Imported: 13 Feb '17 | Published: 11 Oct '16
USPTO - Utility Patents
An apparatus for treating food, the apparatus includes a housing having a lid, a base and a cavity defined therein. The cavity is separated into an upper chamber and lower chamber by a divider. Upper chamber is for holding food placed upon the divider. One or more steam sources provide steam to the upper and lower chambers. One or more infrared sources are position within the upper and lower chambers to directly heat the steam, the food or the divider. A pressure-controlled environment may be provided in the upper chamber. Uniformity and increased speed of heating the food is facilitated by direct heat transfer in the upper chamber and by indirect heat transfer from the conduction of heat through the divider from the lower chamber.
This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/818,081, filed May 1, 2013 entitled “Apparatus and Method Utilizing Infrared and Steam to Treat Food”, which is incorporated herein by reference.
This patent application generally relates to an apparatus for treating food. More specifically it relates to an apparatus having an upper chamber, a lower chamber and a divider there between; food held on top of the divider is treated by direct heat transfer in the upper chamber and by indirect heat transfer through the divider from the lower chamber.
Infrared radiation (IR) is well known in heating applications and has been implemented in foodservice for functions like toasting and broiling. Infrared radiation comprises energy waves that are generated by an emitter and travel at the speed of light, in straight lines until intercepted by an object. When an object is encountered the energy waves can be absorbed, reflected, or transmitted through the object where they continue to travel until encountering another object. When the infrared energy waves are absorbed; the energy converts to heat within the object that has absorbed the energy resulting in heating of the object. This process is known as radiant heating.
Infrared radiation energy waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are classified by their wavelength and frequency. Infrared radiation energy waves are identified as a segment of the electromagnetic wave spectrum that lies between visible light and microwaves. IR displays characteristics of visible light at the shortest wavelength extreme and microwaves at the longest wavelength extreme. The infrared electromagnetic spectrum ranges approximately between 0.7-microns and 400-microns. Segments of the span are considered to be near IR (0.7 to 1.3 microns), mid IR (1.3 to 3.0 microns) and far IR (3.0 to 400 microns). The infrared wavelengths used most for thermal heat transfer are typically in the range of 3-30 microns. Infrared wave emitters used for thermal applications in food processing usually fall between 1.0 and 9.0 microns.
Infrared radiation heating is ideal for non-contact heating. IR heating has the ability to heat an object without the energy emitter contacting the object, unlike convection heating or conductive heating which both convey heat by a medium in contact with the object being heated. Radiated infrared energy does not heat the space through which the IR travels so long as any material in that space does not absorb the IR.
Steam is another well-known heating method. Steam has been implemented in foodservice for steam cooking, food/water heating, and food holding applications. Steam is a powerful heating medium in that steam fills voids in confined spaces. Steam is also powerful for heating in that steam stores latent heat that is released on contact with a colder object resulting in the object being heated. The latent heat potential is obvious if one has ever had their skin come in contact with 212° F. steam, a burn and blistering can be immediate; however putting one's hand in a 212° F.+ oven does not result in immediate burning.
When applying infrared heat or steam to perform heating certain problems can occur. For example an object will receive non-uniform heating based on the pattern of the IR waves impinging upon the object. If the emitter is in a figure eight, the object to be heated will receive a pattern of infrared waves in a figure eight. This figure eight pattern will be absorbed as energy and will create heat in a figure eight pattern in the object to be heated. The balance of the object outside the figure eight pattern will have to be heated by conduction through the object from the figure eight pattern. This characteristic of IR can result in overheating and burning in the area where the energy is directly absorbed and under-heating in other areas where in heat is not directly absorbed.
Steam condenses when the steam touches any object colder than the temperature of the steam and leaves a water film at the location of condensation. It is difficult to direct steam just to the object to be heated, since the steam fills all voids and touches all surfaces very quickly. This process of heating all surfaces, and not just the surfaces of the product intended to be heated, requires more latent heat and thus more steam to be supplied to bring all surfaces to the desired temperature. Another problem is that the water film left by condensing steam can serve as an insulation barrier to the object to be heated; this requires new steam to first heat the water layer and then the object to be heated, making steam heating less efficient.
