Title:
Reticulation-free water-dispersible coating composition for food substrates
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A water-dispersible coating composition for use on food substrates, which permits incorporation of a substantially increased rice component content compared to prior art coatings, without the occurrence of objectionable white-lump reticulation. The coating contains at least stated minimum levels of small-particle size rice flour and/or rice starch (#100 US mesh size and/or 200 US mesh size rating, respectively) depending upon the total amount of rice used in the mix, and exhibits minimal surface roughness and substantially no reticulation when frozen upon the food substrate, while imparting increased crispness, holding time and lighter color once the frozen coated food substrate is reconstituted via gradient heat, microwave energy, or deep-frying reconstitution methods, without sacrificing appearance, flavor, and tooth compaction characteristics desirable to consumers of the final reconstituted product.



Inventors:
Stevens, John F. (Idaho Falls, ID, US)
Carr, Michael D. (Idaho Falls, ID, US)
Stevens, Cheree L. B. (Idaho Falls, ID, US)
Application Number:
11/125713
Publication Date:
09/15/2005
Filing Date:
05/10/2005
Assignee:
STEVENS JOHN F.
CARR D. M.
STEVENS CHEREE L.B.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A23B4/08; A23B4/10; A23B7/05; A23B7/16; A23L1/00; A23L1/217; (IPC1-7): A23L1/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HEGGESTAD, HELEN F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PRICE HENEVELD LLP (695 KENMOOR SE P O BOX 2567, GRAND RAPIDS, MI, 49501, US)
Claims:
1. A substantially reticulation free food substrate coating composition comprising: a water-dispersible mix of particulate ingredients comprising: a potato starch component; and a rice component comprising more than about 10% by weight of the mix, wherein the rice component comprises more than about 36.51% by weight of 100 US mesh size or smaller rice particles.

2. The coating composition of claim 1, wherein the rice component comprises more than 10% by weight of the mix.

3. The coating composition of claim 1, wherein the rice component comprises rice flour.

4. The coating composition of claim 3, wherein the potato starch component comprises 15% by weight of the soluble components of the mix.

5. The coating composition of claim 4, wherein the mix of particulate ingredients further comprises a dextrin component.

6. The coating composition of claim 5, wherein the dextrin component comprises 15% by weight of the mix.

7. The coating composition of claim 5, wherein the mix of particulate ingredients further comprises a cornstarch component.

8. A substantially reticulation free food substrate coating composition comprising: a water-dispersible mix of soluble ingredients comprising: a potato starch; a first rice component comprising more than about 10% by weight of the mix, wherein the first rice component comprises 36.51% by weight or more of 100 US Mesh size or smaller rice particles; a second rice component comprising 17.41% or more of 100 US Mesh size or smaller rice particles; and a dextrin.

9. The coating composition of claim 8, wherein the first rice component and the second rice component are both rice flour.

10. A method of substantially eliminating reticulation in the use of food coating compositions comprising the steps of: at least partially coating a food substrate with a coating composition comprising soluble components comprising: a potato starch component; and a rice component that comprises 36.51% by weight or more of 100 US mesh size or smaller rice particles; at least partially thermally processing the food substrate; and freezing the at least partially thermally processed food substrate wherein the coating composition is substantially free of reticulation after at least partially thermally processing and freezing the food substrate.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the rice component comprises rice flour and the rice component comprises at least about 9% by weight of the overall amount of soluble components.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the potato starch component comprises 15% by weight of the mix.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the mix of particulate ingredients further comprises a dextrin component comprising 15% by weight of the mix.

14. A substantially reticulation free, coated and thermally processed vegetable or meat coated product comprising a vegetable or meat substrate coated with a coating composition comprising a mix of ingredients comprising a potato starch component and a rice component comprising a 100 US mesh size commercial size rating or smaller commercial size rating, wherein the rice component comprises at least about 10% by weight of the mix of ingredients.

15. The coating composition of claim 14, wherein the rice component comprises rice flour.

16. The coating composition of claim 15, wherein the rice flour comprises from 25% to 30% by weight of the mix.

17. The coating composition of claim 14, wherein the potato starch component comprises 15% by weight of the mix.

18. The coating composition of claim 17, wherein the mix of ingredients further comprises a dextrin component comprising 15% by weight of the mix.

