FBIN, Featured, Food Manufacturing

Creative coatings for meat and meat alternative products

As the global market for prepared foods continues to surge, demand for meat alternative products is on the rise. Driven by concerns about health, ethics, and environmental impact, consumers are increasingly turning to plant-based options for their favorite dishes.

In response to the demand, processors are faced with the challenge of creating high-quality meat alternative products that will replicate the taste, texture, and overall experience of their traditional prepared foods lines.

Swiftly switch coatings with a Micro Breader
Applicator. Interchangeable hoppers enable quick transitions from free-flowing to non-free-flowing coatings.
Image: Heat and Control

Enter coatings — the secret weapon of processors who create superior meat alternative products. Whether derived from meat or plant-based proteins, coatings play a pivotal role in the creation of prepared foods. They not only enhance taste and texture but also elevate the appearance and quality of your final product, ensuring a more satisfying dining experience for the consumer.

The good news for processors of prepared foods? The same equipment used for traditional meat-based products can seamlessly facilitate the expansion of your product range into meat alternatives.

Now, let’s explore the diverse world of coating methods and innovative blends currently in use, taking a sneak peak into the creative possibilities.

Coating Methods

Pre-Dusts

Pre-dusts are a mixture of finely ground grain-based coatings, similar to dry batter, that serve as an initial layer in a coating system. They provide a surface for batter to adhere to and help increase coating pick-up. Additional agents are often included in pre-dusts, serving as flavor carriers and aiding in the adhesion of other coatings to the surface. The flavorings within the pre-dust are somewhat shielded during frying, resulting in a more pronounced impact on flavor enhancement. Products that have been pre-dusted typically exhibit a more uniform coating, improved appearance and texture, and reduced coating loss during frying.

Standard Batter

Standard batters typically consist of a mixture of various ingredients, including flour, starches, and water. They serve as an adhesive surface, allowing seasoned flour or breadcrumb coatings to adhere. When coating prepared food products with smooth or dense surfaces, adhesive agents are frequently incorporated in batters. Flavourful and colorful batters contribute to the ultimate taste and visual appeal of your products. The viscosity of a batter is crucial for achieving the desired coating pickup, adhesiveness, and texture.

Tempura Batter

Tempura batter is similar to other batters in preparation and blending, with the addition of leavening agents to the mixture. These agents release gas during frying, creating the characteristic puffiness and texture associated with tempura-battered products. To preserve the gases until frying, tempura batter often requires storage in chilled or refrigerated batter mixing tanks. Additionally, star-wheel transfers from the batter applicator to the fryer are utilised to minimise surface contact, preventing the delicate tempura batter from being sheared off the substrate.

Wash Batter

Wash batters are combinations of water, egg, starches, and agents for adhesion, colour, and flavour that provide a unique surface texture to fried products, such as chicken tenders, tofu ‘chicken’ or onion rings. There are instances where a gum-based clear gel batter is used to protect product from dehydration during the freezing and re-thermalisation processes.

Marinades & Glazes

Marinades and glazes are combinations of flavorings, seasonings, water, and juices that enhance product taste, mouthfeel, and appearance. Marinades are liquids that are injected into the product or poured onto its surface to increase flavor, moisture, and tenderness. The marinade may be left on the product for a few minutes to several hours depending on the desired result. Whereas, marinades can be injected into the substrate, dry or liquid glazes are applied only to the product surface.

Breading

Each breading type has a characteristic flavor, size, texture, and color. Adding spices, nuts, and other flavorings, as well as different flours, starches, and crumbs, can augment breading taste, mouthfeel and appearance in nearly limitless combinations.

Flour

Flours for food coating are a simple mixture of various types of flour, mostly wheat, and are one of the most widely used coatings in prepared foods. Flour is a natural ground powder used for carrying flavors and colors and is often mixed with various spices, starches, and other ingredients. It produces a home-style appearance that is popular, while its flexibility and tolerance to frying make it successful for producers.

Cracker Meal

Cracker meal and saltine crackers are produced by the same basic process. The dough mixture consisting of flour and water is sheeted and baked; after baking, the cracker is further dried then ground to specific granulation sizes. Most cracker meal is finely ground. It is a very durable coating and is often used in long fry applications because of its low oil absorption characteristic and because it does not develop too much color while frying. Versatile and low-cost, cracker meal is a very popular as breading.

Popular plant-based foods such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, and vegetables utilise standard batters before frying or baking. Gluten-free alternatives often include chickpea or rice flour. Image: Heat and Control

Top 4 Crumbs for Meat and Meat Alternatives

  1. Extruded Crumb – Extruded crumb is produced from high content starch ingredients cooked continuously under pressure. At the end of the process, the sudden release of pressure causes the quick expansion of moisture, which in turn expands the extrusion. This inexpensive process allows high production volumes of crumbs that have light to medium density.
  2. Japanese Crumb – Also know as ‘Panko’ breadcrumbs, these crumbs are known for their light, airy texture and crispy coating. The texture, lightness, and crunchy bite of this crumb is unlike any other breading. Compared with other breadings, the coating surface is remarkably free of oil when reconstituted. Special care must be taken in handling this fragile breading to maintain the integrity of the particle shape and size for as long as possible.
  3. American Crumb – American crumb is usually baked as a continuous bread loaf but contains less water in the dough and has a dark and a hardened crust after baking. Because of its hard texture, it is largely used to coat product, such as croquettes and fish. It is available in grist sizes from fine to coarse and provides the coverage and appearance needed on the product being coated. To enhance appearance, coloring agents, such as paprika and turmeric, are used to develop a rich brown color during frying.
  4. Fresh Crumb – Fresh crumb is not dried like other breading and must be refrigerated for extended storage periods. When fried, fresh crumb is desirable for the crispy texture and the delicate appearance it gives to the coated product. When mixed with herbs, spices, and seasonings they add flavour to coated prepared foods.

Ready to make a move?

Enhancing your recipes or broadening your range of prepared food products can be challenging without the right equipment. With Heat and Control’s extensive experience in developing food processing lines, they are fully equipped to help you create the trending products that consumers love. Heat and Control offer testing and trials on a variety of equipment, and are committed to helping you bring your best products to market.

For more information, contact info@heatandcontrol.com or visit www.heatandcontrol.com

 

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