For George Weston Foods (GWF) from Australia, there are many reasons for choosing GEA ColdSteam T Defrosting. It effectively halves the defrosting time, cuts drip loss, significantly reduces water consumption and saves valuable floor space. GEA ColdSteam is a highly controlled process that uses steam under a vacuum to efficiently defrost meat without scalding or damaging it, and without causing denaturation of the proteins. GEA pioneered this technique, and currently leads the market with innovative GEA ColdSteam solutions based on tumblers (GEA ColdSteam T) and mixers (GEA ColdSteam M).

Defrosting bone-in and whole muscle parts

The Don KRC company is a division of GWF located in Castlemaine, Australia and and produces many well-known Australian and New Zealand brands. The Castlemaine site produces a wide range of meats and delicatessen products, including hams, franks and fresh pork. The company chose the tumbler solution for defrosting loins, middles and bellies. The GEA ColdSteam T is excellent for defrosting whole muscle and bone-in products, and the frozen meat can be fed directly into the tumbler as blocks. The GEA ColdSteam T is based on a GEA ScanMidi 10, which has a unique drum that incorporates a hollow jacket and five hollow carriers for indirect heating or cooling, and is fitted with an integrated vacuum pump, direct steam injection and weighing cells. This enables the process to be accurately controlled and therefore deliver consistent results.

Ten years of experience and a large installed base

GEA has been refining defrosting using steam under a vacuum since 2000, and has an installed base of around 100 units worldwide. After hearing about this experience, Don KRC was keen to see if the impressive results from the GEA ColdSteam T would benefit their business. A series of nearly 50 trials and tests at reference sites in Australia and elsewhere convinced Don KRC that the GEA solution would positively impact on their business.

Robert Niggl, Project Director at GWF, said, “Using conventional defrosting techniques such as air chambers and water thaw not only meant that we had to accept the inherent high drip loss, which can get to over 10% with hams, but it also meant that some of the color of the meat was washed out. In a dry, hot climate like Australia, water thawing also required us to consider complicated recycling processes to minimize water usage.” Don KRC soon discovered that there are even more benefits to GEA ColdSteam, such as eliminating much of the manual handling involved in conventional defrosting (better for food safety).

The largest tumbler-based defrosting solution

The defrosting solution installed at GWF incorporates seven GEA ScanMidi 10 tumblers and one GEA ColumnLoader making it the largest GEA ColdSteam T Defrosting installation in the world today! It uses a combination of GEA ColdSteam and microwave defrosting to bring the temperature of the blocks from -18°C to the target temperature of between 1 and 3°C in five to six hours, typically half the time it took using conventional techniques. Robert Niggl added, “The professional approach of GEA and their ability to consistently demonstrate that GEA ColdSteam meets its performance claims helped convince us that it is the way to go. The results certainly confirmed this decision. We have eliminated drip loss, preserved the look and quality of the end product, speeded up the process and therefore increased our productivity.”

“The professional approach of GEA helped convince us that it is the way to go”

GEA ColdSteam uses the principle that water boils at a lower temperature under a vacuum (33°C at 95% vacuum), so the steam will not damage or scald the meat. As this ‘cold steam’ condenses on the meat in the tumbler, it very efficiently transfers its thermal energy thus speeding up defrosting. GEA ColdSteam is a fast and controlled process in a closed environment, and manual handling is reduced to a minimum, so there are additional hygiene and food safety benefits. In addition to the tumbler execution (GEA ColdSteam T), which is optimized for while muscle and bone-in products, skin-on cuts and seafood, GEA also produces the mixer-based GEA ColdSteam M for frozen blocks of poultry, beef or pork. This version is extremely fast – taking just minutes instead of days – and is optimized for products that require size reduction (pregrinding) such as nuggets, hamburgers, reformed ham and sausage emulsions.

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