19. A method of substantially eliminating reticulation in the use of food coating compositions comprising the steps of: at least partially coating a food substrate with a coating composition comprising a mix of particulate ingredients comprising a rice flour having a commercial size rating of 100 US Mesh size or smaller rice particles, wherein the rice flour comprises from about 18% to 30% by weight of the mix; at least partially thermally processing the food substrate; and freezing the at least partially thermally processed food substrate wherein the coating composition is substantially free of reticulation after at least thermally processing and freezing the food substrate.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein the rice flour comprises from 25% to 30% by weight of the mix.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/960,191, filed Sep. 21, 2001, which claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/234,153, filed on Sep. 21, 2000.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to water-dispersible coating compositions for food substrates, and more particularly to food coating compositions which incorporate any of various flours and/or starches (such as potato and/or corn) as principal ingredients and further include rice flour and/or rice starch as one such ingredient.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Methods for preparing and applying various coatings to the outer surfaces of food substrates prior to freezing and cooking, especially cut, raw potato pieces, are well known in the art. Such coatings are often applied to potato strips which are to become french fries in order to obtain one or more of the following objectives: (1) improved visual appearance of the finished (cooked) products, including color; (2) improved eating characteristics, especially crispness of the cooked product; (3) extended holding time during which the cooked product can be held or maintained while retaining preferred characteristics for consumption; (4) improved uniformity of the coating upon the food substrate; (5) improved surface smoothness of the cooked product; and (6) reduction of reticulation crystallization of or in the coating when applied to a food substrate and subsequently frozen.

The food substrate coating industry has for some time attempted to produce coatings for foods such as meat and vegetables, particularly potatoes, in the form of a substantially clear coat. Such “clear coats” are desirable because of their ability or potential of maintaining or enhancing the food substrate's natural appearance to the consumer, while also imparting other desired characteristics to the reconstituted product, particularly increased surface crispness and a moist, mealy, or fluffy interior. Further, such coatings increase the holding time or post-preparation time at which the cooked or reconstituted product can be maintained prior to consumption by a consumer.

To this end, food coatings have been developed previously that were essentially clear in appearance when applied to potato strips that were then initially deep-fried (parfried) and frozen for storage prior to finish cooking (i.e., reconstitution) and consumption. However, developing a substantially clear coat for potato substrates which increases and maintains the increased crispness of the final cooked product over an extended period of time, without impairment or loss of flavor or visual appearance and without the formation of what is known as reticulation crystallization, has posed a significant difficulty for the industry.

Various dry mix coating compositions which can be dissolved or suspended in an aqueous medium, i.e., are water dispersible, to form a slurry and have previously been developed and applied to potato substrates to obtain improved results. Many if not all such prior art potato substrate coatings, however, include at least some rice flour, which has been increasingly regarded as desirable as a substitute for some of the corn flour or starch because it is less expensive and at the same time enhances crispness without introducing the flavor of corn.

Reticulation crystallization as known in the food coating industry can be described as the formation of small white spots/bumps, which usually occur within about twenty-four to seventy-two hours after freezing of the coated frozen food substrates. This does not go away when the coated food is finish-cooked or reconstituted, and makes the product visually undesirable to consumers. In addition, such reticulation also causes the frozen coated food substrates when reconstituted (via gradient heat, microwave energy, or deep-fat frying) to develop a dark color, rough surface texture, uneven surface coating, decreased crispness, decreased holding time, poor tooth compaction characteristics, and undesirable flavor, all of which are very important to consumers of the final cooked product. The formation of reticulation occurs when food coatings utilize concentrations of more than about 10% rice flour of the type conventionally used in the industry, i.e., that which is of the standard preparation “80 mesh size.”

Conventional rice flour utilized in food coatings is prepared by milling long, medium, or short-grain varieties of rice to various particle size ranges as determined by screens or meshes having various defined size ratings according to United States standards (US). The mesh or screen size rating for the type of rice flour conventionally used in the food coating industry is that which is sold commercially as “80 mesh” size, but this actually includes a fairly wide range of differing particle sizes, many of which are larger than US 80 mesh size screen, and some of which are smaller.

However, food coating formulators have not previously been able to utilize concentrations of rice flour at much more than about 10% without having the coatings develop an undesirable amount of what is known as reticulation crystallization after being frozen upon a food substrate.

Accordingly, because rice flour is inexpensive and is capable of providing desirable coating characteristics, there is a need within the industry for a food coating which contains more than 10% total rice flour but does not reticulate when applied to and frozen upon food substrates, and still imparts improved color, surface smoothness, crispness, and holding time characteristics without sacrificing visual appearance, flavor, and tooth compaction characteristics.