An important consideration in using IR for heating is the output wavelength generated by the emitter since different wavelengths have different characteristics. Furthermore, the IR energy waves that reach an object to be heated display different characteristics depending on the physical nature of the object. When creating or selecting an emitter for heating applications it is important to select or create an emitter that is “tuned” to an optimum wavelength that is most appropriate for the application. An emitter tuned to the optimum wavelength will provide a higher percentage of the optimum wavelength and will heat most efficiently for the application. Wavelengths that are not absorbed by the object do not take part in heating as they reflect away from the object or are transmitted through the object. These non-absorbed energy wavelengths travel until they encounter an object that is more tuned to absorb their particular wavelength.
Absorption and emissivity are two properties of an object that directly follow each other. These properties determine how well the object will absorb infrared energy waves. Objects are rated in emissivity values on the basis of a blackbody rating which is valued at 1 for a perfect black body. A perfect black body would absorb 100-percent of the radiant energy that strikes it. A perfect black body does not exist.
Absorption of radiation is a selective phenomenon depending greatly on the incident wavelength. Most of the emitters used in food heating range from peak values of 1.0-9.0 microns. Planck's curves, a known research tool, show that a film of water thicker than 0.05 mm will absorb much of the infrared radiation longer than 2.5-microns. Water is rated very high in absorption with an emissivity value of 0.93 for wavelengths greater than 2.5-microns. The water vapor will absorb little of the infrared radiation shorter than 2.5-microns. When IR radiant energy shorter than 2.5-microns encounter water film or vapor most of the short wavelength infrared (1.0-2.5 microns) is transmitted though the water or vapor without absorption. The short wavelengths are closer to light on the electromagnetic spectrum, and like light through a window, the energy travels through the vapor. The longer wavelengths greater than 2.5-microns, however, are further from the visible light wavelength and are absorbed by the water molecules creating an increase in temperature in the water molecules.
The differences in the spectral absorption/transmission of water layers and water vapor can be observed in FIGS. 1a and 1b. Details of the associated mechanisms are described for FIG. 1a in “Radiant Heating with Infrared” by Watlow Electric Manufacturing Company, and for FIG. 1b in “Infrared Absorption by Water Clusters” by Hugh R. Carion, the entire disclosure of both which are herein incorporated by reference.
Rapid and high quality preparation of food is required in today's food industry. The present patent application puts forth a novel apparatus that combines infrared radiant energy and steam in unique ways to provide a combination of direct and indirect heating of food that achieves improved thermal treatment of food resulting in faster cooking times and more uniform heating of the food.
One aspect of the present patent application is directed to an apparatus for treating food. The apparatus comprises a housing including a lid portion and a base portion, the lid portion and base portion separable and defining a cavity therein. The cavity is divided into an upper chamber and a lower chamber by a divider. The upper chamber is for holding food. A steam source is connected to provide upper steam to the upper chamber and lower steam to the lower chamber. A lower infrared source is positioned within the lower chamber. An upper infrared source may be positioned within said upper chamber. The food is heated by direct heat transfer in the upper chamber and the food is heated by indirect heat transfer from the conduction of heat through the divider from the lower chamber.
Another aspect of the present patent application is directed to an apparatus for treating food. The apparatus comprises a housing including a lid portion and a base portion, the lid portion and base portion separable and defining a cavity therein. The cavity is divided into an upper chamber and a lower chamber by a divider. The upper chamber is for holding food. A steam source is connected to provide upper steam to the upper chamber and lower steam to the lower chamber. A lower infrared source is positioned with the lower chamber. The food is heated by direct latent heat transfer from upper steam in the upper chamber. The food is heated by indirect heat transfer through the divider of localized radiant energy of the second lower-chamber wavelength. The food is heated by indirect heat transfer of latent heat provided by the lower steam through the divider, wherein the lower steam is heated by the first lower-chamber wavelength and provides a uniform distribution of heat to the divider from the lower chamber.
Yet another aspect of the present patent application is directed to a method for cooking food. The method comprises providing an upper chamber, a lower chamber and a divider there between. The upper chamber has an upper steam source composed of upper water molecules. The lower chamber has a lower steam source composed of lower water molecules and a lower infrared source emitting lower radiant energy. The method further comprises heating the upper chamber with the upper steam source, heating the lower chamber with the lower steam source, heating the divider with the lower radiant energy and heating the lower water molecules with the lower radiant energy.
