One big reason chicken is so popular is that there are so many ways to prepare it. Whole roasted… 8-piece fried… wings, tenders, thighs… and that’s just the bird. Breadings, seasonings and cooking methods can easily alter the flavor and texture of chicken into a wide range of menu items. The hardest part may be deciding what you want to offer!
Given this, it’s no surprise there are so many chicken-only chains. Some only offer one kind! Naturally, these kitchen operations are devoted to chicken, although the equipment used will differ depending on how many different types of chicken are on the menu. For retail delis, convenience stores and pizza places that want to add chicken, we take the same idea—a chicken focused program—and scale it to your space and existing operations. It’s important to think of it this way, because profitability and efficiency depend a great deal on using the right equipment, accessories and practices.
Two methods: Frying, and every other way in a combi oven
There are almost as many ways to cook chicken as there are to serve it—frying, roasting, grilling, smoking, boiling, sous vid, etc. Fortunately you won’t need a separate piece of cooking equipment for each method. In fact, you could do them all with a fryer and a combi oven. Keep in mind what we said about using the right equipment. Not all combis, for instance, are equipped with built-in smokers or the capability for low-temperature steaming. And not all fryers are built to cook bone-in fried chicken all day long.
The specifics of each equipment platform will largely be determined by what you want to serve and how much. That, in turn, may be influenced by your store concept, customer base and meal part. For example:
- If pizza is the main event, you may want to serve chicken wings, tenders and nuggets as a protein choice or to capture families with young children.
- A family restaurant may want to introduce a fried chicken dinner and a chicken sandwich for lunch.
- Wings can happen just about anywhere—they travel well and can be cooked and served anywhere from snack portions to multiple dozens.
- Whole rotisserie-style chickens roasted in a combi oven are a mainstay for grocery and retail foodservice.
The flavor profile for chicken is determined mostly by the breading and seasoning, and partly by the method of preparation.
Keep in mind, a flavor profile covers taste and texture.
- Big, flakey crispy chicken filet sandwiches are often double-dredged in medium spicy breading and cooked in an open fryer.
- If you’re going to serve traditional southern-fried bone-in chicken in volume, you will want to do it in a pressure fryer. It’s faster, less greasy and the breaded texture is softer. We’ll learn more about the differences in fryers and techniques later.
Seasonings do the same thing as breading for chicken roasted or grilled in a combi oven. The initial burst of flavor comes from the surface—skin or skinless.
- Seasonings can be used along with a dry-heat cooking stage to darken and crisp the skin for rotisserie style whole birds.
- Smoking at lower cook temperatures imparts a distinctive flavor deeper into the product. Combis with built-in smokers make it easy to create signature smoked wings, smoked quarters, or shredded chicken for BBQ, salad and pizza toppings.
- Low-temperature combi steaming, particularly the sous vide process, creates exceptionally moist and evenly cooked chicken that holds up well as an ingredient in soups, salads and sauces.
There is a lot more to implementing a profitable chicken program than deciding how to cook the birds. As a foodservice operator, where do you begin?
Sourcing to Serving is a step-by-step planning guide from our chicken experts that will help you make key decisions about:
- Menu and operations
- Sourcing product and equipment
- Installation, start-up, maintenance
- After-sales service and support
Click here to download Sourcing to Serving for free and get 22 pages packed with everything you need to know about adding chicken to your menu.