With reference to prior patents illustrating prior art coatings as noted above, U.S. Pat. No. 5,141,759 to Sloan et al. discloses a coating composition that contains corn starch along with potato starch and rice flour in order to allegedly achieve a substantially clear and crisp potato coating having a holding time over an extended period.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,976,607 to Higgins et al. discloses the use of a substantial amount of modified cornstarch in a potato substrate coating to allegedly increase crispness of a final coated potato product, along with an amount of rice flour that is said to reduce or balance the crispness characteristic imparted through use of the modified cornstarch.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,997,918 to Melvej discloses a food coating composition for use on potatoes which contains a high percentage of corn starch in relation to rice flour, in order to obtain a coating composition which is said to impart increased crispness and holding time to a coated potato substrate product.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,095,435 to Sloan et al. discloses a process for preparing frozen coated potato products in which an aqueous starch slurry comprised of a combination of modified ungelatinized potato starch, modified ungelatinized cornstarch, rice flour, and other optional ingredients, such as flavorings and seasonings, are utilized to allegedly improve the crispness of the final-cooked coated potato product while maintaining the tenderness of its interior. This patent also states that its disclosed coating, when placed upon a frozen potato strip; can be reconstituted within a conventional oven to produce an acceptable product without decreased flavor characteristics.

Reference is also made to the substantially improved coating disclosed in co-pending application Ser. No. 09/778,470, filed Feb. 7, 2001, by the same inventors, which teaches the use of a high percentage of rice component (flour and/or starch) along with a large dextrin component, that provides generally excellent results.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, it has now been discovered that a substantially improved but nonetheless inexpensive water-dispersible “clear coat” composition for food substrates may be provided which contains substantially more than 10% rice flour and/or starch, and yet does not reticulate when placed upon food substrates and frozen. At the same time, this new coating imparts improved color, surface smoothness, crispness, and holding time characteristics to the coated food substrate without sacrificing visual appearance, flavor, and tooth compaction characteristics after reconstitution, whether by gradient heat, microwave energy, or deep-fat frying reconstitution methods. In essence, this important advance is accomplished through the use of at least an appreciable amount of smaller rice flour particles, preferably of a size at least as small as about 100 mesh (US), in which the particles correspond to about 150 microns or less.

It has also been discovered that the use of rice starch (typically having a particle size of from about 200 mesh or higher, i:e., 75 microns or less) will also exhibit the same positive coating and reconstitution effects as those noted above. Further, it has also been discovered that the noted small particle-size rice flour and/or rice starch components may be utilized alone or in combination with other coating ingredients, such as standard mesh-size rice flour, or rice starch, dextrin, maltodextrin, potato starch, corn starch, cellulose ethers, and the like, used on a typical proportional formulation percentage weight basis, without detraction from the benefits obtained pursuant to the present invention.

These and other features, advantages and objects of the present invention will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art after consideration of the following specification, claims and appended drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

According to one example of the present invention, fresh whole Russet Burbank potatoes are washed in water, peeled, and cut into ¼ inch by ¼ inch strips about 2½ to 3 inches in length. These strips are then blanched at 180° F. for 15 minutes and subsequently immersed for 40 seconds in a sodium chloride (2%) and Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (SAPP) 0.5% water solution held at 140°. The potato strips are then removed from the water/salt/SAPP solution and allowed to drip dry before placement into a standard convection oven at 150° F. for 18 minutes to further dry, but not dehydrate, the strips. Such drying reduces the moisture of the potato strips approximately 12%.

Next, a dry-mix coating composition is prepared by using a short, medium, or long grain variety of rice flour, at least some of which has a particle size rating of at least about 100 mesh or greater (or alternatively rice starch, typically having a particle size of about 200 mesh or greater), plus sugar, a leavening agent, (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate) and corn syrup solids, and this is dissolved in water at 55° F. to form a slurry. When less than 10% of the dry mix of ingredients is made up of the small particle-size rice flour or rice starch used in accordance with the present invention, the remaining amount required to reach the told amount of rice ingredient which is desired may comprise standard 80 mesh size rice flour or rice starch, and other conventional components such as dextrin, maltodextrin, corn starch, potato starch, cellulose ethers, and the like, and may be used on a percentage weight basis.

