For many foodservice operators, a package is much more than just a container for food — it is a tool for achieving their business goals. They realize that well-conceived packaging can have a huge impact on the quality, safety and profitability of the menu items that they devote so much imagination and effort to creating.

“Understanding the vision of the chef is the first thing we do when we consult,” says Susan Edwards, Foodservice Business Development Manager, North America, for Sealed Air Corp.’s Food Care Division, of which Cryovac® brand food packaging is a part. She regularly works with operators to achieve optimum benefits from food packaging.

Edwards and the Sealed Air team typically collaborate with operators on packaging strategies for “right sizing” expensive proteins into practical portions to enhance yield, efficiency and quality, and reduce labor and waste.

The Ovenable Bag Advantage

The Cryovac® Oven Ease® ovenable bag is a key package for this initiative. It is ideal for pre-seasoned or pre-marinated products such as ribs, roasters, whole turkeys and hams. The ovenable bag allows such an item to be cooked inside the same material it is packaged in—reducing prep time, clean-up time and, in some cases, cooking time. It is safer, too, because the food is not exposed to contamination. Flavor and seasoning are consistent. Pre-cooked items can easily be reheated in the package. In addition, a K-12 school district or hospital that vacuum-seals meat or fish portions in Oven Ease® bags may be able to enjoy economies of scale in purchasing. Having this capability makes it easier to expand the menu and take part in profitable, limited-time-only offerings.

Withstanding temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours, Oven Ease® bags can cook a rack of ribs in about one hour and a whole roaster in an hour and a half.

“Almost anything I put in the bag — from a 14-pound turkey to a 12-ounce serving of raw chicken, rice and IQF peas to make Chicken Alfredo — will cook 15 percent to 20 percent faster than conventional roasting or braising,” says Edwards. “That’s because you have created the proper oven environment for the food you put into the bag.”

Ovenable packaging can translate to greater flexibility and productivity as well. “Now the operator can cook three different menu items in the same convection oven,” says Edwards. “One item may be a pork roast, the second may be a whole chicken, the third a beef pot roast with vegetables in the bag.”

Cooking a beef roast in an Oven Ease® bag with seasonings and added moisture creates a self-basting environment that produces great results, even with less-expensive cuts. An operator may vary the cooking time and temperature of the roast, choosing a high temperature and short time to create a slicing texture or a low temperature and long time for a pot roast with fall-apart tenderness.

Edwards sums it up: “The environment that you create with the ovenable packaging enables the end use and eating quality that you want.”

What’s more, the Oven Ease® bag provides extended hold time to keep products warm and moist until they are served. “If you are putting a roast in a hot box or on the steam table, there is no need to transfer it into a pan or cover it with foil,” says Edwards.

In another useful scenario, an operator who menus meat loaf can seal the raw, seasoned product in Cryovac® thermoform packages and freeze them, cooking off just as many perfectly shaped meat loaves as needed at service. What’s more, the packages can be formed in a unique shape to fit the vision of the chef.

Sealed Air is a Resource for Operators

Those are just a few of the tips and techniques discussed when the Sealed Air team meets with operators.

“I always ask the operator how he or she wants the food to taste,” says Edwards. “What texture do you want? How do you want to plate it? We then work backwards from there to come up with solutions.”

Sealed Air is ready to consult with operators on everything from packaging solutions to operational procedures to allergen-risk reduction.

For more information, visit cryovac.com or call 800-391-5645.