Unitherm Executive Chef Spot: Meatballs

By Justin Donaldson, Unitherm Executive Chef

Healthy, convenient, and protein-packed — these are the qualities that consumers want in food today. Here at Unitherm, we’ve seen these three trends converge into one product: meatballs.

Meatballs have long been a top product for Unitherm’s thermal processing machines. That’s because the combination of a flame grill and a spiral oven is ideal for achieving the deep color and juicy texture that makes a perfect meatball.

Watch a Unitherm Flame Grill and Spiral Oven combo at work:

Processing tips for more natural meatballs

Lately, the manufacturers who visit our solution center to test meatballs have been working on ways to clean up their labels and simplify their ingredients list. That means removing the binders that typically hold meatballs together. This works to clean up the label, but it also makes the products more delicate. This causes challenges during processing, for example, meatballs falling apart or sticking to the flame grill.

Here are a couple of suggestions for how to formulate more natural meatballs for optimized processing:

Think about how you would do it at home

When you make meatballs from scratch, there are two main ingredients that you can use to manipulate the texture: breadcrumbs for when the mixture is too wet and eggs for when the mixture is too dry. You can use these same ingredients at the industrial scale, resting assured that your customers would rather see eggs on an ingredients list than a chemical binding agent.

Use a vacuum tumbler to distribute the proteins

Vacuum tumblers are commonly used to ensure even distribution of brines and marinades on meats. Vacuum tumbling is also effective at helping proteins bind together. And some research suggests that using a vacuum tumbler can allow you to make another consumer-friendly change: decreasing the salt content.

Flame grill the meatballs before fully cooking

Flame grilling doesn’t just give meatballs that delicious home-cooked flavor and texture, it also sears the outside to help the meatballs hold together during further processing. That’s why we encourage our customers to flame grill the product first before fully cooking it in a spiral oven.

Every product and process is unique. Our team of chefs and engineers is here to help you design your formulation and your process to ensure reliable, high-quality results.

Unitherm offers a full line of meatball processing equipment, from formers to flame grills and spiral ovens, to chillers/freezers. We also have complete cook lines to automate the entire processing line.

Watch our formers in action:

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