Important Processing Considerations

There are a number of important steps and considerations in making surimi-based seafood products:

1. Use of high-quality surimi is essential in making fi-berized products that require a highly elastic and resilient texture. Surimi of good quality can be readily recognizable, as its paste becomes tacky, glossy, and translucent on chopping with salt and is extruded smoothly In contrast, surimi of poor quality produces a dull, opaque, and less tacky paste that breaks easily when extruded.

2. Selection of ingredients is determined by the formulation needs, primarily gel strength and freeze-thaw stability requirements. Type and level to be used should be carefully determined so that a desirable texture can be obtained in the finished products.

3. Water may be added so that the moisture level remains at 78 to 80%, as a maximum, in the paste. The amount of water to be added depends on the quality of the surimi, particularly its water-holding capacity. In a given surimi system, the amount of water to be added must be determined on the basis of the moisture content of surimi, the amount of starch and other water-absorbing ingredients added, and the desired texture, particularly the firmness and elasticity of the finished products.

4. Chopping must be sufficient for maximum solubilization of actomyosin, and carried out below the tem perature that fish actomyosin tolerates; for example, 10°C for Alaska pollock.

5. Setting of the paste extrudate should occur slowly and to a moderate degree without surface drying. The setting time is generally controlled by the length and width of the conveyor belt. The longer the setting takes, the better the product becomes. If setting is achieved in a short time at a high temperature, the extrudate becomes less manageable for fiberization, and the texture of finished products may be less elastic and resilient. The flavor may also be thermally altered by the elevated temperature. An optimum temperature-time relationship must be determined to obtain a desirable setting condition.

6. In selecting formulation, several considerations must be made as to what the product requirements are, what form of product will be manufactured (fi-berized, molded, or composite-molded), what kind of texture is required (soft-moist, rubbery, fibrous, etc), and what form of product will be marketed (refrigerated or frozen). If it is to be distributed frozen, the expected time span on the market shelf and the kind of freeze-thaw stability needed for that time span must be considered. Other considerations are the type of formulation (starch, protein, starch-protein combination, low sugar, and salt), the nutritional equivalency, and the level of ingredients to be used (low or high). These Eire all interrelated and the optimization of formulation would vary with each ingredient group, namely, starch, protein, or starch-protein.

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