Restaurant Supplies: Tools You Need for Efficient Meat Preparation

Whether it’s going to be grilled, pan-fried, deep-fried or broiled, a tasty steak starts with the right meat prep equipment. Our expert butchers and a steakhouse chef describe the crucial commercial kitchen tools you need for preparing meat.

1. Sharp Knives. “A butcher does most of his or her cutting with two basic knives: a 6” to 8” boning knife, which is a straight blade used for taking out bones and trimming smaller cuts like steaks and chops; and an 8” to 10” steak knife, which has a pirate sword–type blade that curves up slightly and is used for carving and trimming large pieces of meat,” notes Ray Venezia, master butcher with Master Purveyors in New York. He suggests choosing a blade with a safety guard, which keeps busy hands from sliding off the handle and onto the blade.
Pro Tip: Whether it’s a boning knife or a cleaver, keep the blade sharp. “A sharper knife is a safer knife,” says Albert Balbas, executive chef of d.k Steak House on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, HI. “You will use less force to cut through things, have more control and have cleaner, sharper cuts of meat. After washing your knife, you should store it in a knife block or have a knife guard. You want to keep the edge of the blade away from banging into things.”

2. Digital Scale. “One of the biggest mistakes when prepping meats is that oftentimes, we get careless and don’t measure every portion,” Balbas says. “This causes a couple of problems. One, you’ll have different cooking times because of non-uniform thicknesses. Another is over- and under-portioning. In a restaurant, it’s all about consistency of food and product when it comes to meat preparation. You don’t need to break your wallet — there are a lot of inexpensive scales.”

3. Tenderizers & Mallets. Choose between a piercing tenderizer or a meat mallet based on cost and ease of use. “The mallet will help break down the meat’s fibers without cutting through the meat and works well with the thinner cuts like steaks and cutlets,” Venezia explains. “Tenderizers should only be used on larger cuts like roast or thick London broils.”
Pro Tip: James Holtslag, co-founder and lead butcher at Heart & Trotter Butchery in San Diego, CA, says to make sure “blades cleanly and easily cut through tough connective tissue and protein strands that would otherwise make the cut of meat tough.” Care varies by manufacturer and material type, so follow the cleaning instructions that come with your product.

4. Tongs. You don’t want to unnecessarily pierce the meat’s surface during cooking, so Holtslag recommends tongs “to flip the meat without releasing the juices inside.” This is the key to serving up a moist, juicy and tasty cut of meat.

5. Meat Thermometer. Even though you see some celebrity chefs poking steaks with their fingers to determine doneness, don’t chance it in a commercial kitchen. Use a reliable meat thermometer to eliminate guesswork and ensure correct temperatures and doneness. Choose between probes or radiant heat detectors, and analog or digital displays. “Make sure your thermometer is calibrated,” Balbas cautions. “If it’s not calibrated, it’s not doing its job.”

6. Meat Markers. These handy little tools are useful in the kitchen and on the buffet line. Keep them right by cooking stations so cooks can quickly and correctly identify items that are rare, medium, etc. This allows servers to know exactly which steak belongs to which guest, and speeds the buffet line by allowing diners to quickly and confidently choose meats. Metal markers are dishwasher safe, but may be easier to clean by hand because they’re small. Plastic markers are less expensive, recyclable and appropriate for use in the kitchen or in casual dining situations.

Stock your commercial kitchen with these meat prepping tools to increase margins, reduce waste and returns, and improve guest satisfaction.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance journalist and the owner of The Word Factory, a creative agency in Carrboro, NC. Raised in her parents’ gourmet grocery, she’s written about food, beverages and the restaurant business for several in-flight magazines, Playboy, CitySearch.com and Monster.com. When she dines out, she prefers eating at the bar. Find Margot on Google+.

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