US cooking technology gains favour among Australian food manufacturers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th August 2013

The use of ‘advanced inline cooking systems’ is improving the quality of food products, increasing cooking efficiency and saving on costs among food processors in Australia, according to processing and packaging equipment supplier Reactive Engineering. The new systems are replacing many batch cooking systems.


Better yields

Reactive Engineering said that, increasingly, its customers were switching over from sometimes unsystematic and more labor-intensive batch cooking to high efficiency inline processing that “improved on quality, consistency, yield improvement and throughput”. The Company said extended shelf life and improved taste and appearance were significant among quality improvements.


Char-grill quality appearance

Reactive Engineering has been expanding its sales of spiral ovens and flame grillers in the inline cooling system market. The Company distributes the US-based Unitherm Food Sytems range.

Customers include the Sydney-based food manufacturer Prontier which produces ready-to-eat protein sandwich fillings as well as meats for pizza and salad toppings.

“The majority of our business comes from sandwich meats that we cook, slice and marinate for the lunch trade in the foodservice category,” said Saxon Joye, Prontier founder and Managing Director.

Prontier said its recently acquired flame grill and spiral oven manufactured by Unitherm Food Systems enabled it to “achieve added flavour and a more authentic appearance” to its products, as well as improving efficiencies.

According to Prontier, the flame grill individually “quick-flames” products and maximises the effects of flame searing, while minimising yield losses. The multiple independently controlled burners and touch screen recipe selection make the unit flexible and efficient, according to Prontier.

“We use this equipment to wrap the outside of ready-to-eat items in flames and seal the meat,” Mr Joye said. “It also browns meat products such as chicken with a char-grilled stripe, which creates a fabulous presentation. The natural-looking flamed colour and authentic grilled flavour are important advancements to us. They are dramatic improvements in the quality,” he said.

Prontier said its meats are fully cooked in a spiral oven, a “highly flexible, small-footprint” cooking system developed by Unitherm for processors who want the benefits of continuous cooking with reliable consistency and lower energy usage.

“Now, instead of batch processing, we have a ‘production river’, which provides huge labour saving advantages, and gives us real control over the way we finish every individual piece of food, making it a beautiful product,” Mr Joye said.


Primo Moraitis Fresh ‘s experience

The spiral oven is used by based Primo Moraitis Fresh, which manufactures, processes and packages high-quality ready-to-eat salads, soups and fresh cut processed vegetables. Primo Moraitis Fresh caters to retail, foodservice, industrial manufacturers and quick service restaurants.

“Before getting this equipment we used little combination ovens and other small cooking devices,” said Ben Watt, Primo Moraitis Fresh General Manager. “When we first looked at the spiral oven, it seemed like a great piece of equipment that could have a lot of potential uses. Which is exactly what it has had,” he said.

“We’ve had ours for about 18 months, and we run a whole lot of items through it. We can steam, roast, bake a super roast (roast and steam). The system is really versatile, so it’s in use almost all the time,” Mr Watt said.

Among Primo Moraitis Fresh’s principal products are wet salads for gourmet dinners, including items such as creamy pastas, potato salads and coleslaw.

“We use a lot of bacon, pancetta and meats like that,” Mr Watt said. “So we roast those items through the spiral oven. The continuous process gives us great volume with a very even cook and great consistency,” he said.

Mr Watt said the spiral oven is also used for steaming potatoes, not only because of the system’s versatility, but also because of its speed and because it “does a better job than boiling the potatoes in water”.

Primo Moraitis Fresh said it can produce approximately 400 kilograms of steamed potatoes per hour using this system.


Improving efficiency and output

Reactive Engineering recently sold a spiral oven system to another Australian-based processor, Jewel of India, which uses the oven in combination with a spiral chiller.

Jewel of India is a ready-to-eat chilled-meal manufacturer that produces a range of Indian-style foods, including chicken, meatballs, ready-to-eat heat and serve curries, simmer sauces, cocktail and finger foods, and Naan breads. Based in the Sydney area, the Company supplies the institutional Australian market, including clubs, hospitals, airlines and stadiums, as well as butchers and delis, supermarkets and caterers that service the military and mining industry.

“The spiral oven is installed in our new high-risk production facility, which will provide us with food safety similar to the newest European and pharmaceutical standards,” said Jim Keating, Jewel of India General Manager.

Although the spiral oven is newly installed, Keating says he expects overall yield improvements to be between 15 and 20 per cent. Other important efficiency features the new system will provide include improved throughput, optimised product consistency, and reduced labor.