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Chef Louella Villa

PreciPan™ and TCM: Your Dynamic Duo in the K-12 Kitchen

K-12 kitchens are looking for ways to get more student participation in their meal programs, and speed scratch cooking is the answer! The speed scratch cooking approach blends convenience with freshness. It involves using partially prepared ingredients or components to speed up prep and cook time, while still allowing for a level of customization and freshness that you wouldn't get from fully pre-made meals.

Speed scratch cooking is a breeze with the Vulcan PreciPan™ and TCM Combi. Sear, fry and simmer in the PreciPan™, and roast, bake, steam, and grill in the TCM. This versatility enables kitchens to produce a diverse menu with less equipment, saving both space and resources. Precise temperature control and cooking method functions ensure that meals are not only cooked efficiently but also retain more nutrients and flavors. 

Benefits of a speed scratch kitchen: 

  1. For the students: nutritious, delicious, and customizable meals. Speed scratch cooking prioritizes the use of fresh and minimally processed ingredients, which lends to making more nutritious and tasty meals for students. By incorporating a variety of whole foods, schools can provide meals that are rich in essential nutrients, contributing to better health and well-being for students. Let’s face it, while nutritional value is crucial, the ultimate success lies in ensuring that the food is not only healthy but also delicious. Meals prepared using speed scratch methods tend to be fresher and more flavorful than those that are fully pre-made or heavily processed. This can increase the appeal of school meals, encouraging higher participation rates among students and ensuring they receive the nutrition they need during the school day. Speed scratch allows kitchens to make customizable meal options, providing autonomy and empowerment to the student.
  2. For the school: nutrition guidelines compliance, and dietary flexibility.  By relying less on processed ingredients, school kitchens can decrease the amount of sodium, sugar, additives and preservatives on their menu, ultimately better meeting nutrition guidelines and supporting a healthy diet for its students. Speed scratch enables customization of meals to accommodate dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences. Schools can adapt recipes to meet the diverse needs of their student population, ensuring that all students have access to meals that are healthy, allergen-appropriate, and appealing.
  3. For the kitchen: waste reduction and sustainability. Kitchens can adapt more quickly to changes in supply, student preferences, and nutritional guidelines by using speed scratch methods. This flexibility can help schools efficiently manage their food programs and respond to challenges. This approach can contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing packaging waste associated with pre-made foods and emphasizing local ingredients, which typically have a lower carbon footprint due to reduced transportation needs. While fresh ingredients can sometimes be more expensive, speed scratch cooking can also offset cost by reducing waste, allowing for bulk purchasing, and minimizing the need for highly processed and expensive pre-made foods.

Try these easy base recipes and customize them in your K-12 Kitchen: 

PreciPan Easy Mac and Cheese
Yield: 1 – 2 ½ inch Hotel Pan 

4 pounds, Elbow macaroni pasta
1 cup, unsalted butter
1 cup, all-purpose flour
8 cups, milk (whole or 2% for creaminess)
4 cups, chicken or vegetable broth (for added flavor)
2 teaspoons, salt
1 teaspoon, black pepper
1 teaspoon, paprika (optional)
10 cups, shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 cups, shredded mozzarella cheese (for that cheese pull)
Breadcrumbs (optional, for topping)

For the pasta:

  1. Set the PreciPan in KETTLE mode. 
  2. Using the metered filling, add 50 liters of water and press start to heat.
  3. Once filled, add salt and close the PreciPan lid.
  4. When boiling, attach auto-lift arm and load pasta into basket accessory. 
  5. Press IMMERSE, and set the timer for 5 minutes.
  6. Cool par-cooked pasta with spray hose, set aside.
  7. Drain water from the PreciPan and prepare to make the cheese sauce.

For the Mac and Cheese:

  1. Turn the PreciPan on BRATT mode.
  2. Set the temperature to 240 degrees.
  3. Melt the butter on preheated pan, add flour, and combine to make a roux.
  4. Add milk, broth, cheddar, and mozzarella; whisk to combine.
  5. Season with salt, black pepper, and paprika.
  6. Simmer until thick and pasta is cooked but firm.
  7. Top with breadcrumbs for added texture. 

Tips from the Test Kitchen:

  • Pasta will continue to cook when added to the sauce, par-cooking pasta is a great way to stop turning pasta into mush once added to the sauce.
  • Auto-lift arm is not only great for pasta, but also preparing large batches of potatoes for mash or eggs for an egg salad. 

TCM Chicken Tenders
Yield: 20 Tenders 

2 pounds, about 20 pieces, chicken tenders
2 cups, all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups, panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon, salt
1 teaspoon, black pepper 
1 teaspoon, paprika (optional for color and a hint of spice)
1 teaspoon, garlic powder (optional for flavor)
Cooking Oil Spray (for coating)


  1. PREHEAT the TCM Combi oven to 375°F using ABC mode.
  2. PREPARE the Dredging Stations: Set up three shallow dishes for coating the chicken. In the first dish, mix the flour with half of the salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. In the second dish, beat the eggs. In the third dish, mix the panko breadcrumbs with the remaining seasoning.
  3. DREDGE the Chicken: Coat each tender in the flour mixture, dip in the beaten eggs, and then press into the panko mixture. Make sure each tender is evenly coated.
  4. ARRANGE the Chicken: Spray the combi oven trays or perforated baking sheets lightly with cooking oil spray. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the trays. The perforation allows for better steam circulation, ensuring the tenders cook evenly and remain moist.
  5. COOK: Load the trays into the preheated combi oven. Cook for 11-14 minutes, or until the chicken tenders are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). The exact time may vary depending on the thickness of the tenders, check the largest tender towards the end of cooking.

Tips from the Test Kitchen: 

  • Getting the most out of your TCM is all about the accessories. For a faster cooking time use the Deep Wire Air Fry Basket. For an even crispier product, try a granite enamel roasting pan. 
  • Cooking Oil Spray is important in getting that golden brown deliciousness, liberally spray cooking surface and product for that extra crisp.

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