The Trouble With Fresh Cut Fries & Grinding Your Own Burgers
QUESTION From: Mike in PA
“I currently oversee the food and beverage outlets at a public golf course. It’s a new position that I took over almost a year ago and until now my hands are pretty much been tied. Ownership is finally giving me the authority to revamp the restaurant and snack bar so my first order of business is to get rid of The complicated recipes nobody seems to be able to execute and replace the frozen food with all scratch dishes and sides like fresh cut fries and fresh ground burgers. We’ve been having some trouble getting the fries just right and wondering what your advice is or if you have any tips…like how to keep them from getting soggy especially when they’re purchased togo?”
1st of all let me say that fries are fries and no matter how you serve them or pack them to go, they’re never as good as they are when they’re fresh (or within 5 mins of being fresh)…but more about that in a minute.
First let’s focus on grinding and pressing your own burgers:
I see at least one or two operations each year that are in the process we’re about to begin the process, of repositioning and beverage outlets like you.
One of the things I would caution you against is going completely scratch when the need to do so isn’t pressing.
You stated that you have some recipes that your staff can’t execute… I mention this because doing burgers fresh/from scratch by grinding in the house can present more of a challenge than you realize.
For starters, producers who ground and pack preformed patties do so with machines that Produce a, typically, perfect (not to mention consistent) density for cooking.
Add to that, the fact that they are able to discard a lot of on usable product that some staff may not be able to do consistently… And no per Cicel add to that, the fact that they are able to discard a lot of unusable product that some staff may not be able to do consistently… And Measure precisely how much fat is in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I know what an 85/15 ground chuck burger looks like but if I had to create one that was 80/20 or 90/10 I don’t think I could do it.
Another area where need might not necessitate scratch cooking is with french fries… Especially if you don’t have the storage space in the walk-in or room on the line. I see a lot Of owners who won to offer fresh cut fries and only have one fryer on the line.
Remember, you’ll need at least two and preferably three fryers so that you can work one at 325 for a five minute drop, one at 375 For two minutes sear/lock in drop and another one at 375 for the pick up.
Don’t know that the ROI is an attractive one when doing fresh cut fries unless you have the room in the walk-in for your brine baths & baking racks, room on the line for fryers and a reliable supply of consistent potatoes.
One of the things that the producers of frozen fries offer is consistency. The potatoes, even when coming from the same farm, may have varying degrees of moisture content. The solids versus moisture that exist and the potatoes determine the density and how they will fry up (see more information at the bottom of this page for how you can determine density yourself).
Commercial providers sort and batch cook potatoes for consistency that’s really tough to match.
In short, there’s no shame in the frozen fry game..And if you’re trying to re-position and existing food outlet I’m sure you have plenty of other challenges that deserve your time :-)
As far as the sogginess goes, be sure not to stack your cooked fries and a vessel where they are too crowded and/or covered… that goes doublly for to-gos.
Consider open topped Fast Food style holders, paper cones, sandwich bags and/or cups like you see on the boardwalk.
If you DO decide to go scratch, remember:
At least 3 fryers
375 pick up
Look at what Chef Steps has to say about fresh fries as well:
“…we recommend Russet Burbank or Maris Piper—but fewer people know that it’s also critical that a potato be neither too wet nor too dry. A potato that is too wet has a low solids content and will tend to have a waxy, soggy texture when fried. Potatoes that are too dry tend to be too hard and crunchy when fried.
A simple method that sorts potatoes based on their specific [density]—an estimate of their solids content—can be used to find potatoes that are ideal for frying.
Prepare two tubs of brine: the first should be 9 percent salt relative to the weight of the water (8.25 percent salinity) and the other 12 percent salt relative to the weight of the water (10.7 percent salinity). Plunge each potato into the 9 percent brine first; potatoes that aren’t too wet should sink in this brine. Then drop potatoes that pass the test into the 12 percent brine; potatoes that aren’t too dry should float in this brine”
You may also want to consider fresh cut chips which, due to their thinness, often offer a bit more consistency:
Using a mandolin to slice white Idaho potatoes (just thick enough to make a solid rounds) then rinse with cold water a few times to get the excess starch off and fry until they just start changing color (usually 2-3minutes).
Another popular method is to use a Nemco (or similar) ribbon fry cutter powered by a cordless drill. These can be peeled straight into your fry basket.
At 15 cents per potato, and a dollop of sour cream or melted cheese whiz, that opens the door to a pretty attractive food cost as well.
Good Luck with the repositioning!