Chicken continues to be the most popular protein among consumers, with more than 60 percent reporting they “love” it, according to insights from Datassential. 90 percent of consumers have consumed poultry in the past three days, in most cases for dinner. With this level of favoritism, it’s no surprise that chicken has penetrated more than 90 percent of all restaurant menus across the U.S., and it continues to be a high-margin item for chefs and operators.
“Chicken is incredibly versatile and can be used across all menu dayparts and in a wide range of dishes,” says Sam Weikum, Hormel Foodservice Brand Manager. “Chicken also benefits from a health halo, has a relatively lower calorie count per serving than other proteins such as beef, and is an easily-identifiable protein that customers know and recognize.”
However, there do remain certain challenges with handling and cooking chicken that many successful restaurateurs are looking to reduce or eliminate altogether.
“Operators are moving to more fully-cooked proteins to address issues with labor, safety, and quality,” Weikum says.
Here, we look at three areas where implementing a fully-cooked chicken product into a kitchen can help to improve restaurant efficiency.
Because raw chicken demands time and attention to be handled correctly, the process to cook that product from start to finish can take hours. Chefs and operators must often rely on low-skilled employees to accurately check all pieces and cook the meat precisely to the correct temperature.
In particular, large volume users such as hotel restaurants or regional chains can be greatly impacted by the amount of time it takes to prepare and cook raw chicken. As labor continues to be an issue for restaurant kitchens, operators are looking for more efficient ways to provide customers with accurate, speedy service.
By implementing a fully-cooked chicken product onto menus, operators can reduce the labor spent managing that prep work and cook times.
There are many uncertainties associated with cooking raw chicken, including cross contamination, over-cooking, or the risk of serving undercooked meat. Raw chicken can cross contaminate other ready to eat foods and there are also risks associated with keeping the line equipment clean.
“Raw chicken often travels throughout many places within a kitchen during the cooking process,” Weikum says. “Serving contaminated or undercooked chicken can lead to foodborne illnesses, bad press, and negative customer reviews.”
Using fully-cooked chicken provides operators with more piece of mind and helps to avoid any unforeseen accidents or mishandling.
Different cuts of meat tend to cook differently, and raw chicken is no exception to this. Add to that discrepancy the likelihood of different people handling, prepping, and cooking each piece of chicken, and operators risk inconsistency.
“Depending on who cooks the raw chicken,” Weikum says. “It’s likely to be inconsistent from plate to plate, whether it’s overcooked (which disappoints customers) or undercooked (which presents a safety hazard).”
Using pre-cooked chicken eliminates that uncertainty. As the name suggests, each piece of Hormel® Fire Braised™ Chicken Breast, for example, is seared from scratch before being slowly cooked. The flavor created during that process highlights the meat’s natural flavors and also introduces some caramelization and char. Chefs and operators in the full-service space can then incorporate the chicken into their menu just as they would with the raw product—but with significantly fewer challenges.
By freeing up time, labor, and space—and addressing challenges associated with labor and quality—chefs who implement fully-cooked chicken into their back of house can effectively do more throughout their entire operation.