|Publication number||US20050040162 A1|
|Application number||US 10/955,954|
|Publication date||Feb 24, 2005|
|Filing date||Sep 30, 2004|
|Priority date||Apr 9, 2002|
|Also published as||CA2478503A1, CA2478503C, DE60306136D1, DE60306136T2, EP1497199A1, EP1497199B1, US6777655, US20030189042, US20090114644, WO2003084841A1|
|Publication number||10955954, 955954, US 2005/0040162 A1, US 2005/040162 A1, US 20050040162 A1, US 20050040162A1, US 2005040162 A1, US 2005040162A1, US-A1-20050040162, US-A1-2005040162, US2005/0040162A1, US2005/040162A1, US20050040162 A1, US20050040162A1, US2005040162 A1, US2005040162A1|
|Inventors||Hua Zhang, Laurence Hayert-Bonneveau, William Yout, Gary Helstern, Gerard Loizeau|
|Original Assignee||Hua Zhang, Laurence Hayert-Bonneveau, William Yout, Gary Helstern, Gerard Loizeau|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (14), Referenced by (3), Classifications (14), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of International application PCT/EP03/03712 filed Apr. 9, 2003, which is a continuation of application Ser. No. 10/118,033 filed Apr. 9, 2002, the entire content of each of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference thereto.
The present invention relates to a device and method for improving heating of food in a microwave oven. The invention addresses the problems of cold spot, uneven heating and splattering that traditionally occur when foods are heated in a microwave oven. In particular, the present invention proposes a method for handling and evenly heating frozen food that can be economically, conveniently and rapidly served in a foodservice location to the consumer. The invention also relates to a stand-like device adapted to receive a food container for improving the reheating of the food in a microwave oven.
Microwave reheating of frozen meals provides convenience for people seeking quick meal solutions because of the rapid thermal energy transfer into the food materials by the microwaves. However, microwave heating of frozen food is, in general, perceived as difficult and has many problems associated with it, such as overcooking of some portions of meals, cold spots, burnt edges and sauce splatter. In many instances, the meal experiences serious burnt spots yet some places are still very cold, even often below O° C. Furthermore, the concentration of the microwave energy on spots tends to create local boiling of the water contained in the food and/or sauce and therefore splattering off the dish.
Many attempts have been made in the past to solve this issue of re-heating frozen food in a more effective way.
It has previously been proposed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,351,997 to provide a modified form of tray structure to attempt to provide a more even heating of foodstuff in the tray when exposed to microwave radiation. This prior art has a bottom wall of microwave-transparent material and an upwardly extending peripheral wall that is outwardly curved at its upper end to define a horizontal peripheral rim. The rim is partly or completely coated with a material that is reflective and opaque to microwave radiation, such as aluminum foil. The peripheral wall also is partly or completely coated with the foil material. The effect of this aluminum foil coating on the wall is to provide reflection of microwave energy toward the center of the tray.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,626,641 describes an embodiment in which a similar structure is provided. In addition to the provision of aluminum foil in the side wall of a tray, the foil also extends into the base of the container but leaves a rectangular open area in the bottom wall.
WO 92/19511 relates to a tray useful for the microwave cooking of prepared foodstuff that comprises an outer layer formed of paperboard or molded plastic to which is laminated an inner polymeric film layer. A layer of microwave-reflective material, usually aluminum foil, is positioned between the outer and inner layers in the location of the peripheral wall of the tray and in a pattern in a portion of the bottom wall.
JP 09-369450 relates to a container for a microwave oven that comprises a first microwave reflecting plate placed along a circumferential lateral parts and a second microwave reflecting plates in the base section of the container.
It is apparent from the prior art that attempts have essentially been made to provide energy transmission structures with reflective material placed in locations that enable energy transfer from the edges and corners of the plate to a more central area of the plate. However, experimental trials have shown that these structures are, by themselves, insufficient to overcome the problems of uneven heating. In particular, cold areas are still present in the food despite the presence of these structures. Thus, improvements in these devices are needed and are provided by the present invention.
The present invention aims at providing a satisfactory solution for evenly heating a frozen food in a plate by adopting a different approach where not only energy transfer is carried out but more importantly a modification of the overall heating pattern inside the food block is achieved by changing the wavelength inside the food. Thus, the present invention aims at providing a convenient and easy way for improving microwave reheating of food while enabling the use of standard dishes such as ceramic and ceramic-like plates that may commonly be found in restaurants, cafeterias, hotels, or other foodservice locations.
