble.

    Any thoughts, tips or tricks for holding the following?

    Stuffed mushroom 'burgers';  grilled portobello mushrooms stuffed with lemon pepper chicken/spinach & feta/garlic, bacon & mozz/ etc.  My thought, so far, is to roast off the mushrooms in the oven, then hold them at 140o.  To serve, stuff & grill on the bbq until the stuffing melts, pop em on a toasted & dressed bun and off they go.

    Hamburgers, sausages;  bake until cooked through, then hold stove-top in a pot of consume.  For service, pat dry and sear on hot bbq for grill marks and a bit of char.

    Chicken burgers;  we likely won't have a fryer going, so I thought we could bake off the breaded chicken and hold it in the oven, then toss it in a sauce of choice before bunning it up for service.  The non-breaded chicken might be held the same way as the burgers; in a pot of stock, then pat dry and quick grill for marks & char.  Not quite sure how to hold the chicken without drying it out...

    For equipment we'll likely just have an oven, range, and a couple bbq's.  I'm working on getting a larger range with a grill and a couple more ovens.  Is there anything else we should be looking for, equipment-wise?  I'm used to cooking to order from fresh for people willing to sit and wait for it; this street-meat style fast service has me a bit baffled.
     
  2. charron

    charron

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    Should I have posted this in the pro's section?
     
  3. gunnar

    gunnar

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    I don't think so Charron, the pros look over here too, it gets boring on the pro side.  I don't have much experience in this but here is 2 cents worth.

    Do you have a cooler? whenever I got talked into street food by a friend in San Francisco, he always had a fridge hooked up in a truck.. alot of prep was in a large camp cooler with a block of dry ice covered by cardboard for our coolant. It stayed cold.  we passed inspection or the health inspector was just too busy to care for a one day festival

    I ask cause mushrooms just look flabby and bad after holding so long. The last place I worked we did a mushroom panini. the mushroom were stored cold after being cooked in the oven with balsamic and oil and s&p and then heated on the panini press, with roasted bells and squash. They should take 2-3 min to heat on the grill, I think it will save you product in the long run.

    Same for the chx, pre baked, chopped and cooled. Then bust out a saute pan with the sauce your going to use for a fast reheat.



    Otherwise I don't think you should go with this menu, i would go with meats that don't care (or at least not much) how long they are held warm. Roast beef in jus,  pulled pork, brats and beer and for a vege sandwich, a ratatouille burger or wrap (come on you know it would sell just be sure to strain it a bit)  All those will hold and keep holding with the addition of a little water to keep them from drying out.

    best of luck
     
  4. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Probably would be better, since it's basically specialized for commercial work. From what holding of food I've done for large gatherings, etc. you seem to already have that figured out (keeping burgers in stock) .. I also will wrap things in foil and place in a cooler as a hotbox. The breaded chicken breast might be a problem balancing between soggy breading and dry chicken. Sorry I don't have any more information.
     
  5. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Charron, where will you be serving from? and why the need to have the quick serve? If it's good, they will wait for quality. The quality from holding will suffer vs fresh off the grill....
     
  6. charron

    charron

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    Chefbuba, we have a bit of an oddball set up.  We are, first and foremost, a variety store; chips & chocolate bars, pop, road maps, safety pins etc.  We are also out in the country, at least 15 minutes from any of the surrounding towns, so we have 'locals', and we are on a road regularly traveled by persons on their way to vacation areas.  Most importantly, we have a provincial conservation area literally in our backyard with several hundred camping and trailer sites in it, and we have our own gate to the park to facilitate walk-up traffic.  To accommodate the campers in the summer we stock a variety of fresh and dry/canned groceries, camping goods, toys & games, etc.

    My home is attached to the back of the store, or more accurately the store is on the front of my home.  Our 'kitchen' started life as the bedroom that was closest to the store.  We renovated it to include the electrical, plumbing, and surface & equipment requirements demanded by the health board; it is a completely separate, certified commercial kitchen but on par (equipment-wise) with a standard residential kitchen.  Shortly we will be replacing a large window with a door to gain immediate access to outside, where another fridge, chest freezer, bbq's and (if all goes well) a propane fired range & oven will be located on a covered deck.

    The 'street meat' style of menu is for me:  I need to keep it as simple as possible to start since through May and half of June I will be the only one in the kitchen.  If you think of my store as having stations, we have Store & Fuel Tills, Ice Cream, Propane & Firewood, and now Kitchen.  There are only three of us on staff until mid June... one less than we really need.  Mid June, school lets out and we really get flooded but that's when we'll have at least four more staff arrive, including another cook and a chef.

    Fast needs to happen because as a take-out-only kitchen there are not many places available for customers to wait.  Fast and simple needs to happen because, as much as I thrive on pressure, I can only do so much on my own, and chances are I'll be called away to another station and so need the food to be ok on its own for a bit.  The 'simple' is also for the customers; familiar stuff that they can decide on quickly, then get out of the way of the other customers.

    Whew, after typing that all out I'm feeling the underlying current of panic rising a bit... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif   Any hints, tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Of course, if anyone wants to come work with me for a month or so (for the fresh air /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif) I wouldn't say no...



