You can’t walk into a restaurant without encountering some foodie who is there to sample the latest food trend by a well-known chef who has mastered the fine art of locally sourced meats, seafood, vegetables and more. But it takes more than the ingredients to create works of cooking art. We’re going to take a look at the top 4 food preparation methods that are trending in 2015 in restaurants, gastropubs and other commercial kitchens across the country.
Sous – Vide
Cooking “old style” may be a trend in itself. Chefs are often experimenting with historical cooking styles, making what was old new again. Sous-Vide is one of those styles that is trending in 2015. Sous-Vide is a cooking method that calls for the meat or vegetables to be sealed in an airtight bag and then cooked at desired temperatures in a water bath. This method dates back to the 1700s, but has gained popularity as a good way to ensure thorough cooking without losing essential nutrients or flavors. Often, after meats are cooked in the Sous-Vide immersion, they are removed and then charred on the outside in a salamander prior to serving. This gives the outside a char-broiled taste and texture while preserving the inside tenderness derived from the Sous-Vide process. Finer commercial kitchens are equipping themselves with Sous Vide Immersion Systems (including circulator head, bath and cover), as it is a way to ensure foods are not overcooked, reducing waste.
Preparing foods via smoking is not a new concept either. In the last 10 years, more BBQ restaurants and food trucks have hit the streets than any other type of eatery. At the base of it all is smoked meats, fish, vegetables and even some cheeses. Pork, beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, buffalo – you name it, it’s being smoked right now. Historically, smoking enabled people to preserve meats and fish for long periods of time. Smokehouses allowed for meats to be slow-smoked using a wood-burning stove and different woods, which would also enhance the flavor of the food.
In today’s commercial kitchen settings, chefs or pit masters can employ several different methods of smoking including smoke roasting (the recognized term here is barbecuing), hot smoking or cold smoking. Hot smoking tends to cook the food, as the process involves exposing the food to smoke in a heated and controlled box, oven or other enclosed area. Typically, hot smoke meats include things like hams or bacon. Cold smoking differs from hot smoking as it is intended to be more of a flavor added to a food and is not intended to cook the food. The process is the same as for hot smoking, though the temperatures maintained are drastically cooler.
Restaurant kitchens may be equipped today with some form of an outdoor wood pit, a natural gas indoor smokebox, traditional smoke boxes (if you have the right ventilation), electric cook and hold smoker ovens and even large custom built smokehouses.
What’s the difference between fire roasting and broiling? Easy. Broiling takes place in an oven, which contributes heat until a specific temperature is achieved. Fire roasting is direct heat that you cannot control the temperature of. In 2015 we’ve seen fire roasting as a preparation style increase in restaurants. More and more chefs are taking to open flame cooking that enable foods to be experienced with flavors of the open flame, like charred or caramelized. Fire roasting in today’s restaurant kitchens involves the use of live fire from either wood or charcoal in indoor grills or ovens.
Here is another “trend” that predates most other mainstream food preparation styles. We are not talking simple pickles here, though pickling does figure in. Fermentation employs the good bacteria that is an important part of human life. Beer. Wine. Cheese. Yogurt. Chocolate. All of these delicious foods require some sort of fermentation in the process of creation. Suddenly you love fermentation, huh? The fermentation process in today’s restaurants does not involve super-complicated or heavy duty cooking equipment. Most fermentation is handled in smaller containers, tubs or even jars for controlled quantities. But perhaps you will see a large fermentation crock sitting in the corner of the next commercial kitchen you work in.
What food prep trends are headed our way in 2016? A simple look to the past may provide us those answers. What trends did you experience that you’d like to add to this list? I welcome comments below.