As demand grows for more efficient and sustainable methods of food production, the latest industrial cooking technology has the potential to transform the mass production of roasted, breaded and smoked products.

Over-cooking caused by temperature variation across the belt is a challenge for food manufacturers due to its detrimental impact on yield and product quality. It’s a major drawback of ovens with air velocity going in only one direction. Food manufacturers want to create a product of the same quality as a conventional rotary spit, but on a much larger scale so that anyone, anywhere can walk into a supermarket and enjoy well-cooked meat or poultry.

The introduction of spiral ovens with improved airflow that goes from top to bottom and left to right has changed the ball game in terms of quality, efficiency and yield. To further optimize capacity, three-phase technology has been developed with even more precise process control. Three-phase spiral ovens can be used for roasting meats, cooking crispy non-fry coated products, such as chicken wings, formed uncoated products, marinated products, steamed products and dried or smoked meats and fish. 

This new generation of ovens provides an extremely accurate, high performance solution which pushes the art of cooking to produce even more of what the food industry wants—increased yield and improved sustainability, as well as high quality products.

Optimized airflow is the key. A combination of horizontal and vertical airflow means maximum precision and flexibility in controlling the cooking conditions to best suit the application. Heat is distributed more evenly across the whole width and length of the belt providing uniform cooking. The high level of controllability means that products can be cooked in a way that provides reproducible results time after time.

For example, a three-zone cook range, like GEA’s CookStar, can offer an increase in yield of up to 3% or 5%, depending on the applications, with fewer overcooks and shorter cooking times compared to its predecessors. Manufacturers can set each zone in the oven to a precise recipe, providing more targeted cooking and consistent browning, while 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. Generating extra heating capacity translates into the potential  of increased throughput. 

So what benefits are provided in three-phase cooking? It’s the ability to accurately control the cooking parameters. The first phase utilizes 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 remove excess humidity and prepare the surface for coloring or roasting  without drying out the core. The final phase develops the coloring to complete the process, cooking products to perfection.

However, three-phase cooking equipment should not be a mystery. Training is important so that operators get the best out of the equipment to capture the authentic flavors of each product, which requires correct timing, airflow, dewpoint and temperature within the oven.  Since every manufacturer has its own unique process or product, high transparency and expert back-up are crucial. 

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. The latest three zone ovens now come with smart climate and exhaust systems that allow increased flexibility and sustainability.

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. 

All in all, the emerging generation of industrial cooking technology is enabling food processors to add a high degree of flexibility to their production lines. The increased use of ‘intelligent’ systems is giving manufacturers the ability to control distinct parameters according to changing consumer demand, while still providing high productivity, sustainability, reliability, and total security of outcome.