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It's not easy to develop a precooked hamburger that's acceptable to consumers, explains NDSU Meat Science Professor Robert Maddock. It requires quality control, extreme supply chain management and ingredient control.
The new way to precook
The equipment used to cook burgers also has advanced significantly in the last few years, Maddock says.
The traditional way of precooking burgers, used mostly at the institutional level, is a batch-oven process. The patties go into the oven in batches — just like cookies. They cook and then are taken out and chilled.
In contrast, the latest technology involves a continuous-flow oven. The patties essentially never leave a conveyor. The raw product goes in one end, and cooked patties — complete with grill marks — come out the other end.
One designer and manufacturer of this type of cooking equipment is FMC FoodTech in Chicago, which makes the Stein brand of oven-cooking systems. The company says its MultiPhase° cooking process is specifically designed to recreate the distinct flavor profile of a burger grilled on-site from raw meat.
The basic premise of the technology is that multiple cooking methods are required to achieve the desired product appearance and capacity. This industrial cooking application promises to achieve the desired sensory attributes by using the proper sequence of hardware and process conditions to deliver the appropriate heat transfer mechanisms at the appropriate time. The company also makes the CM II-HC Charmarker to produce grill marks on both sides of the meat without flipping the burger.
Another manufacturer of this type of continuous-cooking oven is Cook King, based in La Mirada, CA. Three adjustable heat sources within the oven account for the improved flavor, color, texture and yield of the finished product. A built-in internal searing unit and grill marker allow for char-flavor and appearance on precooked burgers. The company also makes freestanding searing and branding units for applying grill marks; the degree of color and the width of the grill mark is adjustable.