The Challenges of Cooking Meat Toppings In-House

“In traditional restaurant and pizzeria practices, raw sausage, often of Italian origin, is commonly brought in,” says Erich Chieca, executive chef at Hormel Foods Culinary Collective. “However, cooking results in a yield loss from raw to cooked product.”

This yield loss is due to shrinkage and trimming when cooking raw meat, which impacts food costs and overall profitability for a pizzeria. Strict adherence to food safety protocols, which mitigates risks of cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses requires extra time and focus, as well as grinding, seasoning, and cooking raw meat.

“The industry is already grappling with a significant labor shortage,” Chieca says. “Products that reduce workload while preserving quality are vital for pizzerias and restaurants today.”

This increase in labor costs makes it difficult to consistently achieve the desired flavor, texture, and doneness across pizzas. These challenges with cooking raw meat toppings in-house make efficient solutions crucial for maintaining quality.

Diverse Product Line of Fully Cooked Meat Toppings

Burke Corporation offers a range of over 1,200 fully cooked meat toppings, eliminating the need for in-house cooking and reducing labor costs while maintaining quality and consistency, while requiring minimal storage space. With no shrinkage or extra labor, restaurants can maximize profitability. 

“Switching from cooking your own beef or sausage crumbles to using fully prepared items eliminates labor by using products straight from the freezer to your dish,” Chieca says. “Whether topping a pizza or storing for later, these items require no cooking or thawing, reducing food safety concerns and labor.” 

Undergoing a proprietary cooking process utilizing impingement ovens, Burke’s core products have enhanced flavors and eliminate any undesirable tastes often found in traditional fluid cooking methods. Prepared exclusively with fresh—not frozen—meats, these products offer exceptional flavor and numerous benefits, including individually quick frozen convenience, reduced waste, and a high ROI.

“It eliminates labor steps without sacrificing quality, a key aspect of our product line,” Chieca says. “Despite industry beliefs favoring cooking from raw, blind tests show indistinguishable results between our products and traditional methods. As a chef, I can vouch for the exceptional functionality and purpose of every item.”

Product Highlight: Italian Sausages

Burke’s diverse product line includes breakfast sausages, Mexican-inspired flavors, traditional Italian varieties, and plant-based alternatives. These products provide quality, texture, and portioning while remaining on-trend in the ever-evolving pizza market. 

“Our range of Italian sausages offers everything from sweet to extremely spicy, with options ranging from small crumbles to our hand-pinched variety,” Chieca says. “These HAND-PINCHED STYLE® toppings capture the essence of homemade Sunday sauce, where you’d tear off small chunks of sausage to cook and incorporate into a dish.”

Burke’s gamut of Italian sausage offerings is a standout across its product line. This cost efficient and versatile option is perfect for pizzas, and also in lasagnas, pasta dishes, Italian sandwiches, and more.

Product Highlight: Mexican-Inspired Line

Versatile options offer creative possibilities beyond pizza toppings, and Burke’s Mexican-Inspired line proves it. Offering bold, intense flavors are perfect for adding a variety of dishes to a menu, such as Chicken Sausage with Tinga-Style Seasoning for unique chili or taco toppings. 

“Global flavors as a whole let consumers, who weren’t able to travel at the time, explore with their palates,” says Kyle Flottman, brand manager of Burke Corporation. “More traditional flavors like birria, salsa verde, and chicken tinga have very quickly seen a huge growth on menus as more and more consumers look to satisfy their exploratory curiosity. In fact, Millennials and Gen Z are the two demographics most likely to describe Mexican and Latin flavors as “premium” and “exciting”.”

This exciting, premium line adds a unique twist to traditional toppings and opens up exciting culinary possibilities while remaining on the pulse of what’s popular among younger generations.

Maintaining Quality and Safety in Plants and Product

“Product and plant safety is absolutely the core of what our organization believes in,” Chieca says. “You can’t have plant safety for employees without having product safety; it goes hand-in-hand.” 

With the highest SQF 2000 Certification awarded by the Safe Quality Food Institute, strict safety protocols both in product and plant aspects guarantee commitment to products of the highest quality. 

“Rigorous HACCP protocols and thorough cleaning schedules ensure the quality and safety of our products,” Chieca says. “Premium ingredients are also guaranteed in this process, including our crumbles, which are based on the finest quality proteins.”

Burke’s on-site lab conducts microbial testing to maintain separation between raw and cooked products, alongside dual-stage metal detection and bone removal for contaminant-free items. With state-of-the-art facilities and ongoing training, employees are equipped to handle fully cooked meat toppings, minimizing pathogen-related risks associated with handling raw meat.

“We have a fantastic R&D team with well over 90 years of collective experience,” Flottman says. “With our on-site microlab testing and consistent manufacturing checks, we strive daily to keep our products to the high standard we both hold for ourselves and that our customers have come to expect.”

Maximizing Profitability Through Streamlined Operations

Burke’s fully cooked meat toppings streamline operations by reducing labor and storage requirements, ultimately maximizing profitability for businesses. By eliminating the need for raw product storage, Burke helps pizzerias save on operational expenses.

“When dealing with raw versus fully cooked frozen products, you’re essentially swapping out your storage needs,” Chieca says. “Raw items often require freezing and thawing before cooking, adding extra steps, while our fully cooked products are shipped frozen and have a lengthy shelf life under refrigeration once thawed, typically around 30–60 days. 

Burke’s smaller package sizes, usually around 10 pounds, cater to businesses without extensive storage space, like pizza operators without freezers, providing convenience and cost savings

50 Years of Excellence Through Custom Formulations

Celebrating over 50 years in providing high-quality meat toppings, Burke Corporation has been a trusted partner in revolutionizing the pizza-making experience for decades. Within a four-day window, Burke can collaborate with clients to create custom formulations and packaging through development processes involving sales, R&D, and culinary teams.

From addressing challenges of cooking meat toppings in-house, custom formulations, maintaining quality, and streamlining operations to maximize profitability. Burke Corporation remains committed to delivering consistency and value with every product.

“What has kept us so successful is that we have always kept that small, family-run mindset,” Flottman says. “We customize products for customers of every shape and size, and value the partnerships we have built with our customers throughout the years.”

To learn more about Burke Corporation’s custom formulations and pre-cooked meats, visit their website.

By Drew Filipski

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