Innovative high-airflow smokehouse design with novel method of controlling airflow to cook faster&to reduce temperature&color variation
Department of Agriculture
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Small Business Information
16548 BIRCH ST, Stilwell, KS, 66085-7843
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractIndustrial smokehouses are large forced-air convection batch ovens used to cook and smoke meat products such as bacon, ham, bologna, whole turkeys, chicken breast, snack sticks, jerky, smoked sausage, hotdogs, sliced luncheon meats, and other smoked meats. These huge smokehouses are crucial to the operation of the American meat industry, yet in the past two decades, the design of these ovens has stagnated. Evolutionary improvements have included improved construction materials, computer controls, higher efficiency gas burner and electric motors, and lower cost variable-speed fan drives. Incredibly, however, the cooking performance of smokehouses is virtually the same today as it was 25 years ago. Even more remarkable, the market leading smokehouse manufacturers all use air-handling systems that are very similar in function, and therefore very similar in performance. As such, regardless of the age or brand of smokehouse, most smokehouses in the field today have pretty much the same capabilities and performance. So if a company buys a brand-new smokehouse and installs it next to a 25 year-old one, the owner of the new smokehouse will be surprised to find that although the new oven has a modern control system, increased corrosion resistant, and higher efficiency components, when it comes to its performance in cooking smoked meats, the beat-up old oven will cook just as fast as the new one. Along with the universally anemic cooking performance of modern smokehouse designs, these out-dated air-handling systems create significant color, yield, and temperature variation. Field data show that yields typically vary as much as 1.5% within a single load, and this yield variation costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Product temperatures routinely vary as much as 8-16 degrees F within a batch, creating a food safety risk of under-cooked product. To make sure that the products in the coldest areas of a smokehouse are fully cooked, oven operators must over-cook the entire load, resulting in food safety risks, reduced throughputs, and lost yield that again cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. True innovation in smokehouse air-handling performance has been stagnant for decades, but the opportunity we see is to design an innovative new air-handling system for smokehouses that would allow users to produce smoked meats safer, better, and faster at lower cost -- both to improve efficiency of this multi-billion dollar industry and to advance consumer food safety. Our approach is to design an advanced new air-handling system that could be installed as an improved design on new smokehouses or retrofitted onto old ones, thus moving the food safety and manufacturing efficiency of the meat industry forward for both new and existing ovens without requiring the massive capital investment that would be required for a full replacement of existing smokehouses. Preliminary field trials have shown that our new air-handling concept has the potential to reduce cooking times by 10-20% and cut temperature variation in half.
* information listed above is at the time of submission.