What is in this article?:
- Keeping beef dishes profitable
- Controlling waste
As beef prices rise, chefs refine recipes, purchasing strategies to keep popular red-meat dishes profitable
John Uzelac, vice president of operations for seven-unit Rib & Chop House and two-unit Rio Sabinas, headquartered in Billings, Mont., agreed that good relationships with suppliers and distributors are crucial to managing prices. But, he said, so is controlling waste, which is why restaurant managers are the only people allowed to cut steaks in his restaurant.
“We know that they’re in the best position possible to cut to our exact specifications,” he said.
Uzelac purchases primal cuts for all the restaurants’ steaks to help manage costs. He also makes sure his customers are aware of non-beef options.
“Our pork ribs are front and center on the menu,” he said.
Better-burger chain The Counter is looking into bison as beef prices rise. The 36-unit chain based in Culver City, Calif., is testing the beef alternative in select markets now and offering it as an option for franchisees.
Otherwise the chain uses a custom blend of 75 percent lean shoulder meat from an all-natural supplier. With added trimmings, the blend is 80 percent lean.
“We feel that if it’s any leaner, we have a drier flavor,” but higher fat levels cause flame-ups on the grill, The Counter Andrew Evans said.
Evans uses the beef in a range of customizable burgers and “bowls,” the latter being burger patties on a bed of greens.
The Counter allows customers to build their own burgers and bowls using a variety of toppings and sauces. The most popular version is the standard Counter Burger, a beef patty on a plain bun with lettuce, tomato, fried onion strings, sautéed mushrooms, provolone cheese and a sun-dried-tomato vinaigrette. A standard burger with cheese and up to four toppings costs between $9.50 and $11.
Others are experimenting with ways to cut out costly lean meat without adding fat.
Eric Ernest, executive chef of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, recently started adding finely diced, cooked mushrooms to his hamburgers at two of his foodservice outlets: the fine-dining Moreton Fig and a sports bar called Traditions.
“We do what we call an umami mix,” Ernest said. The mix is a rib eye-chuck roll blend made up of about 20 percent mushrooms — mostly standard white button mushrooms with some cremini mushrooms added. That blend is Ernest’s standard hamburger mix for Moreton Fig and Traditions, but he occasionally spices up the mix with more robust mushrooms, such as shiitakes.
“We’re not looking for a lot of distinguishable mushroom flavor in the burger itself,” he said. “We’re looking for a neutral, earthy flavor.”
He grinds the mushrooms and cooks them down to about the appearance and shape of ground beef, then adds that to the raw beef and cooks them normally. The mushrooms provide moisture, umami, a lighter mouthfeel, and lower calorie and fat levels, while offering food-cost savings of between 10 percent and 20 percent.
Contact Bret Thorn at email@example.com.
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