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12 Essential Rules in a Restaurant Kitchen (According to Top Chefs)



Restaurant kitchens are a "controlled chaos," marked by a fast-paced environment where everyone seems to be rushing. Nevertheless, each assigned person is doing their role to deliver an excellent dining experience to the restaurant’s well-loved patrons. Kitchen rules must be followed at all times to prevent accidents and injuries, as well as to ensure the smooth operation of the restaurant.

So, if you're a restaurant owner or manager looking to set guidelines promoting your employees’ safety and optimizing their performance, we’ve got you covered.

12 Essential Rules in a Restaurant Kitchen

From receiving and storing raw ingredients, handling restaurant equipment, preparing and cooking, to serving food, here are essential restaurant kitchen rules that come in handy when operating a food service.

  • Don't mess with the mise
  • The hours before your restaurant opens—when everything is prepared for the actual cooking—account for a large percentage of your restaurant’s efficiency and food quality. Ingredients are prepared, utensils are collected, and everything is placed in order before the cooking starts.

    This meticulous process of preparation accords to mise-en-place, a French term defined by "setting in position." It's a philosophical foundation that keeps the mind clear and the body ready to take action.

    Perhaps this is why mise-en-place is regarded as both a religion and a legitimate art form. Touching, taking, or changing your cook's mise is tantamount to an offense, as it tends to undermine their position and talent and disrupt their cooking system.

  • Follow the FIFO rule for perishables
  • Great appliances are not the only essentials to minimize rotting or squandering inventory.

    The first-in, first-out (FIFO) strategy is excellent for organizations with a short demand cycle or perishable inventories, restaurants included. Chefs and back-of-house employees must also utilize the items bought first, with the earliest expiry date. FIFO is the best way you can track inventory because it corresponds to the flow of food in the kitchen.

    Your restaurant can be caught in supply chain concerns and changing food prices. Using the FIFO technique, you can reduce the financial impact of inflation on your business since your restaurant can consume older, lower-priced commodities first. This method leaves the more expensive products as inventory.

    Furthermore, FIFO is the most dependable predictor of inventory value for your restaurant. The computed value of the remaining products is highly accurate since the technique matches inventory to its original cost.

  • Label and date everything
  • One of the most vital and time-consuming chores in a restaurant is food preparation. While owners, managers, and chefs do their best to prepare as much food as can be consumed before it becomes unsafe, there are occasions when business is slower than expected. Here, production labels are a must.

    This factor gets checked by the department of health when they come in for a random examination. As such, you must label and date each container after fastening its lid.

    Afterward, arrange your walk-in cupboard with the freshly cooked meals at the rear. If a pack of parmesan is open in dry storage, it should be displayed so that someone seeking parmesan doesn't accidentally open another pack. It guarantees that the oldest ingredients are utilized first and boosts efficiency.

    Additionally, it's simpler to read spices and herbs than to peep into the container to see, taste, and rummage around the stockroom, searching for what you need.

  • "My knife is mine"
  • Touching the mise of your restaurant’s chef is almost as bad as touching their knife – their most vital kitchen utensil. There's a reason why the first job of chefs is on the garde manger station. Here, they do nothing but slice or dice every day.

    Similarly, there's a reason knife skills are the first course your chefs study in culinary school. Every aspect of downstream cooking benefits from good knife work.

    Vegetables that are thinly cut sauté more readily. Chicken that has been adequately sliced is more tender and offers bones that your cooks may use to create stocks and sauces. Finely minced herbs are more uniformly distributed in your recipes.

    Having a decent knife is essential, so your chefs can turn out these quality dishes.

  • Stay hydrated
  • It can get scorching in the kitchen, so your chefs may sweat a lot. It's difficult for them to work at their best if they're dehydrated. Cooking in a professional kitchen is a high-stakes game, and as the heat rises, so does your cooks' and chefs' stress level.

