Top 5 reasons for switching from direct steam injection to Steam Infusion food processing

Why do food manufacturers switch from direct steam injection to Steam Infusion? Chris Brooks has worked in the food industry for over 30 years largely developing a range of food products for blue chip food manufacturers. At OAL, Chris has been a leading contributor to their research work at the University of Lincoln establishing how and why OAL's Steam Infusion technology practically benefits food processes. Chris is often asked when should food manufacturers switch from direct steam injection to Steam Infusion; here are his top 5 reasons:

1) No burn-on or Maillard reactions

One of the key challenges with direct steam injection is the exposure of your product to high-temperature steam. This can result in fouling and discolouration to delicate sauces such as bechamel sauce. Also, when processing tomato based recipes, often there are problems with the product turning orange due to the over processing of tomato.

Steam Infusion stops exposure to excessive temperatures and Maillard reactions because of the partial vacuum generated by the Vaction™ Unit as it heats, mixes and pumps products in your vessel. From a development perspective, this is great as products appear cleaner and are a better match to your concept sauce. Your production team will love you as well as cleaning is easy with no fouling to your vessel.

2) Creamy mouthfeel

Direct steam injection is a relatively simple process whereby you're bubbling steam through a sauce. Naturally, it's going to heat up your product quicker but there's not much else going on.

With Steam Infusion allowing more control over the steam flow rate, we change the operating characteristics of the Vaction™ Unit from a gentle introduction of steam to a disruptive high shearing process environment. This control enables us to improve the performance of your ingredients; for instance, we can create a creamier mouth feel as under certain operating conditions we can create a fat mimetic.

3) Cooking speed with energy efficiency

One of the main reasons food manufacturers add direct steam injection to their cooking vessels is to speed up heating times. The way steam injectors operate creates a compromise between heat up times and efficiency, because, as you increase the flow rate of steam, more is lost into the atmosphere as it bubbles straight through the product.

Steam Infusion overcomes this compromise and allows efficient heating at a higher steam flow rate. The disruptive way the steam is introduced means that all the steam is condensed into the product prior to leaving the Vaction™ Unit, causing a rapid heat transfer. The graph shows the difference in heat up times.

4) Maintenance & easy installation

Steam Infusion Vaction unit CAD

Minimising plant downtime is very important for food manufacturers operating at close to full capacity. Steam injectors are normally installed in the vessel jacket leading to complex installation on retrofits, whereas, Steam Infusion lance is simpler as it can be mounted onto the vessel lid in vessels with inclined agitation.

The Steam Infusion Vaction™ Unit has no moving parts leading to near maintenance free operation.

5) Kettle cleaning

Burn on Contamination to Steam Jacketed Kettle

As the cooking vessel experiences no burn-on, it is possible to perform more back to back cooks with a Steam Infusion system without the possibility of for instance burnt contaminates appearing as flecks within the product.

Similarly, when a clean is performed, the automated CIP or manual clean process is much quicker as burnt on product no longer needs to be removed.


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