Custom Food Processing Equipment and Systems



VOLUME 37 NO. 8

Gem Equipment manufactures a relatively broad line of equipment for the french fry potato industry. The three largest are blanchers, batter applicators and fryers. The big blanchers date back to the 1970’s, fryers to the 1980’s and batter applicators to the 1990’s. The first batter applicator was manufactured in 1991. Gem’s first contact with batter application was a rebuild job in the late 1980’s for a french fry potato line that was being converted from conventional to battered product. The customer had acquired a well used batter applicator that needed a new belt and some repairs. Since this company was already manufacturing a first stage fryer to feed their existing fryer, work on the batter applicator was included with this order. This was a logical move. The batter applicator fed the first stage of the fryer. While this conversion was successful and their product did well at the marketplace, battered product did reduce line volume.

The first batter applicator manufactured by Gem Equipment replaced the used applicator referred to above. This order was a surprise. Why was it a surprise? The customer had converted a second line to battered product. While this company furnished the fryer for this second line, the customer decided to use two smaller sized batter applicators, each battering half the product flow. Batter applicators for appetizers were a proven product; many of them were in operation. Gem Equipment had never designed and/or built a batter applicator. Shortly after the second conversion started operation, this company received a phone call from the engineering manager in the plant with the first batter line conversion. “I’m coming for a visit to get you started on designing the applicator to replace the one you rebuilt for our batter line.” That phone call added batter applicators to this company’s product line.

The customer ordered a batter applicator with a six foot wide belt matching the width of the existing fryer. While at that time there were a very few wider french fry fryers in operation, for most plants maximum fryer width was six feet. Although design details have changed through the years, the basic configuration for french fry batter applicators has not. A uniform depth of product is conveyed through a relatively short, full width dip tank. A hold down device makes sure all product passes through the batter. Batter is fed into the applicator through a flume that discharges over a full width weir to make sure batter feeds evenly across the width of the product flow. In the early applicators the hold down was a belt that had the same specifications as the belt carrying the product. Wider batter applicators and fryers made their debut in 1996. This was driven by processors’ desire to process battered product without reducing product flow rates.

By the mid 1990’s battered product was driving the size of many french fry potato frying systems. This led to development of eight foot wide fryers and batter applicators in 1996. The eight foot wide batter applicator used two four foot wide rod belts side by side. The belts had formed twelve gauge stainless steel side chains. An early upgrade replaced the two hold down belts with a single full width drum. Replacing the sheet metal side chains with a much stronger machined version was another upgrade. More recently a single full width belt has replaced the two side by side belts for carrying product. Increasing processing line capacity has driven the width of batter applicators. Currently ten foot wide applicators are in operation. If you need high volume batter application, contact Gem Equipment.