Smoked food. The aroma, the taste. There is something almost primal about these foods, which should be no surprise, given humans have been smoking meats – first and foremost to preserve them – for millennia. Today, we know that conventional food smoking processes produce undesirable byproducts which can negatively affect health. Thanks to a smart cooperation, GEA offers food processors healthier and more efficient in-line smoking solutions for meats, seafood and vegetarian products that deliver the authentic flavors consumers crave.
Using wood smoke to preserve meat and fish is an age-old technique which also imparts delicious aromas and flavors that many cultures, then as now, love. Unfortunately, studies released in recent years indicate that smoked meats can cause health problems due to the tar and creosote and other carcinogens resulting from the smoking process. In addition to finding alternative solutions that are cleaner and speed up the smoking process, processors are equally keen to find a healthy alternative that still delivers on consumer demand when it comes to aroma and taste.
GEA SuperHeatSmoke: the world’s first spiral oven for inline smoking
In 2013, GEA began to consider how it could integrate inline smoking capabilities into the much-lauded GEA CookStar double spiral oven as an alternative to the traditional batch oven smoke process – still often used today. The trigger for this innovation was a food processor who contacted GEA because they wanted to find a way to improve their production capacity for smoked products. Given their excellent reputation and experience with smoke condensate, GEA then approached leading food flavor and smoking specialist, Red Arrow. From there, a cooperation was forged, which led to the combination of two award-winning solutions: the GEA CookStar and Red Arrow’s Condensed Natural Smoke™ solution. The result: GEA SuperHeatSmoke, the first in-line solution that smokes products without producing actual smoke, launched in 2016.
Carried out at temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius, the SuperHeatSmoke process is suitable for chicken, beef, pork, seafood and vegetarian components such as textured vegetable protein. With this revolutionary innovation, smoking is achieved in minutes versus hours and the final products may carry a ‘CleanSmoke’ label, which is an important differentiator for consumers looking for more natural and healthier foods.
GEA HotSmoke: a new inline solution for smoking foods under 100 C
Since its launch, GEA SuperHeatSmoke has provided an exciting step forward for food processors globally. Having focused on products requiring higher smoking temperatures, GEA’s next step was to develop a solution for inline smoking at temperatures below 100 C – particularly ideal for pork bellies, parts (bacon) and trimmings, which even today, are still often smoked conventionally and in batch or semi-batch processes. The GEA HotSmoke answers that need for a healthier, low temperature inline smoking solution. This technology is already in use by food processors in France for producing bacon bits and bites.
The new GEA HotSmoke application also uses GEA CookStar technology along with the SuperHeatSmoke generator, which produces atomized condensed natural smoke, in this case, ones specifically for low-temperature applications; these products can also carry a ‘CleanSmoke’ label. The key benefits of the GEA HotSmoke solution, particularly when compared to batch methods, include:
- Improved product color & consistency
- Shorter process time & higher capacity with small equipment footprint
- Higher process yield
- Flexible process (e.g., one oven can produce smoked pork bellies, parts & trimmings)
- No cleaning trolley or bin handling for loading & cleaning
- No human error during production and/ or batch changes
- No cleaning costs during production
- Reduced labor on the line
- Energy savings given smaller storage & cooling room requirements
In both methods, whether smoking below or above 100 C, processors can adjust taste and color using smoke condensates with different flavor intensities and colors. Likewise, the atomized smoke can be utilized in one or both oven sections and flavor profiles saved in the control system, speeding up production set-up and ensuring product consistency. Customers looking for a continuous process, can elect to have a CookStar system that allows for drying in an initial step, followed by a smoking step to create attractive, appetizing smoked products, but without fully cooking them.
Win-win for food processors and consumers
Consumption of meat, meat-replacement and vegetarian products are on the rise. The ability to meet this demand while offering customers a safer and less polluting alternative for their favorite smoked and barbecued foods has become increasingly important as consumers place greater emphasis on health and the environment.
GEA supports processors who are not only looking for clean label solutions, but who also want to move away from traditional batch smoking methods, which are much more labor and resource intensive and require a large plant footprint. GEA inline smoking solutions are ideal for processors who may already be using the GEA CookStar but looking to expand and add value to their portfolio by offering smoked or barbecued products – or both.
Customers interested in making this step benefit not only from GEA’s know-how and experience, but also by having access to our Food Solutions Technology Center in Bakel, the Netherlands, where they can test recipes and processes alongside GEA and Red Arrow food technologists. In situations where travel is not possible, GEA provides streaming options so customers and partners can attend virtually. Customers also receive complimentary cooking master classes based on the equipment they purchase, either onsite or virtually, as required.
GEA HotSmoke and SuperHeatSmoke are the safest and most efficient solutions on the market today for smoking meat and vegetarian components. Both produce foods consumers love, while allowing processors to minimize their environmental and production footprint and keep their running costs low.”- Paul Verbruggen, Head of Product Management, GEA Food Solutions