The present invention specifically relates to a method for ensuring a more uniform heating of frozen food by microwaves. This method is conducted by providing food in a portion having a predetermined size and shape; and providing a container adapted for receiving and reheating with microwaves the food portion. The container includes a supporting cavity having peripheral sides and a bottom side, with the peripheral sides of the container being circumferentially shielded by a microwave reflective material such that the microwave reflective material on the peripheral sides forms a circumference which has axial and transverse distances that are determined so as to change the wavelength of resonant modes in the supporting cavity. The method includes placing the portion of food in the supporting cavity; and heating the food and container with microwaves so as to expose the food to the changed wavelengths of resonant modes in the cavity thereby resulting in a more uniform heating food pattern and a more uniform heating of the food.
FIGS. 8 to 20 are comparative thermograph diagrams of the heat distribution of the food after it has been submitted to microwave radiation in different plates and trays;
It has been surprisingly found that it is possible to render the heating of the food in the container relatively even by shortening the wavelength of the resonant modes inside the cavity of the food, especially for the transverse electric (TE) modes. Shortening of the wavelength and supporting of specific resonant modes can be obtained more specifically by determining the distances that separate the microwave reflective material when placed circumferentially along the side of the container in a manner to promote modes that show a more even electric field distribution.
In one embodiment, the microwave reflective material forms a resonating layer having a transverse dimension of less than 12.5 cm. Preferably, the transverse dimension of the resonating layer is of less than 12 cm, even preferably of from about 10 to 12 cm. Preferably, the axial dimension of the resonating layer is of 20 cm or less, even preferably of less than 18 cm. The preferred ratio axial dimension to transverse dimension is of from 1:1 to 2:1, even more preferably of from 1.5:1 to 1.8:1.
Therefore, the resonating layer can be regarded as a resonator or waveguide where shortened standing waves occur inside the food. As the transverse dimension of the resonating layer is shortened, transverse electric (“TE”) modes that carry more power than transverse magnetic (“TM”) modes are propagated in the cavity of the food. In particular, the TE modes that are permitted for the selected geometry are those with a more concentrated heating in the center area of the cavity. More preferably, TE modes that are predominantly supported in the food cavity are TEn,m,l modes wherein n may be 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 m maybe 0 or 1 or 2 and l may be 0 or 1.
Preferably, the microwave reflective material forms a resonating layer having a closed rounded contour. Even more preferably, the resonating layer has an oval contour with an axial dimension of less than 20 cm, preferably less than 18 cm, even most preferably comprised between 15 to 18 cm. In an alternative embodiment, the resonating layer has a circular contour. In a preferred embodiment, the bottom side is substantially free of shielding material.
In a second embodiment, the microwave reflective material forms a resonating layer having a transverse distance at the surface of the food within a range of from 15 to 20 cm and an axial distance at the surface of the food within a range of from 18 to 26 cm. Within this second range of specific transverse and axial dimensions of the resonating layer, resonant modes that promote a uniform heating are also selected successfully. The frozen food block with such a shielding arrangement, which can be seen as a dielectric resonator with resonating boundaries, can effectively selects modes of more even field lines distribution which creates a micro-climate of well distributed energy inside and which is relatively not much dependent on the specific oven factors.
Remarkable results have been obtained by using such shapes and dimensions of a resonating layer. Comparative trials have shown that these are the preferred configurations for evenly heating food in the container.
The invention also relates to a method of using a container having the resonating layer as previously defined wherein, prior to placing the food portion in the container, the food portion is removed frozen from a package of defined shape and size which are predetermined to substantially match the shape and size of the cavity of the container. Therefore, the frozen food can be produced and packaged in the manufacturing facility according to specific standards of size and shape that are predetermined to provide optimal re-heating properties afterwards. Therefore, the food product may be packaged in a package that is not the final heating tray with its resonating layer so as to reduce the packaging costs. Therefore, contrary to the package which may usually be disposable, the final heating tray may be a dish made of a non-disposable material for repeated uses in a foodservice location such as a restaurant, a fast food or a cafeteria.
The invention also relates to a stand-like device for improving the heating of food in a container. This device includes a support body of a shape and size adapted for receiving the container in a removable manner and a circumferential shielding surface of microwave reflective material adapted to be positioned adjacent to peripheral sides of the container. The combination of the stand-like device and a food container is another embodiment for improving the heating of food in the container.
In a preferred embodiment, the microwave reflective material of the circumferential shielding surface is defined by axial and transverse distances that are determined so as to change the wavelength of resonant modes inside the food thereby resulting in a more uniform heating food pattern. Still in a preferred embodiment, the support body has a wedge-shaped receiving surface to snuggly engage the complementary surface of the container and leverage means pivotally associated to the body to act on the bottom surface of the container to disengage the container from the wedge-shaped receiving surface.
