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Innovation Has Never Tasted This Good

Innovation Has Never Tasted This Good

Flash 180 Battered Sous Vide chicken sandwich

Making great fried chicken is an art. Mixing up the perfect batter, creating the ideal breading and frying to perfectly golden brown for the most satisfying crunch. Then drizzle on your own in-house sauces and top it with equally satisfying fresh veggies. All of this sounds delicious, but all of this sounds like it takes more time, more effort, more space and more money than most businesses have time for.

The FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast is a sous vide, battered-in-bag, fully-cooked, frozen-shipped chicken breast. From thaw, it’s finished in the deep fryer in just 2 to 3 minutes, dramatically cutting the fryer time required of both raw and other breaded, fully-cooked chicken breast products on the market. The light, homestyle batter provides an optimal coating-to-chicken ratio. The result is craveable chicken with a crispy, crunchy exterior, giving way to juicy meat. A chicken breast that goes from fryer to plate in under 3 minutes is revolutionary, delivering on the promise of speed-scratch prep by serving up a menu item that looks, feels and tastes homemade but requires mere minutes to execute.

FLASH 180™ Sous Vide Proteins were specifically developed to address key pain points for foodservice operators, says Blake Flores, Hormel Foodservice Innovation Team Lead. “Our goal was to be disruptive when it comes to a fried chicken breast offering.”

Flash 180 can be cooked in 1-3 minutes, as opposed to a 7 or 8 minute cook time from frozen or raw

Using raw chicken is a time- and labor-intensive option rife with food safety considerations. Meanwhile, pre-fried chicken products offer few opportunities for customization and differentiation, and both options take between 7 and 8 minutes of time in the fryer. “We needed to understand how a chicken breast, wet batter and the fry process could all work better together,” explains Flores. “We asked, ‘What if the chicken is sous vide-cooked while submersed in the wet batter?’ The sous vide process could cook the chicken, but not activate the leavening agents of the batter. The result is a juicy, delicious, fully cooked chicken breast that is covered in batter and ready for the fryer. It has all the customization advantages of scratch-prep, but without the stress and time.”

The wet batter of FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast is a light coating with a mild taste that allows chefs to create signature flavors through use of seasoned flours, breadcrumbs, panko and other ingredients before and after frying. “You’re using your own recipes,” says Flores. “It’s a speed-scratch product you can take credit for.”

BEFORE, DURING, AFTER. Showing phases of Flash 180 Cooking Process.

For many restaurants, the fryer is arguably the most in-demand cooking equipment during service, and a chicken breast that takes up to 8 minutes to prepare impacts all the other fried products lined up in the queue. “I don’t know what other restaurants are like, but my fryers are completely packed,” says Tony Boen, Director of Operations, Grandma’s Saloon and Grill, based in Duluth, MN.

Randy Ehlers, VP of Operations, Water Street Restaurants Group, wasn’t seeking an alternative to the hand-breaded raw chicken breast prep used at Charlie’s on Prior, a casual concept in Prior Lake, MN. He simply didn’t believe there was a pre-cooked product that could meet his quality expectations. But when persuaded to try the FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast, Ehlers and his team were impressed with its flavor performance after a blind taste test with staff obliterated their skepticism. They also saw “a huge advantage” in its speedy prep for this high-volume operation. “We went from a 6- to 7-minute fry time to a 1- to 2-minute fry,” he reports.

While back-of-house efficiency is key, it only goes so far if the output isn’t high quality. “Sous vide preserves the integrity of the product without overdoing it,” says Boen. “It keeps the juices inside the breast. You end up with an absolutely delicious piece of fried chicken.” In addition, Flores points out, “The wet batter application ensures the star of the show is the delicious whole-muscle sous vide chicken with just enough batter to satisfy a fried chicken indulgence.”

Charlie’s on Prior has replaced its hand-prepped-from-raw product with the FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast on three popular items: a fried chicken sandwich, a Nashville Hot chicken sandwich and a crispy chicken salad. In all three applications, staff dredge the breast in panko breading prior to frying—previously a made-to-order step that can now be performed before each shift, well ahead of service, notes Ehlers, adding that they are considering featuring the product for upcoming LTOs in summer and fall.

The quality and efficiency combo given busy operators with a broad canvas for creative culinary flavor play. The classic fried chicken sandwich is just the start, says Flores. “Any direction you want to go, you can.”

create ownable flavors, add your own coatings

Coat with your own flavors

create ownable flavors, add your own sauces

Top with your special sauces

create ownable flavors, wraps and more!

Slice and add to wraps and more

He cites the example of one operator who used crushed-up ice cream cones and corn flakes for the coating and then added some maple syrup for an inventive breakfast item. Operators have also been simplifying classic dishes, “We have operators coating the FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast in Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, frying it for 2.5 minutes, and they have the most challenging component of a delicious chicken parm quickly completed.,” explains Flores. “Then they just add the marina sauce, mozzarella, and a little fresh chopped basil and they’re done. What used to be a complex chicken parm dish is completed much quicker, easier, and more consistently than normal.”

Chicken Biscuit With Gravy

Chicken Biscuit With Gravy: “This is a really comforting dish, especially in the South, and a fairly simple and speedy build. Place the chicken on a biscuit, smother with a sausage gravy and add parsley as a garnish.”

Fried Chicken Citrus Salad

Fried Chicken Citrus Salad: “The delicious white meat chicken works really well on a salad and is an indulgent complement paired with citrus fruit, roasted peppers and a cashew vinaigrette.”

Korean Chicken Sandwich

Korean Chicken Sandwich: “This jumps out as an on-trend option. Cover the batter in panko before frying, then build the sandwich, topping the breast with gochujang paste, kimchi, KEWPIE mayo and mini cucumbers.”

Initial operators are reporting a good return on investment with FLASH 180™ Battered Sous Vide Chicken Breast. The product takes the concept of a fully prepared premium protein and mixes that with a fresh, authentic, battered ingredient, two realms of the fried chicken breast world melded together.

“We feel the price we’re paying is a fair one,” says Mike Melby, VP Purchasing, Grandma’s Restaurants. “The savings in the fry time alone is paying for any increase in product cost. And it’s really not a price increase at all, because otherwise you’d be paying it in labor and dissatisfied customers.”

“This is a game changer for us,” says Grandma’s Boen. “We’ve been streamlining our menus to get good food out with less labor. I’ve been looking for a chicken that I can serve our guests and be proud of for the last 15 years, without overbearing my fryers, without overworking my staff.” But most important, he notes, is customer satisfaction. During the trial run, Boen says, “Every customer walked out the door with a smile on their face after eating that sandwich. And that’s the value. It’s saving me labor, it’s saving me time and it’s giving me a happy customer.”

Article originally appeared in Flavor & the Menu – “Up with the Chickens,” March 4, 2024


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