Jake Norman, sales and marketing manager at OAL Group, which is pioneering applications in the area, told FoodManufacture.co.uk its latest project was focused on raising cooking temperatures in record times.
“We have a new project looking at taking ingredients from 20oC to 150oC in a second,” he said.
‘Bigger roll out’
However, that was at an early stage and the latest commercial application was being tested by a top soup manufacturer, he added. “It has installed just one system, but would potentially look at a bigger roll out.”
Traditional steam heating either heated product indirectly, using a steam jacket on the outside of a cooking vessel, or used steam injection or infusion to apply steam directly on to products, Norman explained. Direct steam heating is only practical for products containing water, as the method involves some condensed steam being taken up into the foodstuff.
To prove the effectiveness of OAL’s current solution it compared the speed at which 1,000kg of water could be heated from 20oC to 70oC using a steam jacket, steam injection and steam infusion.
The steam injection method, a notoriously inefficient process, took almost 26 minutes. Heating time for the steam jacket was just over 11 minutes. Steam infusion using a single Vaction unit to shoot the steam at product at three times the speed of sound took just under eight minutes and two Vaction units took four minutes.
‘Three times faster’
“You can heat something three times faster and more efficiently,” said Norman. “You can produce more or have less equipment as well, either increasing revenue streams or reducing capital equipment costs. You are getting a better energy conversion, so that will have a cost implication.”
Norman said firms had saved up to 10% of their processing costs by installing OAL’s new system, but savings depended on how advanced their former systems were.
In addition, suppliers often installed a large amount of equipment in factories to cope with peak demand periods, incurring unnecessary expense, said Norman. “This enables you to meet demand with a small capital equipment base.”
He said previous steam infusion kits had sat in the tanks and vats that heated the food. “With this you can put units in line with pipework and heat food on a continuous basis.”
Norman said OAL’s work was exciting interest across the board. “There’s interest on the R&D side from multi-nationals, but also from the general UK market.”
Trials at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach campus have also indicated that steam infusion can improve the flavour and nutrition profile of foods.
OAL’s technology recently featured in a Guardian article exploring top clean tech innovations.