    P.S.  Gunnar, I really like the idea of a ratatouille wrap. (It's just so much fun to say lol)  I think I'll start experimenting with that today /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2010
  7. charron

    charron

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    yea, this is a gratuitous bump.  I could really use some advice, though.  Please.
     
  8. gunnar

    gunnar

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    you know, when I go camping (which hasn't happened in years) it's breakfast that I really want cooked for me. sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles (waffles! a camping luxury!). oh yeah, Chicken fried steak with gravy, yummm.  fast, fast, fast and easy.


    so Mr. Transporter of the Dead, where is this campsite? You still haven't answered that post I left on the wall of your profile.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  9. charron

    charron

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    lol  The speakers were actually broken at my end.  I didn't know messages could be posted like that so I've never bothered to look. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif  

    Breakfast, we already have down pat.  Omelets made to order, pancakes, potato skillets, 'breakfast bundles' of egg & meat in a soft tortilla wrap, toasted sandwiches, muffins, bagels (not my own bagels yet), etc.  Bacon & sausage are cooked off first thing and get a quick flash on the griddle for service.  Eggs, except the hard boiled, are cooked to order and can get out in under 3 minutes... though no one has ordered poached, yet.  Steakette & egg sandwich takes the longest so far at 8 minutes, though that time will be reduced in the busier season when I can prep some and not cook from frozen.

    Our sandwiches are pretty quick, too.  The roasted meats are all sliced, portioned, and frozen.  One minute in the ancient nuker on high thaws them to warm-but-not-burned-around-the-edges perfection.  Then its a quick mix for the salad sammie fillings, or just assembly.  Toast usually keeps me waiting...  I was concerned with using the nuker in the beginning, but our customers love our sandwiches so I don't fret anymore.  In the winter home made soup and chili I hold cold and reheat to order.  Again, it seemed like cheating but the food has been well received and I didn't lose as much to hot-hold breaking.

    It's Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area in my backyard.  They have a website.

    Oh, and I have an extra 'r' so it's more rolling, less rowing. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  10. gypsy2727

    gypsy2727

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    wow it's too bad you didn't have a deep fryer ...everyone loves home cut fries and they are probably the #1 money maker in the world.
    My parents live in Southampton Ontario and there is an amazing place right on the Beach called Gerry's Fries . They have been there for over 50 years and they are only there  seasonally from spring to fall and they take off for the winter...People line up for a half hour ....me included! Oh they have other little boxes of deepfried like O rings and of course burgers and dogs and such ...but the main is the fries ...not much over head costs ..
    Anyhow there is also Armonds in town too ...he is a certified Chef and his father left him this great little spot he use to sell pizzas out of Armond does not have anything deepfried ...but he does have a Panini Grill and he arrives 5 a.m., makes all his own foccacia for the sandwiches ...pre-grills all his chicken, turkey and steaks for his wraps and sandwiches ...oh theres of course tunasald, chickensalad,eggsalad grilled veggies  in a wrap or on focaccia or whole wheat or rye or white ,,side salads,,,,and his homeade soup ( might be good for rainy camping days)... (and other things like Quiche and Bistro items that maybe would not be right for your location... I don't know ).Armond also takes off for the winter shuts up shop and works out in B.C. for a Heli Skiing resort!
    Anyhow ,what I'm trying to say is keep it simple, it seems that the place,location,facilities and your clientel are crying for simplicity you'll only win in the end cost  and sanity wise
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2010
  11. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Charron... I'm in the same boat as you, doing burgers, 14 sandwiches, soups, salads, and daily specials....anything from osso bucco, bbq, chicken fried steak, pastas,mexican, asian,,,
    All from a 20ft trailer. ....I prep it, cook it, clean it, take your order  and $$, get your drinks, answer the phone....and try to carry on a conversation with you while waiting....I'm a lunch only...11-3  People will wait when it's good...I had people waiting all day today...It's all cooked fresh and to order..use.the best bread I can get.... All my meats sliced to order in front of the customer... They know its fresh. It's all made in front of them.

    A fryer would do good too... Hand cut fries are a big hit... #50 sack of spuds cost me under $5...makes alot of fries at $2 an order... and they get alot...everyone likes a big order of GOOD fries. Home made beer battered onion rings....I hav e guys calling to ask when I'm making onion rings.
    Bottom line is they will wait if it's good... They are waiting for your breakfast to be cooked to order... Whay not the burgers and the rest of the menu.
     
  12. charron

    charron

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    Thanks for the thoughts. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif   Fries are out for one reason: the park has a concession stand that serves only fries and onion rings, and so as a courtesy to them we will offer neither.  No, we don't have to leave them off the menu but we prefer to stay on the best terms possible with our neighbors.

    Chefbuba, how long does it take you to cook each burger?  Idealy I would like to have everything - from order to service - ready in 5 minutes or less.  It would be lovely, and easier, to have restricted hours but the store is open from 6am to 9pm and while we can have a cut-off time for breakfast, the lunch/dinner menu will still have to cover from about 11am to close.