The dry-mix coating composition and water is then stirred in a Kitchen-Aid® mixer at a paddle blade speed of two for five minutes and allowed to rest in a non-agitated state for 20 minutes prior to placing the resulting slurry upon the potato strips. The slurry is then placed upon the pre-cut potato strips by immersion of the strips within the slurry for a period of 10 seconds. Following the immersion step, the now coated potato strips are then parfried for 50 seconds in a fryer containing soybean oil heated to a temperature of 365° F. It has been observed during the parfrying step that the coating composition of the present invention does not cause the coated potato strips to stick together, thereby decreasing production time and losses due to unacceptable clumped products, also known as rejects.

The parfried coated potato strips are then removed from the fryer and placed upon wire racks, which are then subsequently put into a chest freezer to bring the temperature of the parfried strips down to about 15° F. or less within 25 minutes or less. This freezes the parfried coated strips, and the frozen coated and parfried potato strips are then placed in plastic bags and held for a period of at least about 24-28 hours in a frozen state at −10° to 10° F. before evaluatory tests are done to assess the quality of the frozen product as to its reticulation characteristics, and then further evaluated subsequently when reconstituted.

Table 1 below sets forth the rice component concentrations (by weight) within an otherwise-conventional food coating composition for various illustrative embodiments in accordance with the invention, together with a prior art food coating, at 72 hour and six-week time periods. It has been observed that, as a general matter, evidence of reticulation does not always manifest itself until after 24 to 48 hours of frozen storage, which in the past has made it difficult or impossible for quality control personnel to find and reject product as it is being produced on production lines. If it is going to be present, however, reticulation almost always manifests itself by the time the product has been stored in a frozen state for 72 hours.

TABLE 1
72 HOUR AND SIX-WEEK RESULTS
CONDITIONRETICULATIONAPPEARANCECOLORTEXTURE
Control #1 - Rice FlourNoneSmoothRelativelyLacks crispness,
at a concentration of 10%compareddarkbut
or less by weight usingagainst that ofcomparedtender and not
commercial “80 mesh”Control #2with Controltough
size rating rice particles.#2
Control #2 - Rice flour atSignificantDisplays surfaceLighter inCrisp, but
a concentration of 18% byroughness.color thansomewhat
weight using commercialControl #1.tough.
“80 mesh” size rating rice
particles.
Rice flour at aNoneSmoothSomewhatAbout as
concentration of 16% bycompared tolighter incrisp as
weight having a particleControl #2.color thanControl #2,
size rating of 100 mesh orControl #2.but less
smaller.tough.
Rice Flour at aNoneSmoothLighter inCrisper but
concentration of aboutcompared tocolor thanmore tough
18% by weight having aControl #2.both Controlthan the
particle size rating of 100#2 and theabove.
mesh or smaller.above.
Rice Flour at 14%NoneSmoothEqual toSomewhat
concentration having acompared toabove.crisper but
particle size of 100 meshControl #2.otherwise
or smaller in combinationequal to
with 4% rice starchabove.
having a particle size
rating of 200 mesh or
smaller.
Rice Flour at aMinorSmoothLighter inCrisper and
concentration of 25% bycompared tocolor thanless tough
weight having a particleControl #2.the above.than either of
size rating of 100 mesh orthe two
smaller.immediately
above.
Rice flour at aMinorSmoothLighter inCrisper and
concentration of 30% bycompared tocolor thanless tough
weight having a particleControl #2.the above.than the
size rating of 100 mesh orabove.
smaller.

As clearly shown in Table 1 above, Control #1 does not provide a light-colored product with crispness. Furthermore, Table 1 above shows that even though Control #2 has a relatively high percentage of standard 80 mesh size rice flour which helps to provide a light-colored crisp product, this formulation also produces a rough surface and tough texture, plus a substantial degree of reticulation. Only when using a significant amount of 100-mesh size rice flour (16% in example three) does one obtain a smooth surface appearance, light color, and a crisp product. Using 18% of 100-mesh size rice flour (example four), a product is obtained which has a very smooth surface appearance, a light-color, and exceptionally good crispness. Use of 14% 100-mesh size rice flour and 4% of 200-mesh size rice starch (example five) produces lighter color and a somewhat crisper product yet. Table 1 above also demonstrates that use of even greater amounts (i.e., 25% and 30%) of 100-mesh size rice flour is entirely possible, and these increasing amounts continue to produce increasing lightness in color, increased crispness, and reduced toughness.

Comparative composition tests were also completed, to evaluate various examples of the invention against a currently available prior art coating composition. The compositions, evaluation criteria, and results are reproduced below.