The benefit of such a supporting stand is that it allows to more evenly heat the food in a microwave oven while reusable standard dishes such as traditional dishes can be used. Therefore, reusable standard dishes can become more effective for microwave reheating of food as compared to the use of the same dishes without the supporting stand. The supporting stand may be of a convenient use in kitchens of restaurants, hotel chains, transportation or other foodservice areas where paper or plastic dishes can not decently be used but only food in traditional ceramic or ceramic-like dishes can be served to the customer.
A possible alternative to a reusable stand-like shielding device is a non-reusable shielding aid, made of material(s) configured to last for a limited number of uses, preferably a single use. The non-reusable shielding aid can be used in combination with a durable dish such as a ceramic, plastic or glass dish to provide the adequate shielding of its sides as aforementioned. The benefit is that it provides an economic, flexible and temporary solution that can be conveniently associated to a reusable container to improve the microwave heating performance in the container. This solution is also more hygienic.
The shielding aid can preferably form a band of microwave reflective material of a shape configured for surrounding the peripheral sides of the container to provide a circumferential shielding surface of microwave reflective material. In particular, the band forms a microwave reflective circumference having axial and transverse distances that are determined so as to change the wavelength of resonant modes in the supporting cavity.
The band is preferably made of a destroyable material. For instance, the band is a thin band of cardboard and/or plastic coated with a microwave reflective material. The band may have substantially the form of a crown.
The band can be destroyed by the effect of separating the band from the container after a single use. For instance, the band comprises an adhesive layer at its inner surface to adhesively attach to the sides of the container and wherein the effect of separating the band from the container after heating, destroys the adhesive layer or creates a tearing of the band that damages the band so that no further use of the band to heat the food container is made possible.
Tearing of the band may be obtained by the relatively low mechanical strength of band coming from the intrinsic properties of the material, the humid environment and/or heat during heating in the microwave and/or additional weakening zones provided in the band itself.
In another possibility, the band comprises a polymeric material that shrinks upon heating in the microwave. After shrinking of the material, the band becomes so tightly wrapped around the container that removal of the band from the container has for effect to tear off the band and damage it so that no second use can be envisaged. In another possibility, the band can be made of a material that separates or disperses upon washing of the container. For instance, the material can be a resin of soluble or dispersible material containing an amount of reflective particles such as metallic particles. The resin material can be coated on the sides of the container in a liquid or paste form. The coating material could also be an edible material.
With reference to FIGS. 1 to 3, the method of the invention aims at providing a solution for re-heating a frozen food product of predetermined size and shape in a plate that is specifically adapted for modifying the wave pattern during a microwave heating process in a manner that enables the transverse electric (TE) modes of higher power and more evenly distributed pattern to propagate inside the food product. The present invention aims at providing a method for quickly and evenly reheating food, in particular frozen food, with microwaves, in particular those provided by a conventional microwave oven that is 2450 MHz.
The method comprises providing a food portion 1 that is frozen, placing the food portion in the supporting cavity 20 of a tray or plate 2 of specific shape and size and heating the food portion in a microwave oven. The food may be any kind of food meal such as lasagna, pasta, rice, fish, meat, and vegetables with or without sauce and combinations thereof. The plate 2 includes a bottom portion 21 and upwardly oriented side portions 22 that together define a support member with the cavity for receiving the food portion 1. The plate should be formed, at least partly, from a material that is substantially transparent to microwave so as to avoid microwave energy loss in the material but be sufficiently rigid to support the weight of the food without significant deformation and to maintain the side portions extending upwardly. Therefore, the material for the plate can be chosen among the list consisting of ceramic, porcelain, glass, cardboard, polymer and combinations thereof.
Importantly, a circumferential surface 3 made of a material that is reflective to the microwave is provided that is placed adjacent the sidewall 22 of the plate. The circumferential surface may preferably be a band or layer of microwave reflective material that is placed adjacent the sidewall 22. The surface could also be part of the side portion itself or replace the whole sidewall 22. The circumferential surface forms the boundaries around the food that makes the dielectric resonator while the rest of the plate is substantially transparent to the microwaves.
According to the principle of the invention, the circumferential surface of reflective material has to respect dimensions and shapes that impart a modification of the wavelength in the dielectric food itself. As a result, in the event the plate and reflective surfaces are distinct parts, the shape and size of the plate should preferably be such that the plate can insert itself inside the available volume determined by the circumferential surface of the band. Preferably, the plate 2 should have a shape and size that complementary match the shape and size of the band 3, even though this is not mandatory, provided the plate 2 can fit between the band 3. For instance, the plate could be smaller or of a different shape as the band 3 itself.
