Before I started culinary school I was always wondering how do restaurants cook the orders so darn fast and what are their secrets. The fire under my curiosity was lit and I knew I want to become a chef someday, so I did!
Now years later I know exactly the tips and tricks that restaurants use to be more efficient and how chefs cook the meals more quickly, and what can be done in advance before the actual meal is even started to prepare.
In this article, you will learn the tips and tricks on how restaurants make food so fast and you can use most of them at home, so on your busy days, you can have a little bit more time.
In short, restaurants cook so fast because they make preparations by processing ingredients in advance. The restaurant’s kitchen is also laid out in a way that cooking will proceed more quickly. In addition, chefs can multitask in a very professional way which will further reduce preparation times.
We will need to dig deeper if we truly want to understand how you can benefit from these methods so you can save a lot of time in the future and stop wondering how your meal is brought to you so fast. Let’s see all the different techniques individually.
Food Preparation (Mise en place)
The most important factor for fast cooking and perhaps of the whole kitchen’s operation is mice en place which means food prepping. Every quality restaurant haves a list of all the different ingredients, sauces, dips, etc which need to be made or processed. These lists are printed for each day so all the employees can keep on track of what has been made today and the previous days, and how much of it is there so they can predict when to make more. Notes are usually made beside the individual ingredient stating how much of it is there left. See an example mise list below.
|Process:||Cook:||Sauces & Dips:||Pull From Freezer:||Other notes:||Date:|
|Cheese||Pasta||House BBQ||Burger buns|
|Romaine salad||Marinated onion||Hamburger mayo||Burger patties|
|Bell pepper||Chicken broth||Aioli||Fish fillets|
|Pico de gallo||Baked potato||Cheese sauce||Cheesecake|
|Carrot, julienne||Risotto||Guacamole||Minced meat|
|Dice tofu||Beef steaks||Salsa||Baguettes|
Everyone has probably had a time when your food just takes a long time, it is highly likely that in that specific moment when you ordered, the mise hasn’t been done and that’s when we experience those famous ”where’s my damn food” moments.
Equipment plays a huge role in the speed of cooking times. Besides high-quality commercial fryers, grills, and other cooking equipment, they are always ready and hot so when a customer orders a steak, for example, the grill is hot and ready to go with full heat. Deep fryers are also always hot at all times and so are the ovens, usually. In many restaurants that I have worked ovens were hot most of the time and used as heating cabinets so you could quickly take a hamburger patty from there and cook it a second time on the grill.
Also, imagine if you had to grate pounds and pounds of cheese by hand or slice huge bags of onions by hand, that would take hours but thanks to commercial food processors and mixers, the preparing times are greatly reduced.
Multitasking isn’t something you can learn overnight, but you can certainly learn it! Professional chefs have worked years in extremely busy kitchens where they can have tens of orders, big entourages, and everything between breathing on their necks. In these circumstances, you will learn multitasking automatically which is essential to every professional chef, eventually. Of course, multitasking isn’t required when you start at your first job as a chef.
A great example of a multitasking situation is that it’s a rush in the kitchen, a couple of steaks are coming in the grill, 4 servings of fries are in the fryer, 3 ribs and a serving of pulled pork are in the oven. In this situation, you will need to heavily communicate with your co-workers so they will know when the foods are ready so they can predict when to start assembling all the other pieces of the dish so everything is remotely at the same time ready, so the food’s standing time is minimized.
In addition to remembering and taking care of all these, you will need to clean as you go so cleanliness and organization will be maintained.
Organization & Cleanliness
The base foundation of everything in the restaurant’s efficient operation is organization and cleanliness. There’s even a funny saying for that ”working in the kitchen is 20% cooking and 80% cleaning” and that’s pretty close to the actual reality.
If the fast pace of cooking wants’ to be maintained, you can’t have any additional supplies and utensils that you used previously in the countertops, don’t get me even started about plastic bags or other garbage. Keeping everything nice and tightly will help the chefs maintain a cool head without feeling like chaos, which will result in faster cooking.
The organization is as important as cleaning! Having everything in their right places where you know where to get them will reduce wasted time considerably. If a chef needs to look for a certain necessary thing in a rush, it can really mess everything up and increase all of the customer’s waiting times. Kitchen layout plays an important role in the organization as well.
The kitchen layout is really important and needs to be thanked thoroughly. Using ”low boy” fridges under the countertops, hanging some hooks for utensils, decreasing walking distances between workstations, and placing the equipment in a smart order is really important if the restaurant wants to offer fast cook times to customers. Once the grills and fryers are in their place and the final layout is done, it’s not the most simple task to change so it should be considered well before laying the kitchen out.
How Do Restaurants Serve Food So Fast
If the restaurant wants to serve the food as quickly as it is cooked, there must be great communication between the employees. Managers, chefs, and waiters need to have a sync between one another and the employee’s motivation needs to be in order as well! The food is served so fast because of the reasons above, but also there are so many people working in a restaurant and also the waiters have their own techniques and systems that keep the service in fast motion.
How Do Restaurants Keep Food Fresh
Restaurants keep their food fresh by many methods. For example, if the salad leaves are pre-processed, they are stored in a walk-in freezer in a humid and cold steel container with a wet and clean fiber cloth on them. Both fridge and freezer temperatures are carefully and constantly monitored so that they are within the health and safety regulations. Self-monitoring is required from every employee as well and they know exactly when to dispose of an ingredient and how to store them properly. Also, every restaurant labels every container that has food inside and the dates where they have been prepared so no outdated food is served to the customers.
Do Restaurants Microwave Their Food
We all have seen the horror scenes from Kitchen Nightmares and nobody would want to pay for microwaved food, but microwaves do have perks. Nearly all restaurants have microwaves in the kitchen but they certainly shouldn’t be used for everything. Microwaves are often used for reheating a baked potato, melting butter, or defrosting ingredients Microwaves are also convenient for heating a baby’s milk out of customers’ request or heating the employee’s own lunch meals.
How Can You Cook Fast At Home
Now that you have seen all the tips and tricks that a commercial restaurant uses to cook and serve the customer’s food extremely fast, there are some ways you can benefit from at home. I have listed the steps below so you can easily follow them and see your cooking time reduced.
- Think about your cooking process
- Get the water boiling/oven heating
- Fill the pan only when it’s hot
- Clean as soon as messes accrue
- Try multitasking between cleaning and cooking
Following the simple steps above, you won’t have any excess time between the steps so you can move from step to step almost immediately and you won’t have much to clean afterward. There are also specific things you can do to your ingredients in order for them to cook a little faster.
First, you should cut your veggies, potatoes, or even steak cuts into smaller and thinner slices so they will cook a lot faster.
Also, you could pull out your ingredients from the fridge before cooking so they are at room temperature when you start, therefore your pan won’t cool off as much as if you were to cook cool ingredients.
Lastly, you shouldn’t ever fill the pan so it’s hard to mix. A great rule of thumb is that you should fill your pan only 2/3 so the heat has more room to spread and move.
There is a lot to learn from the restaurant world and whether you are a passionate home cook or a professional restaurant worker, you can’t ever truly know it all and there is always room for improvement.
I sincerely hope that you got real value from this post and can use these tips and tricks to improve your life and reduce your cooking times, or customer’s waiting times.