The innovative developments of shock freezing enthusiasts consisted in the theory and practice of preserving quality food products as components of a healthy cuisine. It was found that fish, vegetables, fruits, and meat require individual cooling and freezing settings. The high speed of the processes contributed to the preservation of the taste, aromatic, and textural properties of all the prepped ingredients, but until the middle of the 20th century, it never occurred to anyone that the shock freezing of ready-made meals could preserve their consumer value for a long time.
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Currently, the first five places in the structure of the world market of ready-to-eat express-freezing products are:
Domestic consumption of this product is still at the stage of studying demand and forming preferences. It is still difficult to say whether the habit of buying frozen bread for a week or saving time by periodically eating packaged lunches of long-term storage will become popular with us. However, a number of items (pizza, pastries for fast food chains, fish chips, and nuggets) have already seen steady growth in sales.
Both the universal principle of constructing technological chains and narrow specialization are used on the production and distribution of ready-made frozen foods. The first option attracts with the ability to quickly reconfigure to new types of products, the second is suitable for achieving maximum quality and minimum cost in mass production.
The most popular option for long-term storage pizza is a combination of the base in the baking stage at 80% readiness and fresh toppings. Operating modes and components of the equipment are selected taking into account the best preservation of the nutritional properties of all components of the recipe. The equipment for shock freezing products, which is part of pizza production lines, consists of chillers located before the conveyor or assembly table and freezers closing the chain.
For example, broccoli requires pre-cooling in a flake ice container. Other vegetables, meat, and fish fillings, as well as the pizza pies themselves, are pre-cooled in tunnel (linear) blast chillers.
After assembly, the product enters the preheating oven (to a temperature of 45°C to 100°C, depending on the recipe), and then into the shock freezing chamber of the tunnel or spiral type. In some cases, in small plants, the line is looped so that the linear chamber of the shock freezing alternately operates in the modes of preparation of components and their freezing. Spiral freezers are used for mass production of frozen pizza.
Technologically, it is enough to freeze pizza to -18°C, but in reality, buffer freezing to -25°C is used to protect the product from leaving the required temperature range for the duration of packaging.
Croissants, pancakes, pies, rolls - all these products are extremely popular in fast food establishments. Food courts and franchised cafes are now actively developing the direction of shock freezing in this segment. Unlike giant corporations such as Nestle, which use the most powerful spiral type installations, chains are more profitable to use medium-sized tunnel chambers.
The equipment for shock freezing products for the production of baked goods with filling is much simpler than in the case of pizza. It is enough to use a shock-freezing chamber configured to cool from a level of 77°C - 80°C to a temperature of –19°C to -25°C (depending on the speed of packaging and placement in the refrigerator for storage or shipment to distributors).
A feature of shock freezers used in this segment is the use of special conveyor belts that do not violate the crumps coating. The product is loaded into the chamber immediately after the final frying, at a temperature of 80°C.
The characteristics of shock freezing chambers for this segment can be in a very wide range of sizes, capacities, and structural types - from commercial-grade tunnel installations with a length of 3-5 meters to spiral units producing several tons of products per hour. Craft type establishments can use small shock freezers in the form of boxes with loading in the form of separate trays for this nomenclature.
In this production, spiral installations are not used. The most powerful linear shock freezers are designed for freezing French fries. Line productivity reaches 14 tons per hour. Usually, before freezing, the product passes through 2 stages of chilling, each of which is provided by equipment with different types of refrigerant. This is due to considerations of the highest energy efficiency. Ammonia evaporators "meet" potato flakes immediately after frying at a temperature of 90°C - 100°C. At the second stage of the process, freon tunnel refrigerators are used.
The most compact French fries freeze lines are based on cryogenic technologies using liquid nitrogen.
Research and practice of North American and European food companies have identified the optimal technological combinations of main dishes and side dishes, which guarantee long-term storage and excellent quality after heating. Basic recipes come down to 4 main types:
The quick freezing of the products included in the complex lunch, as well as the requirements for ease of heating and consumption, require the use of special packaging. It should combine the qualities of a thermally insulating case, a baking sheet for heating, and a serving plate. Ready-made lunches and dinners arrive in the tunnel or spiral freezing chamber, being already pre-packaged.
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