Apparatus 30 for treating food 32 is illustrated in FIGS. 2-4 and 7-12. Food 32 may be any solid or liquid material used in the food preparation industry. Apparatus 30 comprises a housing 34 including lid portion 36 (a.k.a. lid) and base portion 38 (a.k.a. base). Lid portion 36 and base portion 38 are separable and define cavity 40 therein. Cavity 40 is divided into upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44 by divider 46. Upper chamber 42 is for holding food 32. A steam source 50 is connected to provide upper steam 52 composed of upper water molecules to upper chamber 42 and lower steam 54 composed of lower water molecules to lower chamber 44. A lower infrared source 56 is positioned within lower chamber 44. Lower infrared source 56 has a lower-chamber wavelength 82 output. A single lower infrared source 56 may emit from the same emitter both a first lower-chamber wavelength 82a and a second lower-chamber wavelength 82b. Alternatively, lower infrared source 56 may include a first lower infrared source 56a and a second lower infrared source 56b, which respectively emit first lower-chamber wavelengths 82a and second lower-chamber wavelengths 82b. An upper infrared source 58 may be positioned with upper chamber 42. Food 32, within upper chamber 42 and held upon divider 46, is heated by direct heat transfer in the upper chamber and by indirect heat transfer from the conduction of heat through the divider from lower chamber 44. Apparatus 30 is provided with two distinct spaces for heating food 32. The division of cavity 40 into upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44 allows for the application of at least two distinct types of heating methods to be applied to the same food item from different sides at the same time. The combination of these two distinct heating methods provides for unique heating properties to be applied to food 32, which result in improved heating uniformity and reduced heating time.
Apparatus 30 can be of generic form as depicted in FIGS. 2-4 or may have specific structural variations as shown in FIGS. 7-12. Lid portion 36 and base portion 38 define cavity 40. Lid portion 36 and base portion 38 may be a single layer of material such as metal or plastic, or they may be a composite structure having multiple layers of material. The layers may incorporate insulating material to aid in confining heat to cavity 40. A hinge 60 may be added connecting lid portion 36 to base portion 38 so that the lid portion is hingeably attached to the base portion for opening and closing cavity 40.
Divider 46 may be a removable divider. Lid portion 36 may seal with divider 46 to create a sealed upper chamber 42 on top of the divider when the lid portion is closed. When closed and sealed, a pressure-controlled environment may be created in upper chamber 42. Divider 46 may be recessed to form a pan that holds a quantity of food. Divider 46 may be a plurality of pans, each for holding a different quantity of food 32. Divider 46 may also have perforations 64 that allow steam to pass between lower chamber 44 and upper chamber 42. Divider 46 is preferably made of a highly thermally conductive material that aids in indirect heat transfer from lower chamber 44 to food 32.
A steam source 50 may be produced by a single steam generator 70 or an upper steam generator 70a and lower steam generator 70b. When one steam generator 70 is used, the steam generator is connected to provide upper steam 52 to upper chamber 42 and lower steam 54 to lower chamber 44. When multiple steam generators are used, upper steam generator 70a is connected to provide upper steam 52 to upper chamber 42 and a lower steam generator 70b is connected to provide lower steam 54 to lower chamber 54. Various types of steam generators, which work on different steam generation principles, may be used as the steam generator. However, a preferred method of steam generation is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,903,956 to Colburn et al., titled “Rapid Liquid Heating”, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/023,891 to Colburn et al., titled “Steam Generator System” and International Application No. PCT/US2011/048007 to Colburn et al., titled “Steam Generator System”; the entire disclosure of all three which are herein incorporated by reference. These steam generators generate steam from an aqueous solution directly heated by passing current through the aqueous solution. Valves 74 may be included to help regulate steam flow between generator(s) and upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44. In upper chamber 42, direct heat transfer to food 32 is from upper latent heat stored in upper steam 52 being transferred to the food. In lower chamber 44, indirect heat transfer to food 32 occurs from lower latent heat stored in lower steam 54 being directly transferred to a condensed water layer 76 on the bottom of divider 46 and then further having that heat transferred indirectly by conduction through the divider to the food. In lower chamber 44, indirect heat transfer to food 32 may also occur by radiant energy from said lower infrared source 56 being transferred through divider 46.
