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Challenge Accepted: Preventing Burn-On When Cooking Cheese Sauce in a Jacketed Kettle

The Challenge: Preventing Burn-On When Cooking Cheese Sauce in a Jacketed Kettle

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted is a periodic review of how we solved a unique customer challenge.

As anyone who has melted cheese on a stovetop knows, it is nearly impossible to keep it from sticking to the pot. And cleaning the inside surface afterward can be difficult.

The same is true for food manufacturers that process heat-sensitive products like cheese, cream sauces or whey in a typical jacketed kettle. As steam within the jacket heats the vessel, product can quickly burn-on to the inside heated surface. Even with a scraped-surface agitator, designed to continually direct high-viscosity ingredients from the sides of the vessel, a microfilm may develop. While this may not affect product quality, it does require some additional cleaning and could affect processing throughput and yield.

This was the challenge faced recently by one of our contract process and packaging customers. Not only were they looking to streamline the processing for their cheese-based products, but with contracts to also produce non-heat-sensitive SKUs, the customer needed a versatile solution. Could we design a solution to work across their full range of products?

The Solution: Inject Steam Directly into Product

As our application engineers worked through solutions, they were intent on using a jacketed kettle, as it would deliver the best performance for the company’s non-heat-sensitive SKUs. But for the customer’s heat-sensitive cheese products the engineers wanted to explore heating alternatives to eliminate product burn-on. They found the answer in simple science.

Rather than heat the kettle using steam through the conventional jacket, Lee engineers chose to heat the product by injecting culinary steam directly into the batch. This steam would raise the product temperature to the desired level and then condense to water. By calculating the exact amount of condensation, operators could simply reduce the water included in the recipe by this amount. And, because the kettle walls would not be heated directly, the threat of burn-on would be eliminated.

With the approach nailed, the engineers worked with Lee’s fabrication specialists to determine the best way to build the steam injection devices into the kettle, including how to precisely regulate the steam rates to achieve and maintain proper temperatures.

The ROE – Return on Engineering

The resulting vessel configuration has achieved the customer’s objectives. When processing its cheese-based products, they can produce a consistent and smooth product. The process has even helped delay congealing of the finished product, yielding a longer table life. Burn-on is non-existent and equipment clean-up is easy.

Moreover, when the customer produces any of its non-heat-sensitive products, they just switch to heating the kettle via the steam-jacket.

Improvement to the customer’s operational efficiency and throughput has been significant, and the solution’s versatility made it possible to accomplish with a single vessel, thus avoiding the cost of multiple vessels.

Because cooking and mixing vessels are the core of the production process, they have the potential to vastly affect operational performance. Lee engineers have the experience and resources to solve complex processing problems, and we welcome a good challenge. Be sure to let us know if you’re looking for ways to improve your operation.


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