Precise Performance Cooking For Outstanding Results

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Industrial cooking technology has come a long way since GEA, one of the largest food system suppliers, introduced the world’s first two-zone spiral oven in 1992. This method is developed further by the company into a three-zone cooking concept with the launch of its CookStar 1000 spiral oven, powerful new technology for the mass production of roasted, breaded and smoked products.

This new generation of spiral oven technology from GEA provides an extremely accurate, high performance solution which pushes the art of cooking to produce even more of what the food industry and the consumer wants including delicous breaded chicken, succulent roast lamb, mouthwatering smoked BBQ ribs or tasty tempura-coated prawns. The high level of controlability means that these products can be cooked in a way that ensures reproducible results time after time.

GEA’s CookStar 1000 generates up to 25 percent more heating capacity than its predecessors through improved heat exchanger technology. The new three-zone cooking method optimises the flow of air through the oven for more targeted cooking and consistent browning, reducing any waste caused by over cooking. An enhanced impingement zone gives a higher air volume for greater cooking impact and efficiency, meaning lower power consumption. Yields can also be improved for coated products, as the improved airflow enables a crispier coating without drying out the juicy product core.

Whilst this latest technology is capable of generating extra heating capacity, which of course translates into increased throughput, it‘s the ability to accurately control the cooking parameters that is making  it the increasingly popular choice for industrial cooking. The CookStar 1000 is the only spiral cooker on the market which can dry, steam, cook, roast and smoke  products in a single machine.

Ready made food needs to be wholesome, flavoursome and exciting. The challenge for mass producers is to create a product of the same quality as say a conventional rotary spit, but on a much larger scale so that anyone, anywhere can walk into a supermarket and enjoy well-cooked meat.

However, there’s more to cooking than heat. It’s a balance of time, temperature, humidity and air circulation. Then there’s the choice of hot air, roasting, smoking, steam and drying technology to consider and of course it has to be right every time.

Take the centrepiece of the UK’s traditional favourite, Sunday lunch for instance. For manufacturers to capture the authentic flavours of the perfect joint or roast chicken requires the right timing, airflow, dewpoint and temperature within the oven. In most commercial ovens, the optimum setting for any individual product is a compromise: a high dewpoint improves yield but prevents browning  while a lower dewpoint browns the meat but dries it out. However the latest three zone ovens now come inbuilt with smart climate and exhaust systems which allow increased flexibility and sustainability.

Rather than simply blasting products with heat for a predetermined period of time, intelligent exhaust systems monitor the environment within the oven continuously, adjusting the volume of exhaust air as needed to maintain the precise atmospheric conditions required for optimum cooking. By only using energy exactly as and when it is needed, this technology can also reduce heat and steam losses, helping to reduce power consumption.

Operating at a high dew point, the first phase utilises the latent heat of steam to cook quickly and gently, keeping meat succulent by preventing moisture loss. Then the impingement zone blasts the product with hot, dry air to prepare the surface for roasting  without drying out the core. The final phase, with a much lower dew point, then completes the roasting process, cooking products to perfection.

The dewpoint within the cooking towers can also be managed precisely by injecting steam or opening fresh air gates as necessary. Improved zone separation now also allows the cooking towers within a spiral oven to operate independently, each with a dewpoint from 45 deg C to 95 deg C and at a temperature from 50 deg C to 250 deg C as required by the recipe. This allows infinitely variable control of the cooking conditions within the oven for maximum flexibility and cooking precision, meaning that a wide range of products can be cooked using the same equipment.

In addition to naturally roasting meats without the use of colouring additives, three zone spiral ovens can also be used to cook crispy non-fry coated products, such as chicken nuggets, formed uncoated products, marinated products, steamed products and dried or smoked meats and fish.

In terms of meeting the demand for chicken nuggets, one of the world’s most popular fast-food items, ensuring high yields is particularly crucial. Food processors must complete the process from ingredients delivery through grinding, mixing, forming, coating, cooking, frying and freezing rapidly but to a high-quality standard. Nuggets must also be cooked to perfection, reaching the correct core temperature whilst still allowing for the overall production time to be kept to a minimum.

Three-phase ovens are particularly beneficial to food processors, as nuggets can be rapidly cooked to a core temperature of 73 degrees where steam and heat are added. Latent heat from the steam is very effective in transferring energy into the nugget and due to the higher humidity, less moisture is lost therefore producing higher yields. The new balanced airflow and active exhaust technology also makes it possible to produce a higher output with significant savings on steam.

When it comes to smoked products, a solution has been developed where inline smoking of meat or fish can actually incorporated into the CookStar 1000.  Rather than the lengthy smoking times associated with traditional batch methods, freshly generated, purified natural smoke condensate can be included in the airflow of the oven, giving a distinctive and customisable flavour, attractive colour, and extended shelf life. Combining smoking with the cooking process in this way reduces process time from hours to minutes. Using natural smoke condensate is also classed as a ‘clean smoke’ method, as smoke condensate does not contain the undesirable by-products such as tar, ash and hydrocarbons associated with standard smoking methods

All in all, the emerging generation of industrial cooking technology such as GEA’s CookStar 1000 is allowing food processors to ensure that their production lines remain flexible. The increased use of ‘intelligent’ systems is giving manufacturers the ability to control distinct parameters according to changing consumer demand, whilst still ensuring high productivity, sustainability, reliability, and total security of outcome.

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