This article will cover exactly how restaurants make their salads and the main ingredients (vegetables) that they use most of the time to make a basic great tasting salad. It will cover the equipment, knives, other cutting tools, and the containers that work best. You will be able to make some of the best salads the same way restaurants do.
This will go over all the secrets they have to making a good salad, just in case you are planning on taking some of this knowledge and creating your own salads at home or for a small/large gathering.
This is the various equipment used to make their salads:
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Cutting mat
- Small storage containers
- Commercial salad station
- Commercial slicer
- Vegetable chopper/slicer
- Deep fryer
- Panini press
- Tomato corer
You don’t have to have a commercial salad station or a commercial slicer to make salads, but they are definitely needed for making salads frequently for large crowds.
Setup is the first thing that restaurants have to do before they can began to make salads. Most restaurants recieve their vegetables from another distributor, like a farm for example. The produce arrives whole and fresh to the restaurants in cardboard boxes made for holding and shipping produce.
They store most of their produce in a large walk in cooler until it is time to take them out and cut them. When it is time to set everything up to cut, they will grab a cutting board with a cutting mat and set up their station. If they aren’t using a cutting board, then they will use a commercial cooler to cut on with that has a built in cutting board as a table.
They take out the vegetables that they will cut and they begin chopping the vegetables. You can also see in depth at how restaurants chop vegetables, but basically their goal is to chop them into salad sized pieces. The pieces aren’t always chopped at the same length and size for every restaurant for every single vegetable. Some go for strips or chunks, whiles others like fine small square dices.
The best way that restaurants use for salads that I have seen is the small square dices. That is what we will cover here. They use a vegetable chopper for this setup.
The prepping is the next part that restaurants do after they have their cutting board, chef’s knife, produce, and vegetable chopper ready. The prep consists of cutting all of the vegetables up into fine pieces and placing them into small containers that will be used to make the salad later.
Here are the main ingredients used by restaurants to make salads, and how they are cut:
- Romaine lettuce or kale
- The romaine lettuce and kale is usually already pre-cut and packed before it arrives at a restaurant, but restaurants would slice these into smaller chunks with their chef’s knife. They didn’t go crazy on the slicing of the lettuce or kale; they just cut it briefly to make it easier to put on a fork and into bite sized pieces.
- Whole tomatoes are washed then cored with a tomato corer first, then sliced with a tomato slicer. The slices were finally placed into the vegetable chopper to create small diced squares.
- Cucumbers are peeled with a peeler/vegetable scraper and then cut into slices that are about 3/4 of an inch thick. The slices were placed inside of the vegetable chopper and made into small diced squares.
- Bell peppers (green)
- The top portion of the bell pepper is cut off, and the core and seeds removed by hand. The bell pepper is then cut into flat large pieces with a few slices. Finally, the flat pieces were placed into the vegetable chopper to make small squares out of the bell pepper sides.
- The pepperoncinis are left whole.
- Croutons already arrived at the restaurant ready to go.
- Grilled chicken, fried chicken, ham, turkey, thin sliced italian sausage, or other deli meats
- One of the types of meats were used to make a certain type of salad, like a chicken salad or a turkey salad for example.
- Ranch or italian dressing
- These two were the most popular dressings in restaurants no matter what kind of salad was made. Of course there are other options too, like the oil & vinegar, balsamic, and honey mustard, but the ranch and italian dressing was everyone’s favorite.
- Mozzarella or shredded cheese
All of the vegetables are chopped up in portion to how much was used for the amount of salads that would be made. After they were chopped, they are placed into small containers and stored in the commercial coolers with the built in prep tables.
Obviously salads can be made with fruits and various vegetables besides the ones mentioned, but these are the main ones used by majority of the restaurants before they began to add their own extras. Some restaurants would add one or two things to this, like carrots, sugared pecans, or raisins for example. However, these aren’t necessarily needed to make a great salad.
How Restaurants Make A Great Tasting Salad
This is how restaurants make a great tasting salad with the ingredients provided above. Once everything is chopped and prepped into containers, it becomes really easy and quick after this.
An exact amount for the ingredients for each component won’t be listed here, because the truth is, restaurants don’t really portion out their salads like that. They really don’t have the time to spend messing around with measuring cups when they need to get their orders out for their guests.
Even though they don’t measure each ingredient exactly to perfection, they still put the salads they make into the same sized 24 ounce eating containers to control the portioning of the ingredients.
Each chopped vegetable is kept in its own small container, and 1/4 cup measuring cups are used to scoop out an equal portion of each ingredient. This is the salad made the restaurant’s way.
How they make the salad step-by-step:
- Prepare the meat you will use and cut it up into cubes.
- Cook around 4 ounces of the meat you will use. For fried chicken, you will have to deep fry it or air fry it. Grilled chicken will have to be grilled. A panini press grill works great for this. Any other meats can be weighed and portioned as deli meats from the local grocery store.
- Grab a 24 ounce disposable salad bowl.
- It is ok to use a larger or smaller bowl, but you will have to change the portions of everything you put in it. Just make sure to try to put an equal amount of each.
- Try to put a sixth of the amount into the salad for each ingredient (we will cover this in more detail in a second).
- Place the cut up kale or romaine lettuce into the bottom of the bowl.
- The amount that you will use should cover the bottom of the bowl entirely. Think of the lettuce as the ‘bed’ that all of the rest of your ingredients will rest on. Place a bed of lettuce at the bottom of the bowl.
- The bed of lettuce should be around 2 inches high.
- Use the 1/4 cup scoop (or a sixth of the amount of all your ingredients) to add in each ingredient (diced cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, shredded cheese) as sections on top of the salad.
- Don’t just dump all the ingredients into the salad into one spot. Place them on top of the salad as sections. Make it look pretty.
- Place croutons, 2 to 3 whole pepperoncinis, and the meat of your choice into the salad as a sections on the top of the bed of lettuce/kale.
- Get 2 ounces of your favorite dressing.
- Of course you can use more, but 2 ounces is the normal amount that restaurants serve for salads of this size.
This is exactly how restaurants make their salads taste so good. They don’t go overboard with adding too many varieties of vegetables. They keep it simple with decent portions of about the same amount of each ingredient, with no more than around 7 to 8 ingredients altogether.
The salad doesn’t need to be smothered in dressing either in order for it to taste good. This is a good low calorie healthy salad made by actual restaurants.
Slicing and cutting the vegetables into small cubes with a vegetable chopper ensures that when the salad is mixed, every ingredient makes it into almost every bite.