As illustrated in
Similarly, the band 3 forms a second dimension T that is taken transversally along a transverse axis O′ that is substantially oriented orthogonally to axis 0 and passes that through the centerline of axial distance A. The transverse distance T represents the distance at this centerline between the internal surfaces of the reflective band as measured at a level of the upper surface of the food.
The distances A and T are preferably measured at the circumference of the band 3 at a level of the upper surface 5 of the food when the food is properly placed in the cavity for re-heating. However, in certain circumstances where the container is shallow and/or has sidewalls that form a low inclination relative to the bottom surface; e.g., the edges of a dinner plate, the food may usually project upwardly beyond the height of the sidewalls. In that event, the circumference for considering distances A and T will be regarded at the upper edge of the resonating layer.
According to one essential aspect of the invention, the distances A and T of the band are determined to provide a shortening of the wavelength when the food plate, as surrounded by the band 3, is heated in the microwave oven. Therefore, reflection or transfer of the microwave beam is not the primary effect that is sought. The primary effect that is sought is related to the modification of the propagation of the waves in the dielectric food material between two or more conductors that support a certain number of electromagnetic waves. These waves have a uniquely defined voltage, current and impedance. Waveguides, often consisting of a single conductor, support transverse electric (TE) and/or transverse magnetic (TM) waves, characterized by the presence of longitudinal magnetic or electric, respectively, field components. Therefore, the principle of the invention is to look at determining the boundaries of the band that acts as a waveguide so that high power TE modes of even density are primarily induced. In order to promote domination of the desired TE modes, it has been found that the transverse distance T of the resonating band should be of less than 12.5 cm, preferably lower than 12 cm, even preferably ranging of from 6 to 11 cm. Similarly, the axial distance A of the band should be of 20 cm or less, preferably lower than 18 cm, even preferably ranging of from 6 to 13 cm. More particularly, with respect to these particular dimensions, TEnm modes of evenly distributed density such as TE01, TE11, TE21, are primarily supported while TEnm or TMnm modes of less evenly distributed density such as TE31, TE41, TE51 or TM31, are preferably discarded.
In a second embodiment, larger dimensions have also been found working to produce uniform heating. However, these larger dimensions must also be determined precisely to promote TE mode of even propagation while discarding the dimensions that promote TE modes of uneven propagation. For this, it has been found that the transverse distance T of the resonating band should be comprised within a precise range of from 15 to 20 cm and the axial distance A of the resonating band should be comprised within a precise range of from 20 to 26 cm.
The number of modes increases as the size of the resonating band increases and new modes usually adds on existing modes while certain being more dominant than others. By selecting the correct size of the resonating band, one promotes the dominant modes which have a field lines distribution which is more even over the surface food. In particular, for the larger sizes of the resonating band, as defined, modes that are promoted are, for instance: TE01, TE10, TE22, TE32, TE42 and others.
As a result, remarkable and surprising results on the final temperature distribution have been obtained if those distances are properly respected. This effectively changes the wavelength of the resonant modes inside the dielectric cavity of the plate (inside the food), especially for those TE modes. This shortening of the wavelength makes the heating happens in the center of the food, therefore promoting a more uniform heating pattern.
The band may comprise tapered surfaces as shown in
It has also been found that the microwave reflective material band should preferably be a continuous peripheral band of a height of at least 10 mm, preferably of from 10 to 60 mm, even preferably of from 25 to 55 mm. The food should preferably be placed so that its upper surface 10 is placed below the upper line 30 of the band 3, preferably at 0 to 15 mm below, even preferably at 2 to 10 mm below. Similarly, the food lower surface 11 contacting the bottom of the plate should be at a level above the lower line 31 of the band of from 0 to 10 mm, preferably 0.5 to 5 mm, preferably 2 to 3 mm.
Although an oval contour is preferred for the band, since the best results have been found with such a configuration, it remains possible to have a band of circular contour. In that event, for the first preferred embodiment the transverse distance T and the axial distance A form a diameter that should be preferentially determined, as for the previous example, to be a distance less than 12.5 cm, preferably equal to or less than 12 cm, even preferably of from 6 to 11 cm and, for the second embodiment, the transverse distance should be of from 15 to 20 cm and the axial distance A should be of from 20 to 24 cm.