Lower infrared source 56 positioned within lower chamber 44 and upper infrared source 58 positioned within upper chamber 42 both emit radiant energy. Infrared sources 56 and 58 may be nickel chromium wound wire, a mercury vapor lamp, etc. A control system 78 is provided to power the emitters controlling their intensity and wavelength. These emitters may be tunable to emit infrared energy at different wavelengths depending on the power supplied from control system 78, FIG. 5a and 5b. Alternatively, each infrared source 56 and 58 may be a combination of infrared sources that are tuned to emit infrared energy in different distinct wavelengths, FIGS. 6a and 6b.
In upper chamber 42, upper infrared source 56 provides upper radiant energy at an upper wavelength 80. Upper radiant energy may provide direct heating to food 32 or direct heating to upper steam 52. The amount of direct heating of upper steam 52 is dependent on the upper wavelength 80 and whether the upper wavelength is transmitted or absorbed by the steam. For example, most wavelengths of greater than 2.5-microns are highly absorbed by steam and will superheat upper steam 52. Alternatively, most wavelengths of less than 2.5-microns are highly transmitted by steam, will pass through upper steam 52, and directly heat food 32. Control system 78 can be used to tailor how much upper radiant energy is used for superheating steam and how much upper radiant energy is used for direct heating of food 32. The upper chamber heating scenarios discussed above provide different heating avenues for providing direct heat to food 32.
In lower chamber 44, lower infrared source 56 provides lower radiant energy at lower-chamber wavelengths 82 (first lower-chamber wavelength 82a or second lower-chamber wavelength 82b). Lower infrared source 58 may be a combination of lower infrared sources 56a and 56b, each having a different lower-chamber wavelength. Lower radiant energy may provide direct heating to divider 46, direct heating to water layer 76, or direct heating to lower steam 54. The amount of direct heating of lower steam 54 is dependent on the wavelength of lower-chamber wavelength 82 and whether the lower-chamber wavelength is preferentially transmitted or absorbed by the steam. For example, most first lower-chamber wavelengths 82a of greater than 2.5-microns, having a first lower radiant energy, are highly absorbed by steam and will superheat lower steam 54. The superheated lower steam 54 will then condense out as water layer 76 on divider 46 and heat the divider. Lower steam 54 will provide a uniform distribution of heat across divider 46 from said lower chamber 44. Alternatively, most second chamber lower wavelengths 82b of less than 2.5-microns, having a second lower radiant energy, are highly transmitted by steam, will pass through lower steam 54, and directly heat either water layer 76 or divider 46. Second lower-chamber wavelengths 82b transmitted through lower steam 54 will provide localized radiant energy. Whether water layer 76 or divider 46 is directly heated depends again the wavelength of lower-chamber wavelength 82. Wavelengths of 2.5-3.5 microns are more highly absorbed by water layers and will directly heat water layer 76. Most wavelengths of 3.5-microns are more highly transmitted by water layer 76, but absorbed by divider 46 and will directly heat the divider. Control system 78 can be used to tailor the wavelength and intensity outputs and determine how much lower radiant energy is used for superheating steam, how much lower radiant energy is used for direct heating of water layer 76 and how much lower radiant energy is used for direct heating of divider 46. The lower chamber heating scenarios discussed above provide different heating avenues for providing indirect heat to food 32 through divider 46. Combining multiple heating avenues so these avenues occur at the same time can increase efficiency and decrease cooking time. FIG. 14 provides a chart listing different heating avenues for apparatus 30.
FIGS. 6a and 6b depict an embodiment of apparatus 30 where combinations of lower infrared sources 56 are used to optimize heating for the different heating avenues of the system; i.e., superheating lower steam, directly heating water layer 76 and directly heating divider 46. For example lower infrared source 56 may include a first lower infrared source 56a that emits a first lower-chamber wavelength 82a that is in a wavelength range that is highly absorbed by steam and thereby can superheat steam. Lower infrared source 56 may also include a second infrared source 56b that emits a second lower-chamber wavelength 82b that is in a wavelength range that is more effectively transmitted through steam, but more highly absorbed by water layer 76 or divider 46.
