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What is the best method for garnishing with basil?

basil chiffonade

Question:

Dear Advice Guy,

We currently use basil chiffonade as a garnish on our pizzas. The problem is we either have to put on a glove to touch it which takes a lot of time or use tongs which clumps it and doesn't give it an even spread. For parm and parsley we use plastic shakers with small to medium holed lids. Basil does not work for either of those. Is there a better method to garnishing with basil that I am missing?

– Ryan Mitchell, Partner, My Pie, Phoenix, Arizona

Answer:

This is an example of no question too small. While it may seem trivial, for a high volume pizza place making hundreds of pies each night, the little annoyances become magnified to big pains.

In states with glove laws, requiring a barrier such as a glove or tongs between your hand and ready-to-eat food like chopped herbs for garnish, you are doing everything right by asking this question.

A few ideas:

  • Brian Lofink, executive chef of Kermit’s Bake Shoppe in Philadelphia swears by culinary tweezers for this, which, he says, allows him to pick up and toss the equivalent of a few finger-tips full without clumping.
  • Try roughly torn basil rather than chiffonade. It can be more fragrant on a hot pizza, holds up better over the course of service and is easier to manipulate.
  • Wear one glove for garnishing. Obviously this works best if the cook finishing the pizzas does not have that hand in and out of the oven.
  • Play with easier additions such as basil oil that can provide easier-to-manage alternatives.

Besides these ideas, trial and error and asking peers will help. You are asking the right question trying to minimize a hurdle in your workflow.
 

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