Food Engineering

Continuous pasta cooking replaces batch

September 1, 2008
Upgraded cooking and cooling line minimizes product damage and increases throughput and flexibility.

Installed at Creative Foods, Lyco’s continuous pasta cooking/cooling system processes up to 2,640 pounds of pasta per hour. The wedge wire-screen can be seen just below the rotating screw. Source: Creative Foods.


Creative Foods, Ltd., a specialty division of Brake Brothers (with sales exceeding $3 billion), makes prepared frozen meals, sauces, soups and desserts for the UK’s foodservice and catering markets, including restaurants, pubs, hotels, schools, hospitals, automotive service stations, and travel and leisure facilities.

Recently, the processor wanted to upgrade its pasta cooking/process line. It was looking for equipment that could handle all types and shapes of pasta, particularly long pastas that are difficult to process and tend to stick together, damaging product quality and increasing waste. This is a common problem when processors cook, quench and chill pasta in three successive batch steps reaching a final temperature of less than 41°F.

“We do quite a wide range of pastas,” says Howard Batey, Creative Foods factory general manager. “An increasing part of our business is in the long pastas like spaghetti, linguine and tagliatelle.” Batey, however, couldn’t find a system that could adequately cook and cool these pastas- without them sticking together- at the volumes he was processing. So, he resorted to buying precooked and chilled long pasta.

Creative’s batching system had limitations on how much pasta it could process at any one time. Operators struggled to keep up with production demands. “We were looking for equipment that could not only cook, but also cool, so we could maintain better control over the entire process,” says Batey.

After much research, Creative selected the Clean-Flow pasta cooking/cooling solution developed by Lyco Manufacturing. The continuous process system uses a rotary drum that provides water injection/agitation to keep the product in uniform suspension while moving through the unit. The unit’s design uses a screw, which resides in a stationary wedge-wire screen that encapsulates the screw from the 3:00 to 9:00 o’clock positions. The tolerance between the screw and screen is less than a grain of rice. Water agitation injected through the screen keeps the product off the floor of the screen, where it is maintained in total suspension. Damage to fragile product is a fraction of 1%, less than a conventional rotary drum set-up.

“The attraction to Clean-Flow was the flexibility,” Batey says. “The internal parts can be cleaned much more easily, which means changing between different products within the same day could be done more quickly. Our plans were to process relatively short runs of different types of product. This meant putting through different shapes and types of pastas, and even completely different products within the same day, such as switching from processing vegetables to pasta.

“The quality of our pasta products has improved dramatically, in part because we now have absolutely consistent cooking times, and are not relying on manual intervention-and also because the cooling cycle is now immediate,” explains Batey. “We have almost totally eliminated product damage, and we are running our long pasta through the system as well. We are processing approximately 2,640 pounds (1,200 kg) of pasta per hour through the line, and some days we run the line 16 hours continuously.”

For more information, Jeff Zittel, 920-623-4152, jeff.zittel@lycomfg.com