The band or layer 3 may preferably comprise a metallic material that is placed adjacent the sidewall 22 of the plate. The band may be either attached or simply positioned in close contact with the outer surface of the sidewall 22. In another embodiment, the band may be positioned adjacent to the inner surface of the sidewall 22 of the plate.
In a preferred embodiment, the band 3 may be a rigid metal foil that forms a ring or stand forming a large central aperture of a shape and size adapted for the plate to nest therein.
In an alternative, the band may be a coating material, for instance, a metal coating on the surface. In order to provide a sufficient microwave resonating effect, the coating has a thickness that preferably is at least 3.2 microns, and even more preferably of at least 10 microns. The coating may be carried out by any suitable means such as by vacuum metallizing or chemical etching. Those coating techniques are well known by the man skilled in the art of surface treatment and, therefore, do not need to be described further herein.
In an alternative, the band may be a metallic tape that is adhered by an adhesive to the surface of the sidewalls of the plate.
The inside volume and shape demarcated by the circumferential band may be determined to match the external volume and shape of the plate and, therefore, can take any possible cross sectional configuration such as parallel, trunconical or a stepped configuration.
The pre-formed package 4 may be made of a thermoformed plastic foil or any equivalent formable material that can retain a given shape after forming. The foil is thermoformed to form the cavities and edges that surround the cavity. The material should advantageously be sufficiently deformable to allow easy removal of the food block from the cell. The preformed package can be a foodgrade polypropylene or any other suitable plastic of from about 0.1 to 1 mm in thickness. A plurality of cells 40-42 can be formed in a single sheet of plastic as illustrated for cost manufacturing reasons and can be separated along cutting lines 43, if necessary, or be kept grouped as a collective package 4, if there is a need for distributing or selling more than one food package at a time.
The cells are filled in by food to form the food portions. Depending on the food recipes, freezing may be required before filling in the cells. Freezing may be carried out on discrete food components, for instance, pasta layers, vegetable pieces, meat balls, etc., or on the food block itself whereas other components such as sauce, cheese and the like, may be placed, poured or deposited in the cells at ambient or just at chilled temperature.
As a matter of safety, freezing of the filled cells should always be subsequently completed until the whole food portion has reached the frozen temperature range required. The food containing cells are usually rapidly cooled to the required freezing temperatures, i.e., minus 18 to 40° C. Freezing may usually be carried out in a spiral freezer or in a freezing tunnel under liquid nitrogen jets or any other suitable freezing technology. Then, the cells may be closed by thin plastic wrap that is sealed onto the edges of the cells or, alternatively, the preformed package 4 may be simply stacked and packed in a cardboard box with a partition film to separate them in the box.
In another embodiment (not shown), the cells may also be made of a flexible non-preformed material such as in thin plastic wrap with the shape and size of the cell's cavity to shape the food portion being defined by an external mould. In that event, the plastic wrap is covered onto the mould surface, the food components are deposited into the plastic wrap and the final block is frozen and removed from the mould.
The advantage of the packaging cells resides in that packaged food blocks can be mass produced in an inexpensive manner that are properly sized to fit a shielded container of specific size as aforementioned. The container may, for instance, be such as a reusable ceramic dish used in restaurant or other foodservice catering areas. The food can, therefore, be transferred from the cell to the ceramic dish to be reheated in a microwave oven and served directly to the consumer in its dish. After food consumption, the dish can thus be washed and re-used as a normal dish.
The dish is preferably shielded by a non-reusable shielding aid that is associated to the dish by the user when preparing the food before the microwave heating.
The shielding aid preferably forms a flat band comprising a reflective material that can be associated to the sides of the dish such as by folding the band to form a crown.
The aid can, for instance, be a laminate comprising a support substrate of reinforcing material such as one or more thin cardboard and/or plastic layers and an outer reflective layer such as a metallic coating. The band may be attached by it two ends and positioned around the side of the dish.
In a preferred embodiment, the band is configured to be adhesively attached to the sides of the container by an adhesive layer. The laminate may thus comprises an additional external layer opposite the microwave reflective layer to adhere to the container. The adhesive layer can be configured such that it can be used only once. Any separation of the shielding aid from the container after use leads the adhesive either to loose its adhesive properties and/or to tear off the band, for example, by damaging the support substrate. Weakening zones such as perforated lines may be added, such as several at intervals on the band, to ensure that removal of the band tears off along these lines and leaves the band in several non-reusable separate pieces.
In an alternative, the band can comprise a piece of shrinkable polymeric material that shrinks at the particular heating conditions in the microwave. The polymeric material would preferably be positioned to cover the food and so to be removed by the user to access the food.
