Growth is a good problem to have. But an increasing demand by customers for a wider product mix can be a tough hurdle to overcome.

Townsend Culinary (Laurel, MD), subsidiary of Townsend Poultry and processor of soups, sauces, vegetable sides and cooked poultry products for restaurant and retail markets, recently found themselves in this predicament. In the past the processor relied on co-packers to fulfill demand for its varied product line. Its own rotary rack ovens cooked too slowly and were only designed to batch-cook a limited range of products.

To leapfrog customer demand levels, Townsend decided to change its batch operation to a continuous system. "We looked for a system that was versatile, could fully cook a variety of foods, brown product surfaces and deliver high yields while maintaining quality," says Faye Feldstein, production manager. "One of our biggest concerns was the portion control grilled chicken pieces. They were taking 35 minutes to cook in the rotary batch ovens."

Townsend researched a number of options and decided on Heat and Control's Airforce impingement oven. "The Airforce oven tests cooked our chicken pot pies in about three minutes with improved quality over our rotary system," said Feldstein. Grilled chicken pieces now only take four minutes in the impingement oven, an 88 percent reduction from the rotary method.

Townsend also compared impingement to multi-purpose ovens (MPO). The impingement oven's footprint is only about 11 ft. long compared to nearly 30 of for an MPO oven, with equal efficiencies, according to Feldstein.

Impingement technology combines high temperature, humidity and air velocity above and below product flow, optimizing heat transfer. Indirect air heating prevents product discoloration caused by combustion gases. Independently adjustable nozzles and airflow baffles allow unique air enveloping conditions and fast, even cooking. "There are no hot or cold spots in the impingement oven," notes Feldstein. "Consistency and uniformity are greatly improved in our products."

The company now has the ability to adjust browning and other process conditions to produce a variety of foods with unique appearance, taste and texture qualities. Touch screen control systems create a programmed recipe list of cooking parameters and allow fast, consistent changeovers. Built-in CIP (clean in place) is computer controlled as well maximizing cleaning efficiency.

Since installing the impingement oven, Town-send has added a second production shift and no longer relies on co-packers.

Heat and Control Inc., 21121 Cabot Blvd., Hayward, CA 94545. Tel.: (800) 227-5980; Fax: (510) 259-0800; Website: