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Technical Field

The present disclosure generally relates to pre-cooked instant food products and a process for preparing such pre-cooked instant food products.


Unless otherwise indicated herein, the materials described in this section are not prior art to the claims in this application and are not admitted to be prior art by inclusion in this section.

Instant food products generally include a dehydrated food product, such as for example dehydrated pasta dough (hardened uncooked mixture of flour, eggs and water). Such dehydrated food products have a relatively long shelf life and are relatively easy to prepare compare to making the product for scratch. For example, dehydrated instant pasta needs to cook for about 10 - 15 minutes in a warm water in order to absorb water and softens. In order to further speed the cooking process, some instant products include pre-cooked food product that is dehydrated after the cooking. One problem with dehydrated instant food products (whether pre-cooked or not) is that after cooking such products loose the texture and taste of a freshly made products and need one or more ingredients to improve the taste and appearance to appeal to the consumer.

Freshly made food products on the other hand have profound taste in comparison to any instant food product, however, such freshly made food products have very short shelf life. Any cooked freshly made food product needs to be consumed immediately otherwise it changes texture and taste within couple of hours and any process of re-heating fails to bring the quality of the product to the same level as when the product was just cooked. One can keep the cooked

products on a hot plate in order to keep the products ready for consumption before serving however, the taste of the products , e.g. pasta, deteriorate with time and keeping the pasta for more than two hours on the hot plate is unacceptable.

Being able to have a pre-cooked instant food products that can be quickly re-heated while still keeping the taste and texture is important in cases when a large quantities of food needs to be prepared and cooked within a very limited time limit, such as for example, in restaurant businesses where a large quantity of food products need to be prepared and cooked in less than an hour or even much faster.


In one aspect, a process for preparing a pre-cooked instant food product is provided. The process comprises the steps of i) steaming the food product for a pre-determined time; ii) immersing the steamed food product in a high concentration cooled brine solution for about 5 to 15 minutes; iii) removing excess water from the surface of the food product for up to about 10 minutes; iv) packing a pre-determined amount of the food product into a container and sealing such container, and v) storing the containers filled with the pre-cooked instant food products at temperatures of 2 °C or lower. The container is made of a material safe for keeping food products and is able to withstand temperatures higher than 90 °C. In one embodiment the food product is freshly made pasta.

In another aspect, a system for processing a pre-cooked instant food product is provided. The system comprises a steamer for steaming the food product, a vessel containing a high concentration cooled brine solution to immense the steamed food product into the cooled brine solution, a draining means for removing excess water from the surface of the food product, a packing means to pack a pre-determined amount of a drained food product into a suitable container and a storing means for storing the containers filled with pre-cooked instant food product.

In addition to the aspects and embodiments described above, further aspects and embodiments will become apparent by reference to the drawings and study of the following detailed description.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Throughout the drawings, reference numbers may be re-used to indicate correspondence between referenced elements. The drawings are provided to illustrate example embodiments described herein and are not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure. Sizes and relative positions of elements in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale. For example, the shapes of various elements and angles are not drawn to scale, and some of these elements are arbitrarily enlarged and positioned to improve drawing legibility.

FIG. l is a flow chart of an example of a process for preparing a precooked instant food product.

Detailed Description of Specific Embodiments

As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein, however, it is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. The present invention is described with respect to a pre-cooked instant pasta products and a process for preparation such pre-cooked instant pasta, but one skilled in the art would recognize that the process subject to this invention may be used in, for instance, preparing other pre-cooked instant food products, such as for example, vegetables, legumes, rice, etc.

FIG. 1 illustrates a flow chart of a process of making a pre-cooked instant pasta according to one example of the present invention. A pasta dough is made in accordance with the general practice where flour is combined with water and other ingredients to obtain the desired consistency and is then kneaded to make the dough. The dough is then formed and cut into pieces of desired shape and size. The freshly prepared pasta is then in step 12 steamed in a steamer for few minutes (- 3 - 10 minutes) to cook the pasta so that it is tender yet still firm. Person skilled in the art would understand that in case of other food products, e.g. legumes or rice, the steaming process may be longer than 10 minutes. For example, the food product can be steamed for about 30 minutes or more (until is properly cooked) without departing from the scope of the invention. Cooked pasta is then conveyed through a vessel filled with a brine solution in step 14. The brine solution can contain 10 - 20% salt (sodium chloride) dissolved in water. The brine solution can be cooled to few degrees Celsius (2 - 4 °C) before the pasta is immersed therein. Person skilled in the art would understand that the amount of salt in the solution can be less than 10% or more than 20% without departing from the scope of invention. Dipping the pasta into the cool brine can provide a salt coating on a surface of the pasta to preserve the pasta and enhance its taste. Also dipping the pasta in a cool brine solution will stop the cooking process. The pasta is left into the brine for few minutes (~5 - 15 min.) until the pasta is cooled down to, for example, less than 6 °C. In step 16, the pasta is drained to release any excess water. For example, the pasta is put in a strainer or any other meshed device to drain the pasta for about 3 - 15 minutes. Once the pasta is drained, a pre-determined amount of the pasta is packed in a container and the container is sealed (step 18). The sealed container filled with the pre-cooked pasta is then stored at temperature of 2 °C or lower (step 20). The container can be any type of container that is safe for keeping food products and which can withstand temperatures of at least 90 °C or more. In some implementations, the container can withstand a temperature of at least 130 °C. For example, the container can be a high density polyvinyl bag, aluminum bag or any combination of a plastic or metal or any other suitable material which is safe for packing food products and can withstand high temperatures. The food products prepared according the process described herein above, with reference to FIG. 1 , can be stored for few weeks without sacrificing the quality of the product. In one implementation, an additional step of evacuating the air out of the sealed container is provided to further increase the shelf life of the food product. In one implementation, a liner is provided to wrap around the food product to separate the food product from the inner wall of the container. For example, the liner can be a grape leaf, a bamboo leaf, a lotus leaf, corn leaf or any other suitable natural liner which is suitable and safe for consumption and/or wrapping food products. The liner can separate the food product from the container and can help to maintain its texture and also to add flavor (aroma) and taste to the food product.

To serve the pre-cooked instant food product (e.g. the pre-cooked instant pasta) made according to the process of the present invention one just need to put the sealed container in a hot water bath, wormed at about -90 °C, for about 30 minutes and then take the container out of the water bath, break the seal to open the container and serve the pasta ready for consumption. The required time for worming up the pre-cooked instant food products can be lass or more than 30 minutes depending on the properties of the container used for packing the product. For example, food product packed in a container made of a material with greater thermal conductivity will warm up faster than the one packed in a container made of a material with smaller thermal conductivity. Also, food product packed in a thinner polyvinyl bag will warm up faster than the one packed in a thicker bag. The pre-cooked instant pasta can be kept in the hot water bath for up to about 8 hours, without deteriorating the taste or the quality of the product, as long as the container does not leak. So, the containers should be sealed tightly, such that will not split and leaked when immerged for prolong time in water bath at high temperature. Since the food product is pre-cooked before is sealed, it is stabilized and as long as no additional water (moisture) is added therein, keeping the containers in the water bath for prolong time will not cause overcooking of the product. This can provide that more than one container can be placed in the water bath at the same time (i.e. tens or hundreds of containers), which can be taken out at the same or different time, to be served to customers. The pre-cooked instant food products prepared by the process of the present invention provide cooked food product with consistent quality without having chef skills and experience.

While particular elements, embodiments and applications of the present disclosure have been shown and described, it will be understood, that the scope of the disclosure is not limited thereto, since modifications can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the present disclosure, particularly in light of the foregoing teachings. Thus, for example, in any method or process disclosed herein, the acts or operations making up the method/process may be performed in any suitable sequence and are not necessarily limited to any particular disclosed sequence. Elements and components can be configured or arranged differently, combined, and/or eliminated in various embodiments. The various features and processes described above may be used independently of one another, or may be combined in various ways. All possible combinations and subcombinations are intended to fall within the scope of this disclosure. Reference throughout this disclosure to "some embodiments," "an embodiment," or the like, means that a particular feature, structure, step, process, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment. Thus, appearances of the phrases "in some embodiments," "in an embodiment," or the like, throughout this disclosure are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment and may refer to one or more of the same or different embodiments.

Various aspects and advantages of the embodiments have been described where appropriate. It is to be understood that not necessarily all such aspects or advantages may be achieved in accordance with any particular embodiment. Thus, for example, it should be recognized that the various embodiments may be carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other aspects or advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

Conditional language used herein, such as, among others, "can," "could," "might," "may," "e.g.," and the like, unless specifically stated otherwise, or otherwise understood within the context as used, is generally intended to convey that certain embodiments include, while other embodiments do not include, certain features, elements and/or steps. Thus, such conditional language is not generally intended to imply that features, elements and/or steps are in any way required for one or more embodiments or that one or more embodiments necessarily include logic for deciding, with or without operator input or prompting, whether these features, elements and/or steps are included or are to be performed in any particular embodiment. No single feature or group of features is required for or indispensable to any particular embodiment. The terms "comprising," "including," "having," and the like are synonymous and are used inclusively, in an open-ended fashion, and do not exclude additional elements, features, acts, operations, and so forth. Also, the term "or" is used in its inclusive sense (and not in its exclusive sense) so that when used, for example, to connect a list of elements, the term "or" means one, some, or all of the elements in the list. The example calculations, simulations, results, graphs, values, and parameters of the embodiments described herein are intended to illustrate and not to limit the disclosed embodiments. Other embodiments can be configured and/or operated differently than the illustrative examples described herein.