GEA.Product Expert Luuc van Lankveld discusses the issues surrounding the automation of karaage production.
With the global demand for meat snacks expected to grow significantly in the coming years* it would seem that the potential of the meat snacks market is barely being touched in many areas, as consumers continue to demand new and exciting flavours and products.
Throughout Asia, marinated battered chicken pieces known as karaage remain a popular snack, often sold as street food or prepared as a main meal at home. Iconic in Japan yet little known outside of Asia, large-scale industrial production methods remain limited. However, with the increasing global call for a wider range of meat-based snacks as well as the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine,GEA.Food Solutions相信Karaage有可能通过风暴带来世界。
Semi-industrial methods currently in use for karaage production tend to be very labour intensive, heavily relying on human intervention. Karaage is produced in much the same way as it would be in a restaurant or at home but simply on a larger scale. Naturally this presents challenges for mass production such as the potential for human error, and the increased risk of contamination, as well as limiting output capacity.
The technology for industrial karaage production is there and that is a full line solution. Meat pieces are pre-dusted by being loaded onto a bed of potato or corn starch. No wet product touches the metal of the machinery during this process so build-up of dough balls is prevented. The meat pieces are then fully coated with starch by being fed into a row of parallel tumbling drums, after which they are transferred by a conveyer plate onto the next belt. Alternatively, in the case of wet karaage, meat pieces can be submerged into the batter by means of a specially developed dipper equipment, so in either case, manual handling is eliminated during the coating stage, but the final product remains the same as the fully handmade version.
由于Karaage有时被称为“亚洲鸡块”，让我们考虑一下世界上谦卑鸡掘金的商业成功。Rather than the traditional fry only method, back in the 1980s, food technologists developed the ‘fry-cook‘ method, where the nuggets are flash fried to achieve a crispy coating and then cooked in an specialised oven where both heat and steam are added, ensuring the product is fully cooked and moisture is retained. By applying this same technology to a karaage line, tests have produced up to 20-35 percent higher yields of karaage which is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, a mouthwatering combination sure to delight customers and boost productivity.
Oil filtration systems commonly used for nugget lines can also be used in the same way for karaage, making the frying process more efficient and cost-effective.
Viable new alternatives are now available for karaage producers to automate processing whilst still turning out traditional karaage that consumers delight in. Having tasted authentic karaage myself in Japan, as a food technology specialist I am excited to see manufacturers beginning to take on this technology. This will allow them to not only build upon existing customer bases, but also to diversify and expand into new markets, allowing this delicious product a wider reach than was previously possible.