Fresh produce and grill marks help menus turn over a new leaf for spring
March 20, 2019
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This post is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats.

As the winter chill begins to thaw, diners start to crave lighter fare that suits the changing seasons. Chefs can craft appealing spring and summer menus by introducing fresh produce as it enters the market and switching from rich roasts and braises to leaner grilled fare.

Fire up the grill

While grilled meats can be prepared during all seasons, crosshatched grill marks on a pork chop or steak are practically a harbinger of warmer weather, and grilling suits a wide range of cuts, especially quick-cooking lean cuts such as pork tenderloin or beef skirt steak. What’s more, grilling is the preferred meat preparation style for many diners Technomic found in its 2019 Center of the Plate: Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report. More than half of the 1,700 consumers surveyed for the report said grilled is their preferred style of beef, while 42% said it was their favorite preparation for pork.

Keep it light

Lighter, leaner dishes are in high demand in spring and summer months, as diners think more about eating healthfully to offset holiday indulgences. Leaner cuts of meat such as thin-cut pork chops or beef flank steak offer a filling portion of protein without too much fat.

Serving these lean proteins -- whether grilled, pan-seared or charbroiled -- atop a salad is a crowd-pleasing option that can be adapted as the seasons change. Kale, mustard greens and other hearty lettuces that make up the base of many fall and winter salads give way to more tender greens in spring. Seasonal produce -- from spring’s first pea shoots to summer’s ripe tomatoes -- offers inspiration for chefs, who can change up the menu as new items hit the market.

Salads and side dishes are common vehicles for vegetables and fruits, but produce is increasingly moving to the center of the plate as diners show more interest in plant-based eating. This trend doesn’t mean that interest in meat is waning, but rather that chefs are finding new ways to utilize it alongside plant-based foods in dishes such as grain bowls and flatbreads. In fact, about one in five consumers said they were eating more beef and pork than a year ago, according to Datassential’s 2018 Meat & Poultry SNAP! Keynote Report.

Think outside the box with flavor

In addition to adding more produce to the menu, spring is a perfect time to try reinventing classic dishes with interesting new flavors. Some 38% of consumers who eat pork are interested in trying pork dishes prepared with new, unique flavors according to Technomic. Diners are even more interested in beef dishes prepared with interesting flavors, with 42% of consumers who eat beef saying they’re interested in new preparations.

Global cuisines offer a wealth of flavor inspiration. The Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association draw on international ingredients such as Korean gochujang and Indian garam masala for flavorful recipes that are a great starting point for spring menus.

For more menu inspiration, connect with the experts at Tyson Fresh Meats.

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