When life turns unpredictable, people turn to the familiar. Restaurants looking to satisfy that need are turning to comfort foods and braised meats as a convenient and economical solution.
Comfort foods grew more popular as pandemic stress increased, and it doesn’t appear the desire is going away in 2021. Grocery giant Kroger is predicting consumers will look for more easy-to-prepare comfort foods and global flavors in 2021. This spells an opportunity for restaurants to get creative and offer menu choices that go beyond what people are willing to prepare at home.
One way to take comfort food to new heights is with braising. It’s simply searing the protein—beef, pork or chicken—putting it in a roasting pan with a broth or sauce, covering it tightly and slow-cooking until it’s fork-tender.
Nostalgia meets convenience
“It’s the original ‘set it and forget it’ food,” says Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist Bill Barker. “Braising is something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years, and I don’t think it’s something that will ever go away.”
That’s because it’s comforting and nostalgic, like grandma’s pot roast. For restaurants, it’s convenient to prepare large quantities that can be used across many applications. Plus, Barker points out, it produces great flavor from less-expensive cuts of meat. Beef short ribs, pork shoulder or poultry are very affordable and versatile.
“I can use any braised meat in a sandwich, as a centerpiece for an entree, shredded in pasta dishes, or even add a little Hispanic flavor, stew it and turn it into a taco meat or burrito.”
Calling out braised meats and adding some creative flair elevates the perception on the menu, Barker says. You can draw a higher price, while providing generous portions and great flavor—a value for the operator and the customer.
Comfort foods and braised meats also work well for off-premise meals. “Most braised products carry some kind of sauce with them, so it travels well because the sauce acts like an insulator to keep food hot,” Barker says.