Restaurants that serve fried comfort foods recognize the importance of breading to their dishes. The taste. The texture. That satisfying crunch.
That last element is critical because people, it turns out, crave crunchiness in their foods. “For non-gustatory, non-olfactory stimulation, people prefer crunchiness,” said smell and taste researcher Alan Hirsch.
“Sound affects the experience of food,” added gastrophysicist and professor Charles Spence. “We don’t like soggy crisps even if they taste the same. Missing the sound is important.”
So much of the experience of eating is tied to the breading that coats the food. But what restaurants may not realize is that cutting corners in how they handle, prep and apply breading can have a significant impact on both their food quality and their bottom line.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to breading
Different foods call for different breading mixes to ensure the appropriate appearance, texture and flavor. A breading that makes a perfectly crisp chicken tender might not work as well for a traditional bone-in piece of chicken.
Other foods can also require distinct breading mixes. Onion rings, for instance, turn out better when coated in a breading with a higher percentage of corn starch, which allows the breading to stick to the onion slice better. You know how you can bite into an onion ring and accidentally pull the whole onion slice out of the batter coating like it’s a sleeve? The right mix of corn starch helps fix that.
In addition to the critical crunch, various breading mixtures can also impact presentation, providing just the right texture and appearance for those nuggets or that fried chicken filet peeking out of the side of the bun.
And, of course, different breading recipes are a key way restaurants can add flavor profiles to their menu, introducing hot or Cajun flavors or other variations.
Breading handling don’ts
But despite these differences and the impact they can make on the food, operations may not handle their breading in a way that supports a consistent, reliable, high-quality product.
Different breading mixes must be handled entirely separately — for everything from storage through breading and sifting — to prevent cross-contamination of ingredients.
If an operation chooses to use the same sifter for both mixes, the equipment must be completely cleaned between uses. Otherwise, ingredients from the mixes will start to blend together, leading to a loss of distinctiveness between mixes, which in turn can hurt breading performance and flavor and negatively impact the final food product.
Using the same equipment can also lead to an excessive amount of waste. Workers bread a batch of a food item and head to the fryer with it while it’s fresh. The second food item also needs to be breaded and cooked at around the same time, so the leftover breading from the first batch is tossed and replaced with the second breading.
Failing to consider these processes when planning for additional menu items can lead to waste, higher labor demands, slower throughput and poorer-than-desired food quality.
What to do instead
To serve a unique and appealing menu, restaurants must ensure they have the right processes and equipment to manage ingredients effectively and cost efficiently.
Fully cleaning equipment between breading sessions is typically too time-consuming for a busy kitchen, so consider setting up separate breading stations with the necessary equipment for handling different mixes. That could include a basin for breading and manual sifter — or an alternative like the Breader Blender Sifter (BBS) from AyrKing.
The BBS saves labor, reduces ingredient waste and improves kitchen performance, helping kitchens introduce new food items and keep diners coming back for more. By creating two breading stations, each with its own BBS, kitchens can easily separate breading without incurring more labor or rising ingredient costs from discarded breading.
The BBS Mini — offering the same functionality in a smaller size — is a convenient and space-saving alternative for introducing a limited-time offer or to support a lower-volume dish.
Restaurants that utilize multiple breading mixes may also want to consider color coding or other highly visible markers to distinguish the variations. This visual designation should be applied to everything from storage bins to sifting equipment and more.
For more ideas on how to make your equipment highly functional and efficient, contact the food prep specialists at AyrKing.