One or more temperature sensors 84 may be integrated with apparatus 30 for monitoring the temperature of one or more from the group including upper chamber 42, lower chamber 44, divider 46 and food 32. In certain heating scenarios it may be advantageous to have the upper chamber 42 have an upper temperature, the lower chamber 44 have a lower temperature, wherein the upper chamber temperature is different than the lower chamber temperature.
One or more pressure-relief devices 62 may be mounted to control upper pressure in upper chamber 42 and lower pressure in lower chamber 44. In certain heating scenarios it may be advantageous to have the upper chamber 42 have an upper pressure, the lower chamber 44 have a lower pressure, wherein the upper chamber pressure is different than the lower chamber pressure. Lower chamber 44 is generally vented freely through vent 94
Control system 78 includes integrated circuitry that provides power to upper infrared source 58 and lower infrared source 56. Control system 78 may control pressure in upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44, or both chambers. Control system 78 is connected to temperature sensors 84. Control system 78 may determine when the boiling point of source water in contact with food 32 has been reached, or other temperature related conditions for the food. Control system 78 activates cook times. Control system 78 may control a plurality of zones, each zone having its own temperature sensor 84. Control system 78 may have selectable modes for treating food. These selectable modes may be one or more from the group including steaming, reheating, boil, hold hot, braise and defrost (see FIG. 15).
Control system 78 also controls upper infrared source 58 and lower infrared sources 56, 56a and 56b. By control system 78 providing the specific power to each infrared source (a.k.a. emitter), the output of each infrared source can be tailored to a specific wavelength. The specific wavelength and how long the radiant energy of that specific wavelength is applied determines the type and amount of heating that will occur for a specific heating avenue. Infrared sources may be constant or pulsed between different wavelengths to generate different heating scenarios.
One exemplary embodiment of apparatus 30 is shown in FIGS. 7-13b. Apparatus 30 has use primarily as a cooking appliance. Apparatus 30 comprises a housing 34 made of No. 304 stainless steel with insulated walls. Housing 34 includes lid 36 and base 38. A hinge 60 and latch 88 system are used to secure lid 36 to base 38 and to help create a seal between the lid and divider 46. Divider 46 separates cavity 40 into two spaces, upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44. In the present embodiment divider 46 is comprised of a plurality of dividers, i.e. three standard food inset pans 89 usually constructed of polished aluminum or stainless steel that holds foods to be heated or served. Separate heating zones are set up to correlate with each pan. A separate lower infrared source 56 is provided for each pan 89. A separate temperature sensor 84 is provided for each heating zone. Control system 78 integrates power switch 92, heating mode selector 90, temperature sensors 84, upper steam generator 70a, lower infrared source 56 and lower steam generator 70b.
During operation of apparatus 30 lower infrared source 56 is engaged to generate peak radiant energy with wavelengths of 1-9 microns. Separate steam sources, upper steam 52 and lower steam 54, are connected with selective control to provide steam to upper chamber 42 and lower chamber 44. Lower chamber 44 receives infrared energy from lower infrared source 56 and latent heat contained within lower steam 54 from lower steam generator 70b. Together lower infrared source 56 and lower steam 54 heat divider 46, which indirectly heats food 32 above the divider. Upper chamber 42 receives a separate upper steam 52 and is maintained under pressure to enhance contact, temperature and energy transfer directly to food 32. Lower steam 54 is vented freely through vent 94, while upper steam 52 has controlled venting through pressure-relief device 62 to maintain a pressure environment in upper chamber 42.
