|What exactly is the Smart Pouch®, technically speaking?
The Smart Pouch® System - The Bag That Knows How to Cook® is unique in its use of patterned microwave susceptor deposited between PET and Kraft paper in a registered repeat pattern. This flexible packaging structure is designed to be formed into a microwavable pouch on traditional form fill sealing machines
What are the benefits of this design vs. the steam pouches and/or susceptor packs that are often used for microwavable products?
This design combines the benefits of steam, AS WELL AS susceptor technology. The game changer is that this configuration allows you to actually cook raw frozen protein entrees in the microwave oven with exceptional results. There are many steam pouches that have come on the market in the last couple of years. None of these incorporate susceptor into their structure. Therefore, the one thing other steam bags all have in common is that they can only achieve internal temperatures of 212 degrees F. This is the physical limit of boiling water and steam. A common example of this limit is boiling water in a pot. You can add all the heat you want to this pot, but the water will not go one degree above 212 degrees (at sea level). It will just make more steam. Meat proteins (seafood, poultry, pork and beef) need higher temperatures in order to achieve a tender texture. In order to increase the protein cooking temperature in a microwave oven, you need another source of heat introduced into this closed system. This is where the susceptor comes in. You don't cook meat proteins in a conventional oven at 212 degrees. By the time it cooked through, it would dry out or be rubbery. Why would you expect different results in a microwave oven? Additionally, due to the steam environment produced by the delicious sauces in the pouch, cooking at higher temperatures can be achieved without drying out the protein. So, the Smart Pouch® technology functions much the same way as a Dutch oven, only much quicker.
How does the package achieve the benefits that it delivers (i.e., improving the texture and flavor of the cooked product)?
With the Smart Pouch® packaging, quality and convenience are no longer mutually exclusive events. Since the invention of the microwave oven in 1948, frozen food products have suffered from a quality problem. It's the lack-of-freshness that has earned the whole frozen food category the consumer perception of lower-quality. The flavor-robbing and nutrient-robbing frozen food cook lines are the cause of this quality problem. When you lose the natural meat juices, you lose the natural meat flavors and juiciness. However, if you cook the meat protein with flavorful sauces and spices in this Smart Pouch® environment, you can maintain the natural juices and flavor. The tender texture of the meat is delivered in seven minutes or less, for a single entree serving, due to the "magic" thermal catalyst that the susceptor provides. Because true restaurant quality and convenience are now married in one package, this unlocks enhanced consumer value perceptions that were heretofore not possible.
How does this package enhance food safety?
The protein is subjected to greater heat transfer than is available in other microwave cooking media, due to the higher temperature at the contact interface of the susceptor and the protein. The susceptor coverage, metallization pattern and metallic composition of the susceptor itself all play a part in determining the heating characteristics of the pouch, and can be adjusted for particular applications. Also, the microwave absorption characteristics of the susceptor help to control the cooking of the protein by creating more even heat distribution. This controlled heating tends to prevent overcooking through dielectric heating, allowing for a more tender and moist product. Even a 4 oz raw frozen protein portion can be cooked superbly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (or more if desired) within 4 to 7 minutes, depending on the type of protein.
For the past ten years, we have experimented with different proteins species and ingredient arrangements to come up with recommended best practices for the Smart Pouch®. These efforts have also produced twenty-five proven and production-scaled recipes (so far) for use in the Smart Pouch® system. The combination of cooking protein to an internal temperature of 165 degrees or more, in direct contact with the susceptor, along with the convection steam environment in the pouch, safely provides for the final Critical Control Point that is consumer preparation.
Is this a patented technology?
Yes, there are three issued U.S. patents on the Smart Pouch® technology, as well as a new patent pending. Patents have also been issued in Canada, Great Britain, France and Germany. Inventor Kay Wright applied for her first patent on this technology in 1998, and was way ahead of her time. Only now has the frozen food consumer moved to the point where cooking his or her center-of-the-plate meat entree in the microwave oven would be a natural extension to cooking her vegetables in that microwave oven.
What are the most appropriate applications for this package – what types of foods, that is?
The Smart Pouch® bag was designed for the cooking or re-thermalizing of frozen protein entrees and portions. The pouch material is dual-ovenable, so cooking can take place in either the microwave oven or multiple pouches in a conventional oven. This can range from a simple protein portion, such as a chicken breast with a sauce, to a complete center-of-the-plate application. For example, a Salmon fillet and bed of pasta and vegetables, covered with a delicious sauce, makes a filling 10 to 12 oz delicious entree portion. It cooks from raw frozen in less than seven minutes, and there is no clean up. Some food companies might opt to use frozen pre-cooked or partially-cooked proteins in the pouch, instead of raw frozen, and that works fine, too. The technology makes sense for retail grocery consumers, as well as other channels such as food service for schools and health care providers.