In another alternative, the band comprises a single-use connection device configured to place the shielding aid around the sides of the container. The single-use connection system can be a tear line or zipper as it is illustrated in
Finally another possibility, the food could be heated in a disposable container with reflective sides such as a box or CPET tray in a box and then transferred to the dish for serving.
FIGS. 5 to 7 illustrate another embodiment in which a reusable supporting stand 7 comprising a reflective material is adapted to substantially nest the container 2 in a removable manner. The stand may be specifically adapted to receive reusable dish of specific size and shape. In particular, the stand 7 has a body 70 with a wedge-shaped receiving surface of microwave reflective material 71 arranged to snuggly engage the complementary shaped exterior surface 220 of the sidewalls 22 of the container. The microwave reflective surface 71 extends circumferentially to encompass the sidewalls of the container. The body may be formed entirely of reflective material such as metal or be only partly coated of microwave reflective material on its inner receiving surface 71 while the rest is made of a different material such as plastic, ceramic, etc. The body may therefore form a central truncated surface of a shape that substantially complements the external side portions 22 with a central bottom aperture 72 arranged to leave the bottom portion 21 of the container substantially uncovered by the shielding material. The stand 7 may further comprise leverage means 8 adapted for conveniently and safely disengaging the container from the metal body after the heating of the food container has been performed. For instance, the leverage means 8 may be formed of a pair of levers 80, 81 pivotally attached to the metal body, along rotational axis 73, to act on the bottom surface of the container to disengage the container from the stand by upward pushing on the bottom side 21 of the container. The levers may preferably have a hook type shape comprising a rounded support end 810 and a connecting portion 820. The rounded end 810 is large enough to form a well distributed fulcrum on the bottom of the container when the lever is activated in rotation so to be able to properly lift the container without blocking. The levers are thus positioned in a retracted position where the support end 810 is maintained inset relative to the bottom support plane I1 formed by the stand/container assembly when on rest onto the oven's surface (
The stand should preferably respect the dimensions T and A, as previously defined, for promoting support of TE modes with more even electric field distribution. To provide an effective effect, the dimensions should be defined depending on the type of dish that is intended to be received, e.g., whether it is a deep or shallow dish, so that the dimensions T and A will be taken, approximately at the surface of the food or, alternatively, at the uppermost edge of the reflective material surface. For instance, in
The stand may be particularly adapted for receiving a ceramic or ceramic-like dish into which is inserted the food portion coming from the packaging cells as described earlier. Therefore, one benefit of the supporting stand is that traditional dishes of appropriate dimensions and shape such as “plat à sabot”, “china plates” or other dishes, can be successfully used for reheating meals in a microwave oven such as dense frozen meals, whereas if they would be used alone, i.e., without the help of the stand, problems of cold spot, uneven heating and splattering would be clearly noticed.
A frozen lasagna product of 387 grams is placed in an oval plate (“plat à sabot”) having a long axis of 17.8 cm, a short axis of 10.4 cm, height of 3.1 cm, and no metallic shielding on the side wall. The food product is heated in Welbilt microwave oven (850 Watts) for 6 minutes. The temperature measurement showed a cold spot below 18° C. and edges boiled over.
The same food product is heated in a plate of identical dimension with a metallic shielding tape adhesively attached to the upper half of the upward sides of the plate. The lower half of the sides is left uncovered. The product weighed 389 grams and was heated in the same oven as Example 1 for 6 minutes. The product showed a cold spot below 39° C. and edge slightly boiled over.
The same food product is heated in a plate of identical dimension with a metallic shielding tape adhesively attached onto the full sides of the plate. The bottom of the plate is left uncovered. The product weighed 386 grams and was heated in same oven and for 6 minutes. It had no cold spot with a temperature of the surface higher than 65° C. and no burnt edge and corner.
The same food product is heated in a rectangular tray of 12.7 cm long, 15 cm large and 2.5 cm high, with no metallic shielding. The product weighed 360 grams and was heated in same oven and for 6 minutes. It showed good temperature but edge heating was excessive.