    With that, hydration is a critical component of how your employees can get through the day. Your kitchen workers must pay attention to their bodies and the warning signs of heat fatigue to strike a balance between hard effort and getting the task done. Many restaurants have walk-in refrigerators and coolers where kitchen staff can go to cool themselves down while getting the next food items to be prepared.

  • Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove
  • When moving hot equipment away from the burner, your cooks must exclaim a warning that it's a hot pot. Failure to do so might result in unpleasant contact burns from other cooks or servers. It's a crucial guideline that most people learn the hard way.

    Constantly remind your employees to turn pot and pan handles inward so they don't knock them off, spill anything, or burn themselves. Always use a dry potholder or oven gloves when taking pots and pans. Wet potholders will not protect your chefs' fingertips from the heat.

  • Let people know when something is hot
  • There are minimal conditions for serving or storing food. One of these conditions includes critical food temperatures. Food temperatures play an integral role in food safety, correctly storing foods, and following the FIFO guideline. Ultimately, it will assist you in ensuring that optimum standards are followed in your restaurant.

    If you're serving a hot lunch buffet, you should be aware that the minimum temperature for storing items on steam tables is 135° F or above, while you must maintain cold foods at 41° F or below.

  • "You burn it; you clean it"
  • The “burn it, clean it” rule applies to everyone in the kitchen (even sous chefs). It promotes teamwork and cooperation. More importantly, it assures everyone that they are equally important. No one should be washing the blunders of others.

  • Observe proper handling of food
  • Use a clean spoon or fork to sample food. Your chefs, supplementary employees, waiting staff, and everyone else — even you — must all be subject to the rule.

    Sometimes, single-use gloves might also come in handy. If tongs are available, pick up food with them; if not, reach for the box of gloves and discard them after placing the food on a plate

  • The chef is the law
  • Leadership opportunities open up as your chefs master their responsibilities and get experience managing others. Being dictatorial or demanding isn't necessary for effective delegation. Everyone's life can be simpler if your cooks communicate efficiently with the rest of the kitchen staff.

    Great chefs are seldom successful on their own; talented colleagues constantly accompany them. Making culinary art requires discipline, planning, excellent time management, and cooperation from the entire team.

  • Cut meat horizontally
  • Experts advise fanning or shingling off pieces to show off the quality of the meat. Cut meats on a 45-degree skew and against the grain for better slices. The direction in which the muscle fibers in a part of meat lie is referred to as the meat's grain. Because they’re closely tied with the animal's mobility, these muscle fibers are tough.

    Spotting the grain can save your meat from turning chewy and highlights that ideal medium-rare steak. Cutting against or perpendicular to the grain with your knife may make chewing on meat tissue easier, as well.

    In short, the point of slicing against the grain is to shorten the muscle fibers and make eating simpler. Not to mention that this method seals in the juices.

  • Create height on the plate
  • Chefs toil over their creations for long hours, using plating to create a moment of gustatory satisfaction for their guests.

    Plate presentation is the end game that displays their work of art. Often considered as an afterthought or something optional, plate presentation is necessary for promoting the great recipe of the meal while simulating the taste buds of your customers. Great plating should be easy to design on a busy day yet aesthetic to the customer.

    One tip worth considering is adding height to the plate. Height creates volume and adds drama to your food.

    So, just like a sculpture, design the plate with a three-dimensional perspective. Your chefs must not separate the food in trying to fill the plate – rather, it must be built from the bottom up. For this, your kitchen personnel may leverage a ring mold to create a foundation and a base to build on.

    Cooking on Gas

    Incorporating these rules into your restaurant might help your business improve and succeed. Like gas, which makes cooking faster, cleaner, and more accessible than the traditional wood stove, the preparation rules, safety protocols, and serving tips listed above might do wonders for your restaurant.

    To further elevate your efforts, Charlie's Fixtures provides top-of-the-line restaurant equipment that helps your kitchen staff perform at their best. Contact us now to learn more about our offerings!

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