Getting smoked | MEAT+POULTRY

One of the oldest methods of food preservation is smoking and drying. Today, the industry continues to experience a strong consumer appetite for dried and smoked protein products. This may be fueled by growing consumer demand for natural and healthier food options for you.

“In the past, regular ovens and smokers that perform many different cooking styles were common,” said Patrick Henn, executive vice president of Kohler Industries, a Lincoln, Neb.-based company that makes Viers ovens. and smokehouses. “Today the trend we see is the customer’s desire for custom ovens and smokers.”

This means that processors are now involved in the design of equipment. The result is a unit custom built to meet their specific product recipes, business goals and processes.

After all, the smokehouse or oven is the single piece of equipment within an organization that will make or lose the most money for the business.

“At the push of a button, this system is responsible for yield loss, quality and consistency, energy consumption, environmental effects, food safety and regulatory requirements,” said said Tom Springman, owner of Kerres USA, Muncy, Pennsylvania. of equipment must have the highest capacity and versatility possible for the ever-changing environment and economy in which we live today.

Having a smokehouse and batch oven that can deliver repeatable processes, follow the process to meet HACCP requirements, deliver the best possible process yields, and be built to last for years is key for every processor .

That’s why innovations in ovens and smokers are important to keep businesses strong.

In terms of design engineering, Marty Wimmer, batch thermal product sales manager at Riverside, Mo.-based Marlen, noted that a focus on process control and sanitary design is more prevalent today. today than ever.

“Tracking who, what, when and where of each production load is essential for HACCP control,” he said. “However, there is more to process control than simply monitoring the process. Controlling the airflow so that it is repeatable load after load, day after day, week after week, is essential. »

Trends shaping the industry

Steve King, global vice president of sales for Alkar, Lodi, Wis., noted that the trends he’s seeing point in two distinct directions for improving sustainability – more efficient use of energy and measures taken to reduce water consumption.

“Shareholders and operating personnel recognize the importance of sustainability standards and improvements, as well as metrics,” he said. “The focus is also on automation, whether it’s loading and unloading or checks. The challenge around the work does not go away; therefore, automation is a critical factor in all new designs.

With that in mind, Alkar recently introduced the TurboChef, the world’s only linear oven that cooks with steam (wet bulb), convection heat (dry bulb) and microwave energy.

“This oven was also designed with energy and water savings and can be operated with limited staff,” King said. “Alkar will also introduce the Helix, which is a spiral oven with the same features, reducing the need for valuable real estate.”

Maurer-Atmos partner Mario Ori, located in Germany, sees clean smoke as the future of smoking as it guarantees the exact amount of smoke, an emission-free smoking process, less pollution caused by the smoking process, no tar, no ash, no fire, no danger of explosion and healthier food products.

“The smoking process becomes more controllable, safer and more economical with this method,” he said. “The latest generation of controls and software are designed to allow much more precise adjustments to systems. This ensures even better uniformity and time savings.

He noted that it is important to identify desired current trends and incorporate them into the company’s products.

Springman has seen many trends take hold in ovens and smokers in recent years, one of the most pervasive being the ability to control the break point in each carriage position, allowing the operator to load as much product as possible in this cart space, all while having complete consistency across the entire load, regardless of system size.

“Then there is the versatility of full temperature range and control within a system – the ability of a system to reach extremely low chamber temperatures and the ability to reach extremely high chamber temperatures , for all types of products.

Other trends include hygienic design and sanitary suitability, with wet bulb and relative humidity control continuing to be a focus.

Customer production goals drive the design of ovens and smokers at Viers Industries (Source: Kohler)

Doing things the right way

Marlen’s permanent air balance is the company’s key to better process control, with Wimmer explaining that greater process consistency can be achieved with Marlen’s permanent air balance feature, from so Marlen ovens never have to be “balanced” in the field.

With the high turnover seen in the industry, Wimmer said it’s critical that they “train the trainer,” allowing customers to capture and retain the knowledge they need for optimal oven performance.

Over the past decade, the nuance of air control and breakpoint has been understood, Henn noted.

“Air control allows modern equipment to deliver even, consistent cooking throughout the batch,” he said, “batch after batch, allowing for higher yields than have been achieved in the past. One of the newest and most impressive technological advancements in the industry today is the introduction of precision controls.”

Springman noted that Kerres’ closed and open hybrid natural smoking systems are integrated with automatic control and can automatically switch from the closed smoking process for products that require the highest possible yield to the next product that requires weight loss. for storage stability.

“Our modular design provides the ability to prepare every cart the same way, with the highest possible load, regardless of system size,” he said.

Viers Industries prefers true Powis Controls, which allow operators to remotely monitor real-time data and adapt accordingly, if necessary. This finite level of control further increases product quality and yield. Plus, it gives operators peace of mind knowing exactly what’s going on at all times.

Every oven and smoker built at Viers Industries starts with the customer’s production goals. Therefore, no two customer’s equipment is identical.

“Instead of trying to fit our customer into a ready made oven or smoker, we custom build the oven or smoker to fit our customer,” Henn said. “Different from our competitors, we have an on-site team of experienced engineers, designers, machinists, electricians, fabricators and technicians. These teams work together, side-by-side, with the customer to build the best possible equipment for that customer. »

R&D process

It’s important that companies don’t rest on their laurels, and oven and smoker manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their offerings.

“We listen to our customers when they request or suggest new product improvements,” Wimmer said. “They work day in and day out with the equipment and often make excellent recommendations. Once an idea is suggested, it is reviewed and approved by our engineering group and product line experts. »

Through the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), Marlen models things like airflow before an idea goes into production. This allows the business to have a high degree of confidence that the recommended change meets the desired goals.

Maurer-Atmos performs intensive market observation through its food technologists and area sales managers who are directly in the market with customers, then everything is discussed with marketing and technical departments, checked feasibility and changes that may be implemented.

Viers treats its customers as partners and, from the initial consultation to years after installation, continually collects their feedback and all likes and dislikes.

“We listen to our customers to improve their process and ours, test new components when they become available, and adopt the best ideas as design advances,” Henn said. “The learning curve for Viers equipment is low. The main reason for this is that we keep the operation simple and straightforward. Most importantly, Viers Industries provides post-installation training and support.

Customers who still use older traditional ovens suffer from a loss of yield due to a lack of consistent product quality. The benefits processors will see when upgrading to advanced equipment are improved consistency, increased throughput, faster processing times, and better data.

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