With the push to offer healthier choices, restaurants must rethink not only how they prepare food but the equipment they use to prepare it. We asked a few chefs to share their favorite healthy cooking gear, and also checked the floor of this year’s NRA Show to find new products for “cooking lighter.”
Sealing the deal
David Trubenbach, chef at Asador, a casual restaurant in Dallas, Texas, likes to use a vacuum-sealing system to season proteins such as fish. For example, he would combine salmon with a marinade in a sealed bag. “Then, [you can] boil the fish in water so it cooks in the marinade. By poaching the fish, it’s healthier than frying or grilling,” Trubenbach explains.
With the ever-increasing interest in sous vide cooking, a wide range of vacuum sealers is available for foodservice usage today, sized for every operation. High-volume, commissary-type operations can select a standalone vacuum packaging machine, such as the UltraSource Ultravac 500. A countertop, chamber vacuum sealer, like the Flavorseal MVS 31X, may be appropriate for smaller operations. With a relatively small footprint (20 by 16 inches), the machine can seal two or three bags per minute and has an optional tray for sealing liquid product.
For executive chef John Castro of Winston’s Restaurant at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, a combi oven is a must-have for healthier cooking. “It allows one to replicate pan frying without having to submerge food in fat. It also replicates grilling without the carcinogens, as there is no open flame. It produces great results,” he claims.
As with the vacuum sealers, there’s a combi oven to fit just about anywhere. The new CT Express Combitherm oven from Alto-Shaam, for example, is “bistro sized” at just 20 inches wide, yet still holds four full-size hotel pans. For operations where the oven may be in the patrons’ line of sight, it’s available in a variety of colors.
For years, blenders have been used to make frozen drinks and smoothies, but now they’re being drafted into service to create healthier items. Executive chef Aaron Brooks of EDGE, Steak & Bar in Miami’s Four Seasons Hotel uses his blender to make healthy soups, such as a “creamless cream of corn soup,” and spice rubs from ingredients grown on-premise. The blender, he says, “makes everything so velvety smooth that I can even grind whole spices. Since we have a pepper garden at our restaurant, I can create house-made rubs to use on steaks.”
To get an ultra-smooth texture in soup, it’s essential to have a high-power blender, such as the Vitamix Vita-Prep 3. The blender features a 3 HP motor and an acceleration control for processing dense ingredients.
Walking the Floor
Quick takes on some healthy cooking equipment seen at this year’s NRA Show:
The aluminum alloy Ipinium ridged cooking pans and baking sheets feature a nonstick coating. Through increased heat absorption and transfer, the manufacturer claims cooking time reductions of 20 to 50 percent.
The Bready bread machine makes gluten-free breads, muffins and pizza dough. The “no-paddle” machine uses proprietary bags of dough mix to which liquids and yeast are added.
Flattop grills allow for dramatic “live-action” cooking as well as a reduction or elimination in cooking fats. The newest addition to the line of flattops from Evo is a 20-inch diameter tabletop model with an optional carrying case for increased portability.