Unitherm Food Systems recently received a patent for its process for producing precooked bacon slices in a spiral oven.

In the company’s process, bacon slices enter the spiral oven at a lower inlet and then “spiral” their way around the cooking chamber to an upper outlet. Superheated steam replaces air in the oven’s cooking chamber, which creates a “substantially oxygen-free environment” that helps the bacon achieve pan-fried quality. Also crucial for achieving this quality is the fact that fat from upper bacon slices drips down to baste the slices at lower levels. The spiral oven can be customized to produce bacon slices to specified crispness and color.

“Bacon is a difficult product to cook consistently,” said David Howard, founder and CEO of Unitherm. “The thinness of the bacon slices, the short cooking times, and the high fat and water content pose challenges for continuous cooking systems.

“In the United States, most bacon is precooked in a microwave,” he added. “Because of how microwave energy works on fat and water, the final product is much different from home-fried bacon in taste, texture, and appearance. Continuous microwave systems also have a large footprint. As bacon’s popularity grows and it becomes incorporated into more products, processors are looking for ways to produce better bacon more efficiently. Our spiral oven process allows them to achieve all of these results.”

The company filed the patent in February 2012 and it was granted on Dec. 6, 2016. The company also received a European patent for the same process in December 2012. The Unitherm process for bacon already is operational in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Iceland and Belgium.