The same food product is heated in a rectangular tray of 12.7 cm long, 15 cm large and 2.7 cm high, with a metallic shielding tape adhesively attached onto the full sides of the plate. The bottom of the plate is left uncovered. The product weighed 386 grams and was heated in same oven and for 6 minutes. It showed a cold spot (34° C.) but edge was not boiled.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 545 grams is placed in an oval plate (“plat à sabot”) having a long (longitudinal) axis of 24 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 13.1 cm, height of 2.5 cm, and full metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product is heated in a LG1000W oven for 6.5 minutes. The center was still cold (2.5° C.) but the edge was boiled and dried.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 545 grams is placed in an oval plate (“plat à sabot”) having a long (longitudinal) axis of 24 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 13.1 cm, height of 2.3 cm, and full metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product is heated in a LG1000W oven for 6.5 minutes. The center was still cold (3.5° C.) but the edge was not boiled and dried.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 447 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 15.8 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 12.5 cm, height of 4 cm, and no metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 5 minutes. The center was still cold (−2.5° C.) and the edge was partially dried.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 446 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 15.8 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 12.5 cm, height of 4 cm, and with metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 5 minutes. The center was still cold.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 636 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 19 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 14 cm, height of 4.2 cm, and no metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 7 minutes. The center was warm (57° C.) and the edge was partially dried.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 636 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 19 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 14 cm, height of 4.2 cm, and with metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 7 minutes. The center was warm (47° C.). For this dimension, the shielding does not help to make the product hotter in the center and more uniform across the surface.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 1220 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 20 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 15 cm, height of 5 cm, and no metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 14 minutes. The center was still very cold (−1° C.) and the edge was partially dried.
The same food product frozen lasagna product of 1220 grams is placed in rectangular tray having a long (longitudinal) axis of 20 cm, a short (transverse) axis of 15 cm, height of 5.2 cm, and with metallic shielding on the side walls. The food product was heated in a Delonghi oven for 14 minutes. The center was warm (40° C.).
Comparative tests were conducted on lasagna heated in a 20 by 26 cm tray heated in a Panasonic oven (1100 W). Without shielding, the average temperature is lower (75° C.) but lost 8% of its weight; while the shielded one only has 4% weight loss yet with a higher temperature (82° C.) (see attached table). This illustrates that shielding has made a significant difference in heating. The results are provided in table 1.
TABLE 1 Heating Average Shape T A Depth Shield Y/N time (min.) Weight (g) Loss % Temperature (° C.) Oven Rec. 20 26 5.2 No 25 1658 8 75 Panasonic Rec. 20 26 5.2 Yes 25 1654 4 82 Panasonic
Without being bound by theory, it is estimated that the invention is primarily based on a proper selection of the transverse modal fields that propagate within the food as determined by the rounded shape and the specific dimensions of the resonating layer associated to the support plate.
The resonating band and the cavity of the microwave oven make the meal in a rounded container a waveguide because standing waves occur inside the food. The modes inside the food can be estimated based on the theoretical analysis and the solutions of the electromagnetic fields of modes can be obtained by Maxwell's equations that are not given here for reasons of simplification but which can be found in “Foundation of Microwave Engineering” (R. E. Collin IEEE Press, 1991).
In the context of a circular resonating side layer, the following equation can be held:
For frozen meals, the dielectric constants are usually ranging from 3 to 5, therefore, the resonating mode inside can be calculated based on the graphed equation of
Radius a (cm) (2afnml) 2a/d TEnml modes supported 4 15.4.108 2.3 TE111, TE010, TM110 5 24.108 2.8 TE111, TM010, TM110 6 34.5.108 3.4 TE111, TE211, TM010, TM110, TM011
According to the solutions of these modes, TE modes usually carry more electrical energy than TM modes, therefore the focus is on TE modes. Electromagnetic fields at cross sections are plotted in
It can be noted that the first two numbers n and m for the Tnml propagation modes really matter with respect to the heating distribution in the food because it corresponds to the largest transverse distribution in the horizontal direction. The third number 1 describes the distribution in the vertical (or z-axis) direction. Since it distributes along a short distance, i.e., the thickness of the meal, there is no much change in this direction except due to the dielectric loss factor.
When the meal is in a normal container heated in a microwave oven, the meal can be seen as a dielectric resonator. At a frequency of f=2450 MHz, the resonating mode can be found through the following equations:
tan(βd/2)=α/β where α=square root [(p′ nm /a)2 −k 0 2]
and β=square root [εr .k 0 2−(p′ nm /a)2] and,
k 0=2 πf/c
As an example, for a radius a of 5 cm and dielectric constant, εr, of 4, the resonating mode is TE31 which has a cold center as shown in
For simplification purpose, the calculations in the examples have been made on a circular resonating configuration. However, it has been found by experiments that an elongated rounded resonating mode would perform at least as well as the circular mode and would be supposedly based on a similar theoretical analysis. Relevant literature references for more understanding of microwave theoretical analysis can be found in  R. E. Collin, Foundations of Microwave Engineering, IEEE Press, 1991, and  D. M. Pozar, Microwave Engineering, Addison-Wesley, 1993.