    Am I being reasonable, thinking to hold meats in appropriate stocks?  Is there a trick available to keep breaded chicken from drying out?

    Gonna go throw a portobella on the panini press and see how long it takes... may as well cook one off and pop it into some veg stock to see how it behaves...
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2010
  13. cyberdoc

    cyberdoc

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    I got agree with Chefbubba.  I will gladly wait for quality meal. 
     
  14. deltadude

    deltadude

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    Yo Charron,
    I'm just a home cook, but have thought often about buying or opening a setup similar to what you have, near remote outdoor activities, sort of seasonal.  In fact I was talking with the wife about it this morning, when I read something about a favorite fishing area.

    I have to agree with Chefbubba, but again who will wait and who will not depends on who the customers are.  Travelers are less likely to wait long times unless the wait area is comfortable, even if outside there still has to be shade, sitting area and even something to keep hold their interest.  Locals who like your quality are willing to wait.

    If due to overhead and business flux, it is hard to man the facility at various times, then go for a simpler kind of menu.  Tri Tip or Brisket sandwiches, Pull Pork BBQ sandwich, in other words do the BBQ thing,  even Ribs, most bbq meats hold well for several hours if stored properly, and when your out your out, bbq sauce can cover a lot of mistakes.  Precooking hamburgers would be heresy here in Calif.  Every year we go up to Yosemite Valley, there is a hamburger joint at one of the last little towns about 30 miles before you get to Yosemite.  We always stop there for lunch or early dinner, great hamburgers (1/3 lb is the avg, they offer 1/2 lb), great milk shakes, juke box in the out side screened covered sitting area, sitting is picnic tables with benches.  The place is usually busy.  So we try to hit it at either 10am or 2-3pm for a little less crowd.  From my experience a lot of travelers want a good fresh cooked burger.  Do oven fries, done right they are better than deep fried. 

    But keep the menu simple.  You can even just go deli cold or heated sandwiches, meat already pre-sliced in wax paper with correct slices per bun, like subway allow them to pick their toppings.  I can tell you the some of the best deli spots have very limited menus but the few things they do they do exceptional "BREAD".  Can you serve beer and wine?  Bottled only keeps it simple.

    Anyway just some thoughts from the consumer side....
     
  15. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

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    Charron, I really think the mushrooms need to be done to order, ala minute, or if held in a low oven, they will be rubbery.  I am surprised no-one had ordered poached eggs, they are my favourite way of doing them.  You can even poach them, plunge into cold water, then reheat for a short time when needed.  Maybe they need a special name one the menu/board..

    If you are considering the other caterer's option of providing fries - why not do game chips?  Or wedges?  (oh I love them with paprika and sour cream and grated cheddar)..

    If your hours are that long - what about serving sloppy joes (is that the right term?).   The ragu can easily be re-heated, bread rolls will keep all day long/....just a thought.
     
  16. charron

    charron

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    Aw, Deltadude, you are so much more than just a home cook. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif   I hear what you're saying, and agree totally, about the cooked from fresh factor for the burgers.  I thought it wouldn't be an option, but suddenly (yep, just noticing that everyone has been beating me over the head with the obvious) I realize that people, the regulars, will wait.  And, at the same time, I can offer faster foods for those who don't want to wait.  I can figure some way for the menu to reflect that.  Of course my first thought of a 'quickies' section on the menu won't do, but I'm sure if I think on it a bit more I can figure something more appropriate out.

    DC, I really like the idea of including sloppy joes.  I'm all about the appearance of variety achieved with the versatilty of ingredients.  Tacos are already on the menu so the beef will be on hand ready to be sauced, and of course the hamburger buns will do.  The salad clamshell containers will have to sub in for the burger wrapper, but meh... no big deal.

    I'm really starting to feel better.  Thanks guys. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/peace.gif
     
  17. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I did Sloppy Joes the other day for a special,,, never served them before... sometimes have at home over a baked potato.. Thought I would be putting it all in the freezer and eating at home...sold 18 out of 20!   Big baker, s&p, butter, cheddar cheese, joes, more cheese.
     
  18. charron

    charron

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    Sloppy joes are on the menu for sure, but I'm just a bit confused by what DC meant by a 'ragu'.  I've always made em with ground beef, and every recipe I've looked at says the same.  Ragu, to me, is chunks of partially shredded meat in a thick gravy. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif

    On another note, I'm wondering if I had an epiphany today...  what if I took strips of breaded chicken, cooked them until done through, cooled them to hold, then popped them in the toaster before tossing in sauce to serve?
     
  19. charron

    charron

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    Aw, no thoughts on the toaster trick?  I admit, I haven't tried it yet... but I will /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif
     
  20. leeniek

    leeniek

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    I had "ragu" at my sister in law's when they lived in Quebec... it was basically a casserole of ground beef with macaroni and tomato sauce topped with cheese and baked until the cheese melted. 

    The toaster trick.. I'm not sure... I'd be concerned that the toaster oven would burn the chicken to a crisp instead of warming them thoroughly... it's worth a try though