It’s time for sensational skillets to race through your menu. Sizzles, pops and delectable smells drift through the air when you cook in a skillet or fry pan or sauté pan. A technique that brings out the flavours of simple ingredients in a short amount of time is an unbeatable choice for busy foodservice kitchens.
Who you are and where you grew up (even who fed you) are key when you consider what “skillet” means to you. But for everyone, skillet evokes the feeling of nostalgia. A warm hug from your mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandparent. A weekend breakfast ritual or a comforting weeknight meal.
As the pandemic continues – we are so close to being on the other side – customers are still looking for comfort to ease the anxiety caused by ongoing changes to normal routines.
Do skillets have a place on current menus? Most certainly. Who doesn’t want the comfort (or a reminder) of simpler times? So, go ahead, take your skillet to the starting line, stay true to your brand with your eye on the finish (and bottom) line, in this crazy race back to the new normal.
On your mark
James Keppy, corporate chef for Maple Leaf Foods, continues helping operators streamline their menus by promoting value-added ingredients.
For Keppy, breakfast is the first place he thinks of for skillets. “But they can be offered through lunch, dinner and finishing with desserts. Often made as a family meal, they are perfect for operators to create as individual meals that can arrive hot and steaming to the table.”
Skillets, sautés and stir fries are also a perfect option for LTOs. And Keppy adds, “One-dish meals are great to serve on the patio as well as for delivery. Small skillets can be prepped and quickly cooked allowing for easy variety and daily menu features.”
“One-dish meals are great to serve on the patio as well as for delivery. Small skillets can be prepped and quickly cooked allowing for easy variety and daily menu features.”James Keppy, corporate chef for Maple Leaf Foods
Menus have been gradually shrinking for many reasons and that won’t likely change once we finally get to the other side of the pandemic.
“With smaller menus, ingredients need to be used in multiple applications throughout the menu. Each restaurant has its signature dishes and a skillet can be a way to possibly offer those dishes as a stir-fry, a sauté or simmered in a sauce,” he suggests.
With planning and proper prep, operators can focus on utilizing lower cost ingredients but still give a powerful flavour boost.
“I love the word skillet! It evokes feelings of comfort and familiarity,” says Thomas Heitz, corporate chef for Kraft Heinz Canada. “We have a huge portfolio of products that really work well with skillet concepts.”
Escalon and Mama Linda brand of tomato and tomato products, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Velveeta, Richardson’s, Diana’s, Renée’s are a few he mentions as being “skillet-friendly.”
“Skillet meals are an effective choice for today’s smaller menus for a combination of reasons, including cross utilization of menu items and decreased labour requirements.”Thomas Heitz, corporate chef for Kraft Heinz Canada
“Skillet meals are an effective choice for today’s smaller menus for a combination of reasons, including cross utilization of menu items and decreased labour requirements. This results in increased quality because staff can focus on a smaller inventory of ingredients and then reap the rewards of decreased costs.”
It’s so easy to create a daily skillet using ingredients that may need some attention, either from your fridge, freezer or pantry.
Finishing your skillet dishes with unique offerings created by Heitz’s speed scratch approach offers the benefits of consistency and time savings without compromising on flavour.
“My speed scratch Singapore Sauce is gastronomically intense but so easy. A 50:50 blend of Richardson’s Butter Chicken Sauce and Richardson’s Szechuan Sauce.”
As customers come out of lockdown fogs, they are shifting their eating habits. They still crave comfort, but want some healthy with that comfort.
Heitz reminds us, “Skillets may not necessarily have a healthy connotation, but they certainly can offer indulgent and familiar flavours with healthy twists. They are just screaming for spinach, rapini, broccolini or tomatoes to be added.”
It’s the bits and pieces of you, your background, your brand and your ingredients that can be put together to make delicious and memorable dishes, one skillet at a time.
“Like adding bacon or ham to Lunch Mac ‘n Cheese Skillet,” says Maple Leaf’s James Keppy.
Constantly building concepts for customers, Keppy tempts us with Spicy Mexican Chorizo Sausage Breakfast Skillet or gives us great examples of cross utilization using boneless chicken thighs in both a Creamy Chicken & Biscuit meal or Parmesan Lemon Chicken and Rice Skillet.
Serving up skillets for flavour, comfort and health that use simple ingredients that can be cooked fresh to arrive on the plate or in the delivery box in less than 15 minutes is definitely a race you and your customers both win!
About the Author
Cherie Thompson understands foodservice from field to fork. A B.Sc. in Agriculture and experience in quality control, food science, product development, recipe development/editing, customer service, and teaching as well as owning and operating two independent foodservice operations have given her a unique perspective on the food industry.