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Food Tracker System

Ready Meals

Consumers love the convenience of ready meals, but from a manufacturing perspective, the process of creating delicious and safe products that have a long shelf life can be a challenge. Dishes often consist of several par-cooked ingredients that need careful temperature monitoring in the preparation stage to satisfy HACCP regulations. The appearance of each ready meal has to be unified and consistent so that buyers do not doubt the quality or value for money. Producers know that setbacks in the cooking line can have a costly knock-on effect that compromises the entire batch of product.

The difficulty lies in ensuring that the meal is sufficiently cooked to its core before packaging so that consumers can follow the heating instructions at home and achieve the expected results without disappointment.

Multi-ingredient ready meals such as pies, pizzas and quiches have to maintain a perfect crust while their fillings and toppings––often consisting of a mixture of vegetables, meats and dairy products––have to be fully pasteurized. Temperature monitoring gives you insight and data throughout the entire cooking process, providing reassurance that everything has been cooked to perfection––including the ingredients beneath the layers of pastry––and that your products are HACCP certification-ready.

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Defining the correct oven setup and cooking specifications for ready meals enables manufacturers to streamline the entire production process. Accuracy and precision in temperature monitoring are crucial for this particular food category so that the "at home" cooking time can be determined. Any variables affecting the preparation may contradict the cooking instructions on the packaging. As a result, the customer may then over or undercook the meal and potentially suffer adverse effects.

Optimize for throughput and define product setups

The Datapaq® Furnace Tracker® Thermal Profiling System takes any manual temperature monitoring activity out of your process and helps you to get real-time data across the entire cooking cycle. Once the benchmark for optimal cooking has been set, you can maximize throughput by identifying areas in your production process that are causing unnecessary holdups – for example, cooling the trays for too long. Creating these efficiencies in the production cycle helps to keep moisture and texture preserved, while also preventing bacterial outbreaks. The ultimate benefit is that your factory can achieve higher throughput levels, which is particularly useful when launching a new recipe or catering for seasonal demand type products.

Optimize the validation process

HACCP regulators require statistical evidence to validate your cooking process. Guaranteeing that meat, fish, egg and other raw ingredients have been sufficiently cooked is the only way to ensure the safety of ready meals in which various components have been amalgamated.

With Datapaq, you can eliminate the need for costly consulting services to check validation and simply generate your own reports for review and analysis. Operators and QA teams can pull up lethality readings at any point in the cooking or chilling process to ensure consistency is applied throughout the production cycle. Each stage of your ready meal preparation can be internally assessed to ensure that harmful micro-organisms have been pasteurized and that throughput is never compromised. The Datapaq technology can help you simplify what is typically a time-consuming process that is often vulnerable to human error and costly inaccuracies.

Get quality and consistent results every time

The big selling point for ready meals is that they are, for the most part, ready. This means they have to look, smell and taste as close as possible to the finished product. The contents must be recognizable and appealing to the customer––even in a par-cooked state. Achieving this requires a systematic approach that gets predictable results every time.

Ready meal production processes typically rely on low height conveyorized ovens. A batch oven method is utilized in some instances, requiring an in-depth overview of each portion that's undergoing the cooking cycle. The Datapaq® Furnace Tracker® Thermal Profiling System comes with intelligently designed thermocouples that allow you to monitor the product’s core temperature on a sample of units positioned across the mesh. This means that operators can see precisely when optimal cooking time has been achieved and confidently move along into the next stage of the production cycle.

Thermal Profiling Systems
  • Ideal for efficient process validation, with accurate 8 Channel MultiPaq21 logger and IP67 rating – specifically designed for use in the food industry.
  • Range of thermal barriers designed to meet specific application needs, i.e., short high-temperature roasting, long-duration steaming or rapid flash frying.
  • Comprehensive Food Tracker Insight™ Software package, with sophisticated lethality calculations to accurately measure the pasteurization of food and ensure food safety.

Get more information about Fluke Process Instruments solutions for this application