Making ready-to-go meal kits (and a recipe)

everidge-team-memberThis piece is written by Chef Michael Kelly, sales manager for ThermalRite and the Everidge corporate R&D chef.

One ideal use of our ThermalRite vacuum sealers is making pre-portioned, prepped food into meal kits ready to be cooked or rethermed as orders come in. Our vacuum sealers are ideal for making meal kits because they remove oxygen from food and extend its shelf life, allowing you to prep in advance and then serve when needed.

There are several benefits to making ready-to-go meal kits. If you employ sous vide cooking, for example, vacuum-sealed meal kits only have to be rethermed, allowing you to maintain product quality. Along with quality assurance, sous vide cooking allows you to provide consistency across all your locations, with a repeatable or reliable product no matter where it’s ordered or who prepares it. This process helps with long wait times and saves on labor hours because you don’t need as many cooks in the kitchen.

Meal kits are particularly useful to kitchens that want to prepare fresh food but are unsure what orders will be coming in. Some of these foodservice operations include:

  • Commissary kitchens
  • School/university kitchens
  • Hospital kitchens
  • Corporate campus kitchens

If making meal kits is something you’re interested in, I have a couple of tips for you. First, know your target portions. Look at your production schedule and adjust as necessary. Don’t make 50 portions if you’ll only be able to sell 10. Second, prepare as much as possible ahead of time. The more you can prepare, the better off you’ll be on the back end, providing a quicker turnaround and having more orders fulfilled.

You can find more advice on using a vacuum sealer for food prep in this article.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes, simple enough for a sous vide newbie and delicious enough for pros.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

For the sous vide pork

  • 4 to 5 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder or chili powder of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the vinegar sauce

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

For the sandwiches

  • English muffins, cut in half
  • 1 bag prepackaged coleslaw mix
  • Cheddar cheese slices

For the sous vide pulled pork

Begin preparations at least 24 to 48 hours before serving.

Preheat the water bath to 135°F (57.2°C).

Mix the spices together in a bowl. Salt and pepper the pork shoulder, then coat with the spices. Place it in the pouch with the Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Seal the pouch and place in the water bath. Let it cook for 1-2 days.

For finishing the sandwiches

Preheat your grill to high heat.

When you’re getting close to serving the sous vide pulled pork, prepare the vinegar sauce. Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Remove the sous vide pork roast from the pouches and pat dry. Quickly sear the pork on all sides on the grill, about 1 or 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and chop with a knife until it is in small pieces.

Place a slice of cheese on each English muffin and toast them until the cheese is melted. Place the sous vide pulled pork on top of the muffins and top with the coleslaw and vinegar sauce, then serve. Serves 8.