Specific equipment pieces include a flame broiler/griller with a series of eight ribbon burners to speed the browning and searing of foods such as mushrooms. For poultry, the searing process seals in the natural oils before the product enters the oven. The oven itself incorporates a 16”-wide belt that spirals around the burners to the equivalent of 150’ of belt, all within an 8’ x 8’ footprint.
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No kitchen, test or otherwise, would be complete without a gas infrared oven, the most innovative of which utilize a stainless steel burner head for increased durability.
Likewise, quick cooling crusters have attained de rigueur status for any food-processing plant that produces meat or poultry logs. Round out the chilling side of the business with a spiral freezer and a continuous impingement freezer. With the inclusion of an infrared or aquaflow pasteurizer, almost every imaginable aspect of the food processing industry is covered in today’s modern test kitchen.
If that’s not enough, Unitherm’s kitchen, for one, comes staffed with design engineers willing to work hand in hand with food processors to modify any existing machinery into a customized cooking system. An on-site 3-D modeling system accelerates the process.
Early feedback indicates that these kitchens are quite popular among food processors. Whether fire-roasting Portobello mushrooms, steaming potatoes, cooking vegetables and other ingredients for sauces and ravioli fillings, or baking chicken tenders, experimenting with the equipment emboldens processors to proceed with confidence, knowing that the equipment will maximize yields, reduce processing times, increase food safety, and improve the final product’s taste.
Agroin (www.agroin.com.mx), which was founded in 2003, operates as a division of La Huerta, one of the largest frozen produce exporters in Mexico and a supplier of frozen vegetables to Wal-Mart. Agroin processes the frozen poblano chili pepper line for La Huerta, but its output was limited by its hand-built griller.
“We have very limited production at our plant here in Mexico, but our clients were asking for more and more of our chili pepper products,” said Leonardo Randolph, production manager for Agroindustria de Aguascalientes S.A. de C.V.
While attending a trade show in Chicago, Randolph and La Huerta’s Ricardo Arteaga Barba were introduced to Unitherm Food Systems.
“Because our pepper-roasting process is unique, we were not sure that any standard griller could do the job correctly and preserve the special taste of our product,” Randolph said.
“Unitherm agreed to work with us, and they invited us to their test kitchen in Oklahoma to design a flame griller that would meet our specific needs. We flew straight from Chicago to their plant because we wanted to ensure we could get something that would fit our process exactly.”
“We grow and harvest our own peppers, wash them, and then roast them,” Randolph said. “Afterwards, we peel off the blackened outer skin and then immediately freeze and package the product in different presentations. But our old griller that roasts the peppers was a bottleneck in the whole process. We had enough demand to more than triple our output, but we realized that we would need three more of our old roasters to meet the throughput that our new freezer was capable of handling. We needed to process one metric ton per hour, but our existing griller could only roast 250 kilograms per hour.”
Aside from insufficient capacity, the construction of the old griller invited inconsistencies in roasting, as the distance between the gas burners and the product handling equipment could vary, making it difficult to quickly and thoroughly peel off the unevenly blackened skin. At the output end of the griller, some of the peppers would fail to separate from the springs that carried them, and a person would have to pull out the stuck peppers by hand.