Patented technology that allows microwave meals to be cooked more evenly and can even deliver hot and cold food in the same tray is taking off in the US as well as Europe.
That’s according to Dick Geheniau, managing director of Shieltronics, which is based in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
The technology has already been adopted by several ready meal manufacturers, including UK-based Greencore Prepared Meals, and is being rolled out across Europe, he told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“In Europe it’s a common technology, but in the US it’s gaining popularity.” The official commercialisation of the shielding system in the US began when it was first launched at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) trade show in New Orleans in 2011, said Geheniau.
He said the system used foil shielding for microwave trays to focus and reflect microwaves in a manner that ensured more even cooking for the foods they contained.
It could be used to speed up the cooking process for foods in selected tray compartments, and this factor meant the technology was also useful in other ways, he said. “We are capable of accelerating ‘heat-up’ times to speed up defrosting by three times.”
And it could, for example, overcome problems cooking foods covered in sauces. Previously, in order to cook foodstuffs adequately, the sauces would often be overcooked.
“The technology allows you to selectively shield things, so you could combine, say, a salad with guacamole and [cooked] fish and everything gets the right proportion of energy.”
‘Currently being evaluated’
The full potential for the system had not yet been fully explored at a consumer level, said Geheniau. It was “currently being evaluated in Germany and England for other solutions as well”, he said.
“We are speaking to the top 10 food manufacturers, such as Kraft and General Mills and they are very interested.”
Geheniau described the science as the third major wave of innovation in microwave technology since microwave cooking was introduced.
Another breakthrough had been susceptor packaging, which incorporates aluminium to absorb and then radiate heat, delivering food similar in appearance and quality to that cooked in a conventional oven.
Steam ready microwave packaging
And the last of the three major waves had been steam-ready microwave packaging, which allowed food to be cooked from the inside out in a manner similar to traditional steaming.
Microwave shielding held exciting possibilities for the foodservice sector, said Geheniau. It enabled chefs to deliver food cooked in a microwave much more quickly and to a much higher standard than could previously have been achieved.
Greencore Prepared Foods had combined the Shieltronics technique with microwave steam packaging to cook food separated into two compartments in different ways.