Frito-Lay's Low Pressure Processing Technique Receives Patent
By Sam Lewis
Pressure alterations partnered with vacuum centrifuging form the basis of the snack-food giant’s oil reduction process
In an effort to make potato chips with less oil, snack-food giant Frito-Lay has developed a new processing method for which it received a U.S. patent. The processing method focuses on the use of low pressure frying and deoiling. These two steps reduce the oil content in the company’s fried snack products, like potato and tortilla chips.
According to Frito-Lay, creating different pressures during processing of fried products was the key to reducing oil in the final products. The patent explains potato slices are to be fried in hot oil — 320 to 380 degrees Fahrenheit — at regular atmospheric pressure in a continuous, semi-continuous, batch, or semi-batch fryer. Next, the chips are removed from the fryer and taken to a vacuum centrifuge for deoiling at low pressure. Frito-Lay explains that low pressure is the most critical element in reducing oil content, “When food pieces have been fried at atmospheric pressure and then subjected to a low pressure centrifugation step, the oil content of the fried food pieces is dramatically and surprisingly lower than when an atmospheric centrifugation step is used.”
The deoiled product has a similar feel to the same product that has not been put through vacuum conditions. This is due to oil being previously encapsulated in the chip has been drawn to the surface. “We believe that the vacuum draws oil out from the interior spaces of the potato slices to the surface, thereby allowing the centripetal force exerted on the slices by the centrifuge to remove it from the surface of the potato slices,” Explains Frito-Lay. “Additionally, the vacuum maintains a positive pressure differential between the internal spaces of the potato slice to the outside, which resists further oil absorption during the centrifugation step.”
Frito-Lay discovered this oil reducing method by running experiments while processing its chips. The company’s findings show big differences in oil reduction after pressure alteration throughout the creation process. Also, the company discovered processing chips that have not been washed via centrifuge at regular atmospheric pressure drops oil content by more than 7 percent. This number more than doubles when the centrifuge system is subjected to pressures lower than regular atmosphere.
Additionally, the company also believes the amount of time chips are spinning within the vacuum centrifuge, coupled with how quickly they exit the fryer and enter the centrifuge, affects efficiency in the removal of oil. Finally, Frito-Lay says heating the removal and transfer phases of the process also influences the oil content of the final product.
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