TABLE 2
RECONSTITUTION AFTER 72
FORMULATIONHOURS AND SIX-WEEK FREEZE
Control - Known food coating having 39.7%Very noticeable reticulation, some
solids by weight, with rice flour at atoughness, reasonably good tooth
concentration of 18.33% using standard “80compaction, slight but noticeable surface
mesh size rating” rice flour,roughness.
Example 1 - Food coating as above with 18.33%Much less reticulated than Control,
rice flour comprising approximately 95% havingsomewhat smoother than Control, no
a mesh size rating of 100 or greater.noticeable toughness, good tooth
compaction.
Example 2 - Food coating as above but havingSomewhat more reticulation, surface
12.22% rice flour comprising approximatelyroughness, etc., than Example 1 above.
95% having a mesh size rating of 100 or greater,
plus 6.11% “standard” rice flour having a mesh
size rating of 80.
Example 3 - Food coating as above but havingSomewhat more reticulation, surface
6.11% rice flour comprising approximately 95%roughness, etc., than Example 2 above.
having a mesh size rating of 100 or greater, plus
12.22% “standard” rice flour having a particle
size rating of 80 mesh.

To further illustrate the particle size aspect of the invention, the following Table 3 indicates the results obtained for still other coating formulation embodiments.

TABLE 3
RECONSTITUTION AFTER 72 HOURS AND
FORMULATIONSIX-WEEK FREEZE
Control (known coating with 39.7% solids)Good overall characteristics but very noticeable
having approximately 18% “standard” rice flourreticulation and surface roughness; good
of 80-mesh size rating.organoleptic qualities.
Food coating as above but having a total of 14%Better characteristics than Control, less reticulation,
fine-particle rice flour (100 mesh size or higher)improved appearance with slightly lighter color.
plus 4% rice starch having a particle size ratingVery good organoleptic qualities.
of 200 mesh.
Food coating as above but having a total of 9%Better characteristics than above, less reticulation,
fine-particle rice flour (100 mesh size or higher)improved appearance with slightly lighter color.
plus 9% rice starch having a particle size ratingVery good organoleptic qualities.
of 200 mesh.
Food coating as above but having a total of 18%Better characteristics than above, less reticulation,
rice, all comprising rice starch having a particleimproved appearance with slightly lighter color.
size rating of 200 mesh.Very good organoleptic qualities.

The preparation of the samples for the above tests was essentially the same as those set forth above in relation to Table 1, and in all cases reconstitution basically comprises thawing the frozen samples and placing them in an oven at 350° F. for 2.5 minutes. After reconstitution, the various samples were evaluated under a heat lamp (two −250 watt infrared bulbs) positioned approximately 17 inches above the sample.

As one way of attempting to definitively appraise the various formulations set forth in Tables 1, 2, and 3 above, Applicant has made the following rough calculations as to percentage of various particular “fine” particles used in the various formulations indicated. These results are set forth below.

Calculated Fine Particle Content of Table 1, 2, and 3 Formulations

Based on Total Mix Content of Particles Smaller Than 80 US Mesh

TABLE 1
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 5.6%
Control 2Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 10.1%
Mixture 3Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 9.28%
Mixture 4Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh10.44%
Mixture 5Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 12.1%
Mixture 6Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 14.5%
Mixture 7Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 17.4%

TABLE 2
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh10.3%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh10.6%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh10.1%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh10.2%

TABLE 3
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 10.1%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh12.12%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh 14.2%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 80 US Mesh  18%

Calculated Fine Particle Content of Table 1, 2, and 3 Formulations

Based on Total Mix Content of Particles Smaller Than 100 US Mesh

TABLE 1
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh1.74%
Control 2Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh3.13%
Mixture 3Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh4.32%
Mixture 4Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh4.86%
Mixture 5Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh7.78%
Mixture 6Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh6.75%
Mixture 7Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh8.10%

TABLE 2
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh3.19%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh4.86%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh4.19%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh 3.7%

TABLE 3
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh 3.13%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh 7.78%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh11.43%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 100 US Mesh  18%

Calculated Fine Particle Content of Table 1, 2, and 3 Formulations

Based on Total Mix Content of Particles Smaller Than 120 US Mesh

TABLE 1
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh0.17%
Control 2Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh0.30%
Mixture 3Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh 1.2%
Mixture 4Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh1.34%
Mixture 5Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh5.04%
Mixture 6Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh1.86%
Mixture 7Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh2.23%

TABLE 2
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh0.31%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh1.31%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh0.96%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh0.69%

TABLE 3
Control 1Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh 0.3%
Example 1Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh5.05%
Example 2Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh9.67%
Example 3Percentage of particles smaller than 120 US Mesh  18%

