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Bulk cooking by the numbers: A ton of tonkatsu

From last month: We don’t eat pork or beef as much as we eat chicken, since chicken is so cheap and easy to prepare. When I found pre-sliced pork tenderloin halves at $3.04/kg (30% off the sale price because it was nearing the best-by date), I knew that tonkatsu was definitely in the cards. It’s one of my favourite freezer meals, and I always like to make it when pork’s on sale.

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The previous week, when the pork first came on sale for $4.34/kg, I had bought one package and turned into a good stack of frozen tonkatsu lunches. I was reasonably confident that I could scale up to two packs, so I bought two for a total of $14.75, or nearly 5kg.  I had planned to work on that after making pad thai for supper, which I needed to do in order to use up some of the vegetables in the fridge. Sure, it was a weekday, but I didn’t have plans for the evening anyway.

Fortunately, W- saw the magnitude of the tonkatsu-making task I’d set for myself and helped out. J- got conscripted into tenderizing the pork. W- battered and breaded the cutlets while I prepared the pad thai. After dinner, I breaded the remaining cutlets while W- fried the previous ones.

A full rice cooker yielded 18 portions of 180g cooked rice, which we packed along with frozen vegetables and tonkatsu. We stored the remaining tonkatsu cutlets in whatever other containers we could find. In total, we made 50 portions of tonkatsu (including the two that we ate while cooking, cut into small bites and dipped in chili sauce).

Ingredient costs: (18 portions with rice and frozen vegetables, 32 portions without)

    Portion cost Ingredient Notes Total cost
    $0.33 Frozen vegetables ~3/4 of a large bag at $7.99 $6
    $0.30 Pork   $14.75
    $0.13 Rice 10 cups is 1.44kg, or ~16% of a $14.99 bag $2.39
    $0.06 Eggs 13 eggs out of an 18-egg carton for $4.27 $3.08
    $0.05 Panko half a $4.59 box $2.29
    $0.05 Oil half a $4.49 bottle $2.24

+ salt, pepper, flour

Each lunch portion was $0.92 (not including electricity), or roughly $1.

Time-wise, it was about 3 hours by 2 people. Assuming each lunch has a value of $11 including tax, that’s a labour value of $83/hour for something that’s tiring but enjoyable. Since W- and I were working together, it was good relationship bonding time too.

We usually save our cooking marathons for the weekends because they take up time (and besides, time-of-use charging means it’s more expensive to cook during the week). The pork was near its use-by date, though, so we had to make it right away. While we were cooking, I wondered out loud what I’d gotten myself into. W- smiled and said I probably wanted something to write about on my blog. He’s at least a little bit right – everything’s an adventure.

Now we have neat stacks of tonkatsu in the chest freezer. Life is good.

It’s difficult to argue with the economics of bulk cooking, if you’ve got the space and the stamina for it. I enjoy cooking, and I love knowing that lunches (and the occasional lazy dinners) are already taken care of. Bulk cooking reduces the risk of regular cooking, too. I can experiment with new recipes easily, because even if it turns out terrible and I have to throw it away, there’s food in the freezer.

I’m glad we do this! For more about bulk cooking, see my post on Making bulk cooking easier. Enjoy!

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  • Harvey Chua

    Maybe you can teach our cook how to do all these bulk meals. :)

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      I’m not sure if home-oriented bulk cooking tips for stocking the freezer translate to company-sized cooking needs, since it takes space and time to freeze and re-heat large servings for ~25 people. Maybe you have friends in the restaurant industry who can share tips on how they deal with the load? If you’re interested in make-ahead meals, perhaps you can ask the cook to prepare some meals that you can heat on the cook’s day off.

  • http://facilitaciongrafica.blogspot.com.ar/ Patricia

    It reads rich, practical and repetition in your drawing leaves it spotless!

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