Sponsored by AdvancePierre® Foods
Breaded meats offer operators a versatile vehicle to expand their sandwich menu with crunchy, flavorful proteins that provide a satisfying dining experience.
“Crispy, fried breaded sandwiches have come back in,” says Suzy Badaracco, president of consulting firm Culinary Tides. “They are comforting; they are grounding and they are filling.”
While many of these types of sandwiches have their roots in the culinary traditions of the Deep South, operators can tie them into a variety of other cuisines, she says. In fact, Badaracco suggests that one of the keys to success with breaded meat sandwiches is to position them as being from a specific region or cuisine.
“I would definitely ground it regionally somewhere,” she says. “That’s the only way it’s going to stand out among the thousands of other brands of chicken sandwiches that are out there.”
She cited as an example Burger King’s recent relaunch of its Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and marinara sauce to give it what the chain describes as “bold Italian flavors.”
Similarly, Newport Beach, California-based quick-service chain Wienerschnitzel launched a line of three chicken schnitzel sandwiches this spring that play off of the chain’s name — even if the chain itself has no ties to the Austrian dish it was named after.
“There are chicken sandwiches everywhere. Why would I go to Wienerschnitzel for a chicken sandwich?” says Doug Koegeboehn, chief marketing officer. “The reason it has been successful is that it is actually chicken schnitzel. It is a true schnitzel, thin and breaded.”
The chain introduced three varieties of the chicken schnitzel sandwich — the Classic Ranch, with ranch dressing, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes; the Barbecue Bacon, with American cheese, grilled onions, bacon and barbecue sauce; and the Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole, with guacamole, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Wienerschnitzel’s proprietary Blazin’ Ranch sauce. All are served on the chain’s hamburger bun.
The sandwiches get added flavor and texture from the use of potato chips and a spice blend in the breading, says Koegeboehn.
Launched as a limited-time offer, the three chicken schnitzel sandwiches have since become permanent menu items.
“We had a number of tests break record sales when we introduced it, so we kept it on the menu,” says Koegeboehn.
Beef and pork options
While the culinary spotlight of late has been focused on the crispy fried chicken sandwich, breaded and fried pork and beef sandwiches also remain popular, and in fact are signature dishes for some operators.
Ricobene’s in Chicago, for example, touts itself as the “home of the famous breaded steak sandwich.” The creation, which has been featured on the Food Network, is made with an 8-ounce steak, trimmed and pounded to about quarter-inch thickness. The steak is coated with a proprietary breading, then deep-fried and dipped in marinara sauce. It is folded onto a hero roll and topped with mozzarella cheese and hot giardiniera, a pickled vegetable relish.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, the fried pork cutlet takes center stage. Often the breaded pork cutlet sandwiches in the Midwest are oversized creations that overhang the bun on all sides, and can be either coated with a lightly seasoned breading or dipped in batter before frying.
Kitty’s Cafe in Kansas City, Missouri, for example, which is known for its pork tenderloin sandwich, dips its pork tenderloins in a tempura-like batter and tops them with lettuce, tomato, onion and an optional hot sauce.
Breaded meats can form the basis for a range of flavor and ingredient combinations, says Christine Couvelier of research and consulting firm Culinary Concierge.
“You could put some great seasonal grilled veggies on it, and you could use a variety of spreads, flavored mayos and flavored cream cheeses,” she says. “It can match to a restaurant chain’s ethnicity, and it can be a unique and proprietary menu item.”
For something unique and unusual, Couvelier suggests a crispy pork sandwich with birch syrup barbecue sauce --- or, an Asian-styled beef flank steak sandwich, breaded in panko with pickled kimchee and a toasted sesame cream cheese on a crispy bun — “that would be a fabulous sandwich,” she says, citing the rising popularity of kimchee on her Trend Watch reports.
AdvancePierre® Foods, which supplies a variety of breaded proteins for the foodservice industry, suggests such capitalizing on the always popular spicy Buffalo flavor with a Buffalo Steak Sandwich. This is made with the company’s Natural Country Fried Steak deep-fried and tossed in Buffalo sauce, topped with crumbled blue cheese, lettuce and tomato on a soft hamburger bun.
And although breaded and deep-fried meats might be thought of as being indulgent, sandwiches can also be crafted with a lighter touch. AdvancePierre® Foods suggests a Crispy Beef and Caprese Sandwich, made with deep-fried Natural Country Fried Steak, topped with mozzarella cheese, tomato, arugula and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with a balsamic reduction, served on a ciabatta roll with mayonnaise.
Badaracco suggests that however the breaded-meat sandwich is positioned, the seasonings, toppings, bread and accompaniment should all be in sync.
“If you’re going Italian with marinara, for example, make sure the sides and the bread and everything else match. Don’t’ put it on a French bun. Put it on an Italian bun.”
The breading itself can also help tell the story, she notes. The use of quinoa or teff in the breading mixture, for instance, can help ground the sandwich in a specific South American or African cuisine, respectively.