In view of the evaluatory and comparative tests conducted, as set forth above, it has been clearly demonstrated that the present invention enables the use of considerably more than 10% rice flour in food coating compositions for use on food substrates, particularly potatoes, with minimal or no observable reticulation after the food substrate coated with such compositions is frozen and held for an extended time, and provides improved color, crispness, holding time, and surface smoothness for the coated food after it is reconstituted, regardless of whether that is done by gradient heat, microwave energy, or deep-fat frying methods, all without impairing, and even improving, the visual appearance, flavor, and tooth compaction characteristics desirable to end consumers of the final cooked product. This is accomplished through use of an appreciable amount (preferably at least about 15% by weight of the total mix of coating ingredients) of rice flour and/or rice starch having a particle size rating in the range of about 100 US Mesh size or greater, (i.e., particle size about 150 microns or less), i.e., significantly more of such small particle-size rice than found in the standard commercial “80 mesh size” category.

Somewhat more particularly, the above calculated values appear to indicate that with increasingly elevated amounts of rice in the coating mix, the results may be understood in terms of the total content of rice in the coating mixture and, in particular, the total quantity of various recognized small-particle sizes of the rice component. Thus, considering the total content of rice particles smaller than 80 US Mesh size (and with reference to the “results” table appearing hereinafter), where particles smaller than 80 US Mesh size are the criteria, good results with respect to crispness and such organoleptic qualities as tenderness/toughness, a small-particle content of about 5 % does not yield good results but a content in the range of at least about 9% does begin to yield significantly improved results, particularly in view of the substantial lack of reticulation, crispness/toughness, etc. Interestingly, it appears that at considerably larger rice components of 25% to 30%, with small-particle (80 US Mesh size or smaller) content in the 15 to 18% range, the favorable results begin to decrease. With reference to content of particles smaller in size than #100 US Mesh, the corresponding values indicate that, with rice contents greater than 10%, values of less than about 3% did not yield good results, but percentages larger than about 4%, and up to about 7%, did. As before, with total content of rice in the 25% to 30% range, fine-particle contents ranging from 7% to 8% brought less improved results, although even as much as 18% (the highest range tested) did yield very good results (as compared, for example, to control #2 in Table 1, i.e., 18% commercial 80 US Mesh size rating. Once again, using even finer (smaller than 120 US Mesh size) particles as a criterion, contents of less than about ½% did not achieve the desired results, but between that range and as much as 18% did provide improved results (although the subjective results indicated are difficult to qualitatively appraise and prioritize in a specific sense). Nonetheless, the overall results are clear, and these various calculated criteria do appear to provide a basis for enhancing understanding of the results to be obtained by using various implementations of the invention.

Similarly, it has also been discovered through the evaluatory and comparative tests conducted that the beneficial effects of the present invention can also be achieved through the use of a rice starch component, typically having a particle size rating of from about 200 US mesh size or greater.

Although not wanting to be bound to any particular theory, it is believed that the benefits of the present invention are derived from controlling the particle size of the rice flour and/or rice starch components used in the coating composition to use the smaller sizes indicated above, such that when a sufficient concentration or total amount of these small rice particles are utilized in food coatings, reticulation is substantially minimized or prevented, while still obtaining the desired qualities of the most preferred food coatings in a cost-effective manner.

It is believed that by minimizing the particle size of rice flour and rice starch components according to the present invention, a substantial amount if not all of these components remain soluble within the coating composition rather than agglomerating upon freezing and forming opaque and unsightly reticulation bumps upon the coated frozen food substrate after reconstitution. By reducing the particle size of rice flour and rice starch according to the present invention, it is further believed that the amount of residual unground material, i.e. grit or fines, is substantially reduced, leading to a more soluble final product, which when mixed within the slurry composition of the preferred embodiment does not agglomerate when ice crystals are formed during freezing.

As a result of this increased solubilization, its is believed that the small particle size rice flour of about 100 mesh size rating or greater and rice starch of about 200 mesh or greater has the physical and chemical ability to remain soluble as melting ice crystals combine with the batter coating during final product reconstitution, and that if enough of this is used the composition will reduce or eliminate reticulation and also result in increased surface smoothness, crispness, and holding time, lighter color, greater coating uniformity, and improved tooth compaction, such as has not been possible by prior art practices.

