What’s Cooking in 2012: Top Food Prep Methods

cooking-at-instawaresCan food prep methods be as trendy as fashion? You bet. Take a look at the top 10 food prep methods we expect to see at restaurants across the country this year.

Pickling

From farm to table, consumers are looking for local when it comes to food. And what could be more home-grown than a pickle? Restaurants such as Farm Burger in Atlanta now have a variety of locally-sourced pickled vegetables such as carrots, beets, and okra on their menus, both as an appetizer and burger toppings.

Fermenting

Once a method for preserving food when refrigeration was not an option, fermenting is a great way to draw out the health benefits of certain foods. Fermented food is a great source of probiotics, which help regulate the digestive system. Look for variations of fermented favorites like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt on a menu near you.

Sous Vide

Chefs throughout the world rely on the sous vide method to achieve perfect texture and preserve the moisture and flavor of meat, vegetables, and more. Using the sous vide method, food is cooked at the temperature it will be served at by vacuum sealing it and immersing it into a low temperature water bath. Chef Jason Wilson, owner of Crush in Seattle, uses the sous vide method for 90% of the items on his menu, including beef short ribs.

Liquid Nitrogen Chilling/Freezing

One of the coolest (no pun intended) food prep methods of 2012 is liquid nitrogen chilling/freezing. Liquid nitrogen enables chefs to freeze ingredients instantly, making it an excellent choice for preparing frozen desserts. It can also be used to create perfectly textured vegan ice cream from rice or coconut milk or for preparing flour from walnuts and other nuts.

Oil-Poaching

A favorite for fish, oil-poaching is a great way to tenderize meat and vegetables. Submerging food for a few seconds in hot oil seals in the juices, creating tender and flavorful dishes. Try it on salmon, halibut, tuna, artichoke hearts, or carrots.

Smoking

Not just a way to prepare barbecue, smoking lends a great earthy flavor to vegetables, cheese, and more. There are three types of smoking: cold smoking, hot smoking, and smoke roasting. Cold smoking at temperatures below 100 degrees Fahrenheit adds a shot of smoky flavor to fully cured or cooked meats such as chicken breasts, steak, scallops, pork chops, and salmon. Hot smoking at temperatures between 165 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit is a popular choice for foods like ham, reducing moisture and fat. Also called pit roasting or barbecuing, smoke roasting is the traditional “barbecuing method” in which food is enclosed in a barbecue pit, smoke roaster, or closed wood-fired masonry oven at temperatures above 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Braising

Often done using a Dutch oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker, braising is a great way to tenderize tough cuts of meat like top blade roast, short ribs, and shanks. To braise, food is first seared or browned in fat and then covered and simmered in liquid on low heat, producing tender meat and rich gravy or sauce.

Grilling

From hamburgers to steaks and chicken, grilling is preferred by home cooks and chefs alike. Creative variations of grilled favorites like grilled cheese, burgers, and veggies are expected to pop up on menus across the U.S. this year.

Roasting

Roasting uses dry heat to cook meats or vegetables. Food can be placed on a rack, roasting pan, or rotisserie and cooked at low temperatures, high temperatures, or a combination of both. All of these methods help to retain moisture and draw out the natural flavor of food.

Foam/Froth/Air

Forget whipped cream, mousse, and meringue. Foam has gone high tech. Chefs are now creating whipped and foamed versions of foods such as mushrooms, beets, and coconut using gelling agents like agar and lecithin and immersion blenders or whipped cream canisters equipped with N20 cartridges