Title:
COMPACT APPARATUS FOR MARINATING AND TENDERIZING MEAT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a compact food processing apparatus for tumbling pieces of meat or other food in the presence of a marinade in an enclosed, sealed container (10) under a vacuum. The container (10) includes interiorly directed projections to tumble and turn the food during rotation of the container and a tenderizer which is separate from the container (10) and interfits into formations on the inside wall of the container to support the tenderizer along the length thereof. The container (10) has a closed end (6) and an open end (7) and a lid (20) to sealingly interfit into the open end to facilitate the creation of a vacuum within the container (10). The lid (20) has a one way valve which cooperates with a hand pump (50) to allow the pump (50) to create a vacuum within the container.



Inventors:
Yeghiayan, Arra (Windham, NH, US)
Takayama, Steven (Atherton, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/914798
Publication Date:
04/08/2010
Filing Date:
05/19/2006
Assignee:
Thane International Inc. (La Quinta, CA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/367.1
International Classes:
B65D81/20; B65D51/16
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
WO1989011224A11989-11-30
EP15144832005-03-16
Primary Examiner:
SPURLOCK, BRETT SHANE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HAYES SOLOWAY P.C. (MANCHESTER, NH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Apparatus for treating food comprising a generally cylindrical container, said container being closed on one end and having an opening on the other end, said container having a circular rib extending circumferentially outwardly from said container at a fixed distance from one end thereof, a lid for sealing said opening, said lid including a one-way valve, means for drawing a vacuum in said container through said valve, and drive means for rotating said container about its longitudinal axis by frictionally engaging said rib.

2. The arrangement of claim 1, wherein said drive means includes a support surface shaped as part of a cylinder for supporting said container, said surface containing an opening running parallel to said rib through which said rib extends.

3. The arrangement of claim 2, wherein said means for drawing a vacuum includes a manually operated pump which couples to the said valve.

4. The arrangement of claim 3, wherein said drive means and said pump all fit within said container with the lid in place in said opening.

5. The arrangement of claim 2, wherein said container includes formations on the inside wall thereof, and further including a separate tenderizer, said tenderizer running the length of said container and having formations for tenderizing the food in said container, said tenderizer being held in position in said container by interfitting with said formations.

6. The arrangement of claim 5, wherein said lid includes a manually operated pressure release button.

7. Apparatus for treating food comprising a container for holding the food to be treated, said container having a single opening through which food is placed into said container, said opening being sealable to the atmosphere by a lid, a hand pump for drawing a vacuum in said container, and a drive-support unit for concurrently supporting and rotating said container, said hand pump and drive-support means being shaped and sized to fit completely within said lid covered container.

8. The arrangement of claim 7, wherein said container has a upstanding circular rib, circumferentially extending outwardly to engage said drive-support unit.

9. The arrangement of claim 8 wherein said unit has a drive which engages said rib to rotate the container.

10. The arrangement of claim 9 wherein said lid contains a one-way valve, said valve has a valve seat and said pump interfaces with said seat to draw a vacuum in said container.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/682,649, filed on May 19, 2005 the disclosure of which is incorporated in its entirety hereinto by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to food processing methods and apparatus, and more particularly to an apparatus for tumbling pieces of meat or other food in the presence of a marinade in an enclosed, sealed container under a vacuum.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Vacuum marination is an existing principle which allows quicker marination than soaking food items in marinade at atmospheric pressure. It is easy to understand that subjecting meat to a vacuum results in expansion of the fibers of the meat which assists in breaking down and opening the fibers to the penetration of the marinate into the interior of the meat while concurrently causing tenderization of the meat. Penetration of the marinade enhances the flavor of the meat. Tumbling while under vacuum, also a known technique for treating food, reduces the amount of marinade required since all surfaces are exposed to the marinade without requiring full submersion. Existing vacuum-tumbling, marinating appliances tend to be unwieldy to handle and difficult to clean and store in the ordinary kitchen environment. The principle object of the invention is therefore to provide a compact kitchen appliance for quickly marinating and tenderizing meat that is easily stored, quickly assembled for operation, and easily cleaned after use.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Brief Description of the Several Views of the Drawings

A complete understanding of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the accompanying drawings, when considered in conjunction with the subsequent, detailed description, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the various major components of the apparatus of the invention in an unassembled, non operational position;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the apparatus of the invention with the major components in the operational position;

FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the assembled apparatus of the invention in the operational position showing details of the interior of the container with the lid removed and a sectional view of combination drive-support unit;

FIG. 4 is a perspective of the drive-support unit in the closed or ready for storage position and showing the open space in the bottom of the unit for storage of the electrical cord;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the container with the lid removed and showing the interior with turning ribs and tenderizer in place on the interior wall of the container;

FIG. 6 is a exploded perspective view of the apparatus of the invention showing how all of the working components of the apparatus are nested into the container for easy storage; and

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the container with the components nested within the container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The apparatus of the invention may be best understood by reference to FIGS. 1-7. The apparatus has three major functional components: the container or drum 10; the drive unit 30 comprising a motor drive subunit 31 and a support subunit 34 pivotally attached thereto; and a hand pump unit 50.