Test Procedure:

Two hundred grams of nominally 120 mesh size rating rice flour were placed on top of a 60 mesh size screen. Under the 60 mesh size screen were also placed an 80 mesh, a 100 mesh, and a 120 mesh size screen, followed by a collecting pan. These screens were ro-tapped for five minutes and the weight of the product remaining on top of each screen was recorded to assess the amount of rice flour particles which did not pass through that screen. The product passing through the 120 mesh size screen was collected in the collection pan and weighed, and then placed on top of a 150 mesh size screen. Under the 150 mesh size screen were also placed a 170 mesh, then a 200 mesh, and then a 270 mesh size screen, followed by a collecting pan. These screens were then ro-tapped for five minutes, and the weight of the product remaining on the top of each screen was then recorded as well. The weight of product passing through the 270 mesh screen was also collected in the collection pan and weighed. All weights were then converted to percentages to assess the amount of fines not passing through the 150-270 mesh phase of the experiment. The same procedure was then utilized with an 80-mesh size rice flour product.

Results

120 Mesh
Size Rating80 Mesh
Rice FlourRice FlourSize Rating
% Above 60 Mesh Screen 0.53 0.11
% Above 80 Mesh Screen39.55 43.88
% Above 100 Mesh Screen23.40 38.61
% Above 120 Mesh Screen23.37 15.72
Pan Weight (Through A 120 Mesh)27.17 GM 3.57 GM
Pan weight from above then placed into second
set of screens to ro-tap:
% Above 150 Mesh Screen 0.59 0.03
% Above 170 Mesh Screen 5.66 0.18
% Above 200 Mesh Screen 3.79 0.74
% Above 270 Mesh Screen 2.63 0.66
% Pan (Through A 270 Mesh) 0.47 0.08
TOTAL:99.99%100.01%

As can be seen from the above, the “80-mesh size rating” rice flour actually has a sizable component that is larger than an 80 mesh size screen, and another large component that is slightly smaller than that but still larger than a 100 mesh screen, thought to be around 80-90 mesh, while the “120 mesh size rating” rice flour, while including a significant amount of particles larger than 80 mesh size screen, and a sizable component larger than 100 mesh screen, also has a very sizable component that is smaller than the 100 mesh size screen, including a substantial amount that would be classified as 120 mesh size, plus another significant amount that is even smaller than that. Thus, as the size number of the mesh increases, the particle size decreases. The amount of particles collected on a given screen represents the amount of particles larger than the openings in that screen, which would not fit through that mesh screen. Conventional prior art rice flours used in food coatings were nominally “80 mesh size rating,” with particles thought to primarily be in a mesh size range of 70-90 mesh, while the fine-particle rice component of the preferred embodiment is smaller than that, i.e., having a mesh size from about 100 US mesh size or greater.

It has also been surprisingly discovered that through use of rice flour having a particle size rating of 100 mesh or higher, or rice starch having a particle size rating of 200 mesh or greater, concentrations of rice flour and/or rice starch significantly greater than 10% may be utilized in coating compositions, with minimal or no production of reticulation upon coated food substrates after final product reconstitution, even when frozen very quickly and at very low temperatures. Furthermore, by increasing the percentage of these smaller particle-sized components, particular rice flour, within coating compositions, the cost of such compositions is greatly reduced.

In addition, it has been discovered that the smaller particle-sized rice flour or rice starch components can be used separately or in combination with each other as well as with other known coating components without loss of the desired qualities and characteristics in the food product. For example, the rice flour or rice starch components of the preferred embodiment can be used in combination with such conventional food coating ingredients as potato starch, corn starch, dextrin, maltodextrin, cellulose ether, rice flour having a particle size rating lower than 100 mesh, rice starch having a particle size rating of less than about 200 mesh, and the like on a proportional percentage weight basis.

For example, a coating composition could contain 15% rice flour having a particle size rating of 100 mesh or greater, 15% rice starch having a particle size rating of 200 mesh or greater, 15% rice flour having a particle size rating of 100 mesh or less, 15% of a rice starch having a particle size rating of 200 mesh or less, 15% dextrin, 15% potato starch, and 10% corn starch, which would achieve the desired objectives of the present invention. Further, the rice flour and/or rice starch components of the preferred embodiment can be utilized within prior art coating compositions to aid those compositions in overcoming their reticulation difficulties. For example, a prior art coating containing 12% rice flour having a particle size rating of nominally 80 mesh, could be replaced with rice flour having a particle mesh size rating of from about 100 mesh or greater in accordance with the present invention, to substantially improve that prior art coating composition by overcoming objectionable reticulation (and also increase its favorable qualities). Thus, the rice flour and rice starch components of the preferred embodiment can be used alone, in combination with each other, in combination with known prior art additives, or as replacements for known prior art components, while still achieving the desired objectives of the present invention.