During operation lower infrared source 56 is engaged to generate two peak wavelengths. These peak wavelengths have a radiant energy absorbed by lower steam and a radiant energy this is transmitted through the steam and heats the divider. When lower steam 54 is present in the emission field of lower infrared source 56, water molecules in the lower steam absorb much of the IR energy in wavelengths greater than 2.5-microns causing the lower steam to superheat storing more energy. The lower steam 54 by nature will fill the void of lower chamber 44 and flow to conform to the shape of divider 46. Making contact with divider 46 lower steam 54 condenses on the divider and gives up its latent heat to the divider surface. The lower steam 54, absorbing the IR energy and heating the lower water molecules, has more latent energy to release to divider 46 when the lower steam makes contact with divider 46 and the energy contributed by the IR emissions has been spread from a direct line heating of the divider to one of takes the shape of all lower steam and thereby spreads the heat transfer over the entire divider. Heating of divider 46 and food 32 held on top of the divider is faster and more uniform by this combined process rather than with either infrared radiant energy or steam alone. Furthermore, at the same time the IR energy having wavelengths shorter than 2.5-microns travel through the field of steam until they make contact with the surface of divider 46 and are converted to heat in the divider wall thus using a broader spectrum of wavelengths to do the work of heating, again shortening the time to reach the desired temperature.
Further performance improvement is achieved as lower steam 54, that has condensed on the surface of divider 46, now serves an additional purpose of increasing the absorption properties of the divider wall providing more energy to the wall to be used to heat the product. Once lower steam 54 has made contact and condensed on the surface a greater percentage of wavelengths over 2.5-microns can be generated and absorbed into the wall, thus transferring heat faster to the divider or object to be heated.
Multiple emitters (infrared sources 56a and 56b) can be set for different peak wavelengths that can be combined to create unique desired heating effects. Emitters controlled by control system 78 can be adjusted in peak wavelengths to particular conditions as suits the applications needs and the conditions in the cavity environment.
In the present exemplary embodiment it is desirable to have a freely vented lower steam 54 in lower chamber 44, replacing the lower steam as desired to create the effects described above. Lower steam 54 is introduced into the IR field, picks up energy from lower infrared source 56, makes contact with the divider wall and if not fully condensed vents to atmosphere. Additional lower steam 54 can be introduced or IR can be left to do its heating as desired.
During operation, upper steam 52 in upper chamber 42 will skim and take the shape of the inside of lid and exit the cavity if free vented. It is desirable therefore to provide a restricted venting in the upper chamber 42 by way of pressure-relief device 62. In this way the steam is slightly pressurized, forcing it down to make contact with food 32 and the cavity walls, and held there until upper steam 52 gives up its latent heat and condenses. This upper steam 52 therefore provides a separate heating process from that of the heating work being done in the lower cavity. The functions can be combined in desirable combinations to optimize heat uniformity and speed up heat transfer for the specific food preparation process being undertaken. By these combinations, three types of heating can be applied to food 32 using different heating avenues at the same time or in intermittent intervals.
An exemplary “Rice Cooking Mode” is provided in FIG. 16. Control system 78 would regulate this cooking mode.
FIGS. 17 and 18 show data for the comparison of a standard cooking mode for brown rice with that of the new process provided by apparatus 30. In the comparative example, FIG. 17, heat is applied directly as conductive heat to heat and boil the rice. The whole cooking process takes about 60-minutes. In the new process, using apparatus 30, FIG. 18, heat is applied by multiple heating avenues as shown in the figure and can cook the rice in 42-minutes, a 30-percent time savings. Along with the time savings, energy savings may be realized as well.
FIGS. 13a and 13b show details of temperature sensor 84. Temperature sensor 84 comprises sensor 100 that is embedded in thermal contact 102. Thermal contact 102 rests on a gasket 104 that is formed from a resilient material. A guide 106 having a tapered surface is provided for supporting sensor 100 and for facilitating easy placement and alignment of temperature sensor 84 to the surface which the sensor will be monitoring, i.e. divider 46 or pan 89 containing food 32. Fasteners 108 interface with holding block 110. Guide 106 and holding block 110 are mounted to apparatus 30 by fasteners 108. Temperature sensor 84 has the property that when divider 46 is secured in place within cavity 40, gasket 104 formed of resilient material forces the temperature sensor against the wall of the divider to make good thermal contact.
While several embodiments of the invention, together with modifications thereof, have been described in detail herein and illustrated in the accompanying drawings, it will be evident that various further modifications are possible without departing from the scope of the invention. Nothing in the above specification is intended to limit the invention more narrowly than the appended claims. The examples given are intended only to be illustrative rather than exclusive.