In order to minimise the growth of pathogens in the cooked meat industry, strict EU guidelines demand that cooked meat joints including ham, turkey, chicken, pork and beef be cooled within tight time limits post cooking, whereby meat joints should not exceed 2.5 kg and 100 mm in thickness and should be chilled from 74 to 10ºC within 2.5 h after being removed from the cooking process. Conventional cooling methods such as air blast (AB), cold room and immersion cooling depend on heat conduction to cool the inside of the joints, but the relatively low thermal conductivity of meat coupled with the necessity to maintain a temperature of the cooling menstrum above 2ºC (to avoid surface freezing) makes it difficult to increase the rate of cooling significantly. Vacuum cooling is a rapid evaporative cooling technique for moist and porous products that offers many advantages over conventional cooling methods, such as short processing time, extension of product shelf life and improvement of product quality, safety and nutritional content. However it leads to considerable weight loss and, due to high moisture loss, vacuum cooked meats are slightly less tender, drier and darker. There a need to provide cooked meat producers with an effective rapid cooling method. A novel combined cook–cool technique known as immersion vacuum cooling (IVC) has recently been researched, whereby the vacuum cooling of cooked meat together with some of its cooking solution was explored for its potential use for rapid cooling of water-cooked meat joints. Reduced yield losses and improved quality for cooked pork ham have been reported. This project will build on this past research in order to apply and validate the technique in industry and to plan for the post-project commercial scale up of the IVC system and its subsequent market entry, whereby its uptake will improve the competitiveness of European SMEs from the cooked meats industry.
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Funding SchemeBSG-SME - Research for SMEs