The container 10 is in the general form of a rotatable drum 20 having a closed end 6 and an open end 7, selectively closed by a lid 20. The lid 20 has an inner cylinder 21 with an outer diameter which fits snugly into the open end of the container 10 and a slightly larger outer facing cylinder 22 which has a diameter larger than the diameter of the open end 7 of the container. The lid has a suitable gasket, not shown, located at the intersection of the inner and outer cylinders of the lid to insure a air tight fit when the lid 20 is in place over the open end 7. The top surface of the lid 20 has a one-way valve structure 16 of standard construction which permits air to be drawn from the container to thereby generate a vacuum inside the container when the lid is in place, as will be explained in more detail hereafter. The one-way valve structure 16 includes a vacuum release button 15 for opening the interior of the container to the atmosphere, to thereby equalize the pressure, when manually operated by the user of the apparatus. The container has a circular rib or protrusion 12 spaced from the open end of the container and extending outwardly away from the container. The container is preferably made of a durable transparent plastic material

As best seen in FIGS. 3 and 5, the interior of the container 10 includes an inner wall 11 having tumbling paddles 42 that extend from the inner wall toward the interior of the container. The paddles 42 need only extend a small distance in the direction of the interior of the container generally, as shown in FIG. 3. The closed end 6 of the container has a small diameter opening 47 that is sealed by a bumper-like resilient material 48. The inner wall 12 of the container is formed with angled protrusions 44 along its inner length to hold in place on the inner wall of the container a meat tenderizer insert 46. The separate tenderizer 46 has sharp pyramidal formations that extend toward the meat or other food in the container and operate to tenderize the meat during operation of the apparatus. By virtue of its being removable from the unit, the tenderizer may be easily cleaned after operation of the unit.

As best seen in FIGS. 1-4, the apparatus also includes a combination drive-support unit 30. The unit 30 is designed to provide a stable support and drive for the container during operation of the apparatus. The drive-support unit 30 has a drive subunit 31 which houses an electric motor, not shown, which drives a resilient impeller wheel 41 about an axis 43, the wheel 41 operating in turn to rotate the container 10 by frictional contact with the aforementioned rib 12 on the exterior thereof. The motor is selected to be capable of driving a loaded container at the desired speed of rotation that is approximately 2-3 rpm. The motor is turned on and off by standard momentary recessed contact switches 43 to run for a preselected time of approximately 7 to 10 minutes and turn off. A simple timer control may be incorporated into a printed circuit control 45 supported within the housing of the subunit 31. Suitable on-off indicators are located on a standard display 35 on the subunit housing 31. Rubber feet 39 are provided on the drive-support unit to stabilize the apparatus on a kitchen counter or other flat surface.

The drive-support unit 30 also includes a support subunit 34 which is pivotally attached to the subunit 31 by means of standard pivot pin mating connections 37 on the housings of both subunits. The subunits have generally partial cylindrical shaped surfaces 36 and 38 to provide support to the container during operation, as will be explained hereinafter in detail. An aligned opening 32 running along surfaces 36 and 38 of the subunits 31 and 34 serves to permit the rib 12 of the container to extend through these surfaces into contact with the drive wheel 41 to thereby drive the container during operation. Rollers 33 are provided on appropriate places on the surfaces 36 and 38 to support the rotation of the container and reduce friction during operation. The housing of the unit 30 is shaped as shown in the drawings and may be made from any of a variety of suitable durable plastic materials.

The unit 30 is designed to be in a first position or closed position when the subunits 31 and 34 are folded inwardly toward each other, as shown in FIG. 4, typically during the storage or non-use periods of the apparatus. The unit is in a second or opened position, as seen in FIG. 1, typically during operation of the apparatus when the subunits 31 and 34 are folded away from or spread apart from each other. It should be noted that the housing for the subunit 34 includes a storage space 53 for storing the electrical cord for the apparatus when the unit is not being operated and when it is stored in the container as seen in FIGS. 6 and 7.

A manually operated pump is provided to create a minimum of about 25 of Hg vacuum in an empty container with approximately 12 to 15 pumps. The pump 50 is an off-the-shelf, commercially available component supplied under the name VacuVin™. As an alternative, a motor driven pump may be provided instead. The pump is used by bringing the end thereof farthest from the grip 51 into contact with the valve seat assembly 14 at the top wall of the container lid to make a sealing contact with it. Then the pump is operated by operating the grip 51 in an up and down fashion to produce the required vacuum in the container.

In operation, assuming the apparatus has been stored as shown and described with respect to FIG. 6, the lid and other parts are first removed from the container. The drive-support unit 30 is then opened by pivoting the support subunit 34 away from the drive unit 31 after removing and unwinding the electrical cord from its storage area in the container. The unit is plugged into a suitable electrical outlet and placed on a kitchen table or counter or other suitable stable flat surface. The food and/or meat is inserted into the opening 7 in the container 10 along with the marinade. The opening 7 is closed by tightly registering the lid in the opening with the gasket on the lid properly seated to the top of the container. The hand pump is then inserted into its place at the valve seat 16 at the top of the container and operated to create a suitable vacuum in the container. The container is then placed on the opened drive-support unit 30 as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 with the rib 12 properly inserted against the motor drive wheel 41. The motor control switch is turned on to start the motor for its fixed time run. After completion of the timed food treatment, the container is removed from the drive 30 and the food contents in the container are removed for subsequent cooking.

An important feature of the apparatus of the invention is that all of the components may be stored inside the container 10 when not in use, the parts being shaped and sized to accomplish this function, as can be seen in the exploded perspective view of FIG. 6 wherein the component parts are shown slightly displaced from the open end of the container. After insertion into the container 10, a top plan view of the parts can be seen in FIG. 7. It is noted that the parts fit into the container because they hake been shaped with that objective in mind.

While the preferred embodiment of the present invention has been disclosed in detail, it is to be understood that various modifications may be adopted without departing from the spirit of the invention or scope of the following claims.