In South East Asia where leg meat reigns supreme, this meat is the base for further processed products such as sate, yakitori and karaage, now also appreciated by consumers in North America, Europe and Oceania.
In these markets, however, breast meat still forms the base for most boneless convenience and snack products, even for local versions of Far Eastern recipes. Where legs are sold further processed, this is usually either in the form of bone-in products predominantly for the barbecue and snack markets or ground up as an ingredient in nugget, pattie and sausage recipes.
Bone-in leg products are the ideal finger food. Ready-to-cook, they can be enjoyed outside beside the barbecue on a warm summer evening. Ready-to-eat, they are a favorite at stand-up social gatherings such as weddings and parties all the year round. They will often have been marinated; ready-to-eat products will usually have a batter, breading or crumb coating.
The first stage in the further process is often marination which is done fully inline and which can be either wet (ValueSpray) or dry (ValueDrum). Both processes guarantee excellent pick-up and uniform distribution of the marinade. Legs and drumsticks can be coated and heat treated. For each process Marel offers a number of attractive and efficient inline options, so that processors are always able to choose the right combination of equipment for making the right products for their markets.
Outside of the Far East thigh meat is not yet widely used in further processing. Nugget and pattie products can, however, can contain ground-up thigh meat either on its own or mixed with trim from other chicken cuts.
For these products, Marel offers complete systems, which can include its globally successful RevoPortioner. This low pressure portioning machine transforms mixes made from ground meat and/or muscle meat offcuts into products of consistent shape, weight and size. These largely retain the structure and texture of muscle meat to give consumers a satisfying “bite”.
“RevoPortioner is also often used to make reformed natural looking products such as tenderloins, fillets or steaks from breast meat offcuts”, says Pieter Klaas Hopma Zijlema. “There is no reason why such products could not also be made from offcuts from tasty and succulent thigh meat.”
The helix drum technology is the latest development of the RevoPortioner. With virtually no meat loss, unrivaled weight control, the possibility to portion whole muscle products and the lowest possible cost of ownership, this is the next step in continuous portioning of end products. The new, patented helix drum technology enables processors to raise production volumes, increase the operational window and reduce wear and tear of the system.
Marel produces a range of I-Cut portioners, currently used mainly to trim breast fillet into portions of a standard weight and/or size for sale raw or for use in further processed breast meat products. They are equally capable of handling fresh deboned thigh meat. In the USA, Marel Poultry is about to launch an integrated solution for the production of whole muscle nuggets. This consists of two I-Cut 122 portioners with an intermediate SingleFeed StripPositioner. The first I-Cut machine cuts the infeed material into equal strips which are then turned through 90 degrees before being cut into equal cubes in the second machine. In the Far East, the infeed material for the process would usually be deboned thigh meat.
Formed and portioned products are often then coated. Marel can supply systems for virtually all types of wet and dry coating. Tempura originated in Portugal and was taken to Japan many centuries ago by missionaries and traders. Tempura coated products have been popular in North America, Europe and Oceania for many years now, although these are usually based on white meat. The Japanese originals, however, use thigh meat.
When it comes to heat treatment, Marel can supply a range of options from fryers to Linear Ovens, Spiral Ovens and high volume Modular Ovens, allowing products to be steamed, cooked or roasted.
Outside of the Far East, leg meat is currently an underexploited resource! This underrated meat is, however, becoming ever more popular and recent developments such as the high-speed Thigh Fillet System will make high yield, high-quality thigh meat ever more available at an ever more acceptable cost. There is therefore exciting potential for processors to “stretch their legs” by further processing them.
Not only can Marel offer the full range of equipment needed, Marel Further Processing technologists, fully aware of the latest thigh leg meat trends across the globe, stand ready to advise on both the products themselves and on the machinery to make them. They will be delighted to repeat the Marel Further Processing mantra; “Your end product is our starting point”.