As used herein, the term “rounded” refers to a curved line configuration with no significant zone or portion of intersecting lines that would form angles equal to or less than 90 degrees. The term “oval” refers to any closed elongated convex curve having preferably two axis of symmetry. The term oval includes an elliptical curve but also a non-symmetrical or deformed curve or a curve having a few straight or concave portions but having a general elongated rounded shape. As an example, a bean-like shape is included. The “axial distance” refers to the longest distance that separates two points of the circumferential microwave reflective surface at about the level of the food upper surface when the food surface remains below the upper edge of the plate or container. Alternatively, the “axial distance” refers to the longest distance that separates two points at the upper edge of the circumferential microwave reflective surface when the food surface is such that it projects above the upper edge of the container. The line that links the said two points enables to define a primary axis. The food may project above the plate or container when the container is shallow and/or have relatively low inclined sides (for instance, a dinner plate).
Similarly, the “transverse” distance refers to the distance that separates two other points of the circumferential microwave reflective surface at about the level of the upper food surface, as taken along a secondary axis intersecting the primary axis at its centerline, when the food surface remains below the upper edge of the plate or container. The “transverse” distance refers to the distance that separates two other points at the upper edge of the circumferential microwave reflective surface, as taken along a secondary axis intersecting the primary axis at its centerline, particularly when the food surface is such that it projects above the upper edge of the container.
The axial and transverse dimensions may be equal in the context of a regular shape such as a circular shape or contour.
Where the term “substantially” is used, that term is generally defined to mean at least about 95% of the value referred to, to preferably at least about 100% of the value referred to.
|Cited Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US586412 *||Nov 2, 1896||Jul 13, 1897||Ice-velocipede|
|US4351997 *||Aug 20, 1980||Sep 28, 1982||Societe d'Assistance Technique pour Porduits Nestle S.A.||Food package|
|US4416907 *||Sep 30, 1982||Nov 22, 1983||Golden Valley Foods Inc.||Process for preparing food packages for microwave heating|
|US4626641 *||Dec 4, 1984||Dec 2, 1986||James River Corporation||Fruit and meat pie microwave container and method|
|US4661672 *||Jan 2, 1986||Apr 28, 1987||House Food Industrial Company, Limited||Container for use in heating by microwave oven|
|US4706839 *||Oct 31, 1986||Nov 17, 1987||Instrumed, Inc.||Closures and methods of closure for a sterilization container system|
|US4763790 *||Aug 14, 1987||Aug 16, 1988||Waddingtons Cartons Limited||Heat treatable containers|
|US4851631 *||Oct 23, 1986||Jul 25, 1989||The Pillsbury Company||Food container for microwave heating and method of substantially eliminating arching in a microwave food container|
|US4903843 *||Mar 22, 1988||Feb 27, 1990||Folien Fischer Ag||Foil sheath for objects, especially packages of goods|
|US5416304 *||Feb 18, 1993||May 16, 1995||Kraft General Foods, Inc.||Microwave-reflective device and method of use|
|US5493103 *||Dec 27, 1993||Feb 20, 1996||Kuhn; James O.||Baking utensil to convert microwave into thermal energy|
|US5986248 *||May 21, 1998||Nov 16, 1999||Snow Brand Milk Products Co., Ltd.||Food container for microwave heating or cooking|
|US6222168 *||Oct 25, 1996||Apr 24, 2001||Medical Indicators, Inc.||Shielding method for microwave heating of infant formulate to a safe and uniform temperature|
|US6682764 *||May 18, 1998||Jan 27, 2004||Commonwealth Scientific And Industrial Research Organization||Microwave browning of vegetables|
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US8323541 *||Feb 22, 2012||Dec 4, 2012||Asml Netherlands B.V.||Imprint lithography|
|US20110303656 *||Dec 15, 2011||Blodgett Jr Carol||Food storage bag holder|
|US20120153538 *||Jun 21, 2012||Asml Netherlands B.V.||Imprint lithography|
|International Classification||A23L1/16, A23L1/01, B65D81/34|
|Cooperative Classification||B65D2581/3462, B65D2581/3404, A23L1/1606, B65D81/3453, B65D2581/3441, A23L1/0128, B65D2581/3491|
|European Classification||B65D81/34M1, A23L1/16B, A23L1/01F|
|Mar 11, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: NESTEC S.A., SWITZERLAND
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ZHANG, HUA;HAYERT-BONNEVEAU, LAURENCE;YOUT, WILLIAM;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015889/0489;SIGNING DATES FROM 20040908 TO 20040922