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Frying, baking, searing, grilling … every chef knows how to cook meats and veggies in the most common of ways. But if you’re a curious chef, you’ve probably also experimented with other methods of preparation and cooking.

Do you want to bring out different flavors in your dishes? Food preparation methods are often experimented with at restaurants that want to provide some more unique options to their guests.

Today we’re going to discuss some of the food preparation trends being reported by chefs in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey. These popular options are being used to develop new menu all around. 

Fermenting

There are a few different ways to ferment food items. One method involves the chemical conversion of sugar to ethanol. This form of fermentation is used when making alcoholic beverages like beer, wine and hard cider. I’m sure the folks at Northampton Brewery are familiar with this process, as they make 16 craft beers, in addition to a variety of specialty, seasonal and high ABV options. The best part of Northampton Brewery is that you can pair any number of these amazing beers with their delicious food – an activity beer lovers are quite fond of.

The next type of fermentation is used in the leavening of bread. In this process carbon dioxide is produced by yeast activity. El Jardin, a bakery in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, makes delicious bread with a natural leavening process that utilizes a sourdough starter. At El Jardin you can get French batard, country bread, rosemary & olive oil, and multigrain bread everyday, with specials on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The next type of fermentation is used in preserving foods. This technique involves producing lactic acid in sour foods. If you’ve made sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi or dry sausages, you’ve used this process. SooRa Restaurant in Northampton offers some great kimchi on its menu. Has anyone notices that kimchi is working its way onto menus more and more often?

Pickling

NULLPickling, which can also be considered a type of fermentation for preserving food, involves storing or marinating food items with an acidic solution, usually vinegar plus other spices. The Pickle Jar in Falmouth, Massachusetts offers a variety of pickled vegetables, including cucumbers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, radishes and jalapenos, among other seasonal offerings.

Grillo’s Pickles also makes homemade pickles from a 100-year-old family recipe. After selling the pickles out of a wooden cart on the Boston Common, Whole Foods Markets noticed and started selling the all-natural pickles in their locations. For the record, they’re delicious.

Sous Vide

The process of sous vide involves putting meats or vegetables into plastic bags in water baths. The bagged food items remain in the water baths for periods of time greater than what’s typically necessary for cooking. Sometimes this is up to 72 hours. The temperature of the water is usually between 130 and 140 degrees for meats.

So what’s the point in doing this? The process of sous vide is used to evenly cook food items. When done correctly, the outside will not overcook and the inside will reach the proper level of “doneness.” The food will also be juicy when done.

Liquid nitrogen chilling/freezing

NULLLiquid nitrogen exists at a temperature around -321 degrees Fahrenheit. It will flash freeze whatever it touches, so be careful while experimenting with new menu ideas using it. It can, however, create a dramatic sense of culinary wonder as it boils off because it creates a fog of nitrogen.

Blue Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts offers liquid nitrogen milkshakes in a variety of flavors, including root beer & toasted marshmallow, peanut butter banana, blueberry pie, coffee, chocolate cherry and walnut praline. Liqueurs can be added to the shakes to create an adult beverage.

Smoking

Smoking food involves lower temperatures and long cooking times. Wood and coals are used as the mediums and the low heat allows for the wood to release smoke. There are two types of smoking: dry and wet. In wet smoking, water is used to keep the food moist. In dry smoking, the smoldering wood fire cooks the food while adding the smoke flavor to it.

L’espalier in Boston, Massachusetts offers a hot smoked Columbia River salmon on their menu. It’s served with local seasonal vegetables and tomato jam.

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