The rice flour component of the preferred embodiment is a finely ground flour milled from medium or long grain rice. Its starch component is over 75 % amylopectin. Rice flour of from about 100 mesh size rating or greater does not break down with high temperatures and shear, and has excellent freeze-thawability. It is generally white in color and has a very neutral or bland flavor.

Since rice flour is made from the actual rice grain itself, it comprises a number of components including protein, crude fat, crude fiber, crude ash, nutrodetergent fiber, pentosans, presugars, lignin, and a great deal of starch (normally more than 50%). Starch powder, as referred to above herein as a component or alternative component, is refined from rice flour and has only the most minimal amounts of other components (e.g., ash content, protein, fat, etc.) and is virtually entirely composed of starch. It is, nonetheless, a rice constituent or product, and has a white color and neutral taste. As indicated above, rice starch powder in accordance with the invention has a particle size rating of 200 mesh or greater.

As stated above, prior art coating compositions have only utilized the conventional larger particle-sized 80 mesh size rating rice flour component. This product typically will have a near complete (90-95%) passage through a 50 size sieve, but about 45% of it is actually larger than 80 mesh size screen, and another 39% is larger than a 100 mesh screen. A rice flour component having a mesh size rating according to the present invention will have a particle size that is on average smaller than that of the conventionally-used 80 mesh size rating rice. It is this discovery, that by reducing the particle size of at least a significant part of the rice flour used in the coating to one having a size of 100 mesh size or greater, or rice starch having a mesh size of 200 mesh or greater, one can substantially reduce or even eliminate the objectionable reticulation typically produced by conventional rice-containing food coating compositions used on food product substrates, frozen very quickly and at very low temperatures, such as dehydrofreezing, and subsequently reconstituted.

Generally speaking, it is the appreciation of the physical properties of rice flour and rice starch particles with relation to agglomeration when frozen, as water crystals develop during freezing in the batter applied to the food substrates, that allows one to appreciate the underlying concept of the invention, by which the stated objectives and advantages are obtained when the larger rice particles of the prior art (nominally 80 mesh size rating) are used in any substantial amount (e.g., about 10% or more), in which reticulation occurs within 24-72 hours, causing an unsuitable product. Thus, if one of ordinary skill in the art wishes to obtain the advantages of coating compositions containing greater than 10% rice, a rice particle mesh size rating of from about 100 or greater should be used, although using a mesh size of slightly less than 100, to about 95, may also perform acceptably, achieving at least some of the advantages of the invention. In this regard, it should be noted that there is no standard “100 mesh size rating” rice flour that is readily available commercially, only “80 mesh size rating” and “120 mesh size rating.” Consequently, selected portions of these two available size ratings must be used to obtain the desired amount of particles that are at least as small as about 100 US mesh size (presently thought to preferably be at least about 15 % of the total rice component used).

Unlike prior art coating compositions, the preferred embodiment's use of rice flour having a nominal particle size of 100 mesh or greater, or alternatively rice starch having a nominal particle size of 200 mesh or greater, reduces or prevents reticulation from developing when the coating composition is placed upon a food substrate and the coated substrate subsequently frozen and reconstituted, and it also improves the crispness, holding time, surface smoothness, color, and uniform of coating of the final product after reconstitution, whether by deep fat frying, microwave energy, or gradient heat oven reconstitution methods, without sacrificing visual appearance, flavor, and tooth compaction characteristics desirable to consumers of the final cooked product.

The benefits of the present invention may be obtained by using the coating on vegetables, such as mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower, or on meats, such as fish, chicken and the like. Other suitable applications for the coating composition of the invention will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. Since the coating compositions of the invention provide improved crispness and increased holding time of the final cooked product, such products can now for the final time be utilized in “take home” or “delivery” applications, which were previously impractical even though desirable. Finally, through utilization of the increased levels of rice flour or rice starch components in accordance with the invention, the overall cost of producing a coating composition having the desirable enhancements noted above is substantially reduced compared to the prior art.

The above description is considered that of the preferred embodiments only. Modifications of these embodiments in accordance with the invention will occur to those skilled in the art and to those who make or use the invention. Therefore, it is to be understood that the embodiments described above are merely for illustrative purposes and not intended to limit the scope of the invention, which is generally set forth in the appended Statements of Invention, and/or corresponding claims, as interpreted according to the principles of patent law, including the doctrine of equivalents.