Do Restaurants Precook Food? (What are the signs?)

Chefs at a restaurant

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Have you ever wondered how restaurants deliver food so fast and taste the same? If you’re like me, you have high expectations of your favorite place to eat. And most of the time, they don’t disappoint. As soon as you place your order, the chef will probably start with your order. Or maybe not. So, do restaurants precook food? Let’s find out. 

More often than not, your food is pre-cooked in restaurants. Some items may involve premade ingredients, while others are entirely premade and only need to be fried before being served. Restaurants mostly do it to achieve the same taste repeatedly and preserve the secrets of recipes. 

There is more to it than it seems. In this article, you’ll learn about why restaurants pre-cook food and how to know if your food is pre-cooked. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it. 

When Do Restaurants Pre-cook Food? 

Restaurants pre-cook food on several occasions. When there are several options on the menu, it isn’t easy to cook everything. Besides, famous chain restaurants use premade food to have the same flavor and taste. If an order takes a long time to complete, restaurants use premade ingredients to make the job easier. 

There are so many secrets behind the kitchen doors, and one of them is premade food. Here are five times when restaurants pre-cook their food. 

1. Extensive Options in the Menu

Two people reading a long menu

When it comes to options, we all love having many of them. Looking at so many options makes most people curious about how they manage to make everything in a short time. Well, they probably don’t. 

A menu with so many options means that the chef needs to have all the ingredients he needs to prepare that at hand. You may or may not order that specific dish for which the chef needs those ingredients, and so, they may not be fresh. It isn’t easy to cook every entree at once, so chefs use pre-cooked food. 

If you don’t like the idea of your food visiting the microwave now and then, you might want to check out a place with fewer options on the menu. 

2. Fast Food Restaurants

Most fast-food restaurants use premade food. There’s a premade batter, sauce, or other ingredients behind every well-known fried chicken food place. 

The “fresh” brownies and pastries that you see on the counter are also probably shipped to that branch from their factory. It also means that these places have affordable food because they taste consistent and take less time to prepare. 

Fast food restaurants buy their ingredients in bulk and have more than one supplier. Nowadays, they also include soups, desserts, brunch items, entrees, appetizers, and other food options that have the same taste and sell well. It’s easy to use this method and reheat the food and serve. 

3. Popular Chain Restaurants

Often, your dining establishment will tell you if you’re eating at a place that buses premade food. Dining at a chain restaurant seems like a safe option because you know the menu, and they have a good reputation. 

But they’re likely serving you pre-cooked food. Chain restaurants need to do so to ensure that your Alfredo dish tastes the same no matter which Olive Garden branch you’re eating at. Their food prep process is rigorous and begins even before it reaches that restaurant. 

4. Fried Seafood

If the restaurant you’re eating has several fried seafood options, they’re likely premade. It’s also a clear indicator that they don’t serve their fish fresh. Because it’s easy to bread and fry the fish, restaurants use fried seafood in their menu. 

Besides, frying also makes it easier to mask the fact that they were premade. Food suppliers have tons of fried fish options these days. So, the restaurants only need to heat and fry the food before they serve it. 

5. Foods That Have Long Prep-Time

Beef rib roast

Even if you have multiple options on the menu, it wouldn’t be appealing to you if you had to wait hours for your food. Besides, the restaurant may also lose popularity because of the wait time. Most of the time, you’ll have an idea about how long it might be before your order is ready. 

If you compare that time with how long you need to wait, you’ll see that the wait time isn’t long. A beef rib roast in a rare medium needs about three to four hours to cook. So, dishes that take a long time to prepare are most likely not cooked from scratch. 

Signs That Your Food Is Pre-cooked 

If you don’t like the idea that the restaurant will pre-cook your food, you can look for some signs that indicate premade food. Here are four signs that suggest that your food is pre-cooked at a restaurant. 

1. Abnormal Texture

If you ordered a rare-cooked steak at a restaurant, you should expect the texture to be juicy and pink. It might look the part but not taste how you imagine it to. It might be because they microwaved your steak before serving it. 

If you cook and heat meats in the microwave, their flavors will be off instead of using grills for cooking. You’ll understand the difference right away if you have cooked steaks at home several times before. 

2. No Substitution

Lasagna with mushrooms

If you don’t want mushrooms on your veg lasagna and your server says that it won’t be possible, it’s safe to assume that the dish is already cooked. If you’re cooking at home, you wouldn’t usually make food in small portions. 

It’s the same deal with restaurants. If they were making the lasagna from scratch, a substitution request wouldn’t be a problem. But if the restaurant can’t handle that, you know what the real deal is. 

3. Freezer-Burn Taste

If you know how frozen dinner tastes, you won’t have trouble identifying the same in your order from a restaurant. The flavors will be off, the texture will not be appealing, and the color will not look right.

It’s more noticeable with meat products. You can check to see if your meat has some grayish spots, which are freezer burns. If there are some, you can assume that it was frozen. 

4. No Culinary Background Chef Cooks Your Food

If the restaurant you’re dining at doesn’t employ an individual with a culinary background, you can assume that they’re serving you premade food. 

Because everything is already prepared beforehand, the restaurant won’t need anyone with cooking experience. It’s particularly true for chain and fast-food restaurants. 

Why Do Restaurants Pre-Cook Food? 

Restaurants pre-cook food to save time and cut costs. Besides, they also do that to ensure that every dish tastes the same every time. They also use premade foods to ensure swift deliveries and fewer wait times. 

The customers of the restaurants have high expectations from their favorite food places. If the restaurants lose their uniqueness, they will no longer be popular. So here is why they use premade food in a nutshell. 

  • To preserve authenticity 
  • To make the prices of the dish affordable 
  • To have consistent tastes
  • To deliver food faster and make the customer not wait long 

Premade food comes in large batches where food distributors weigh and measure the ingredients precisely. It helps them to maintain the tastes and set them apart from their competition. Making food from scratch costs more time and effort. That’s why top-tier restaurants have expensive menus. 


Premade food doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s terrible. But if it is something that bothers you then I recommend you do your research before picking a restaurant and pick one that is a bit higher class as they are more likely to maintain higher food standards. 

Chef Rooney

I like to cook. It makes me happy, and I know it does the same for others. If you ever want to learn how to make a great dish, just ask!

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