Standardized solutions for creating QSR products

How to produce fixed-weight, fixed-shape fast food cubes?

Chicken Strips Wraps Tenders

Poultry processors are asked to add more and more value to their products, while keeping their production costs as low as possible. This is not only true in the retail market, but also in the food service market and most of all in the QSR (quick service restaurants) market. Marel understands what’s going on in the markets and is able to offer standardized solutions for the creation within specs of QSR whole muscle meat products such as cubes, strips and burgers, while ensuring highest yield and low labor dependency.

The market for portioned products can be very diverse, mostly depending on the type of end product. The QSR industrial standards formulate the strictest demands. The end product must be uniform, standardized, consistent and repeatable. In the QSR market, cooking time is also important, but the highest priority is given to the fact that products are ‘always the same’. Marel has developed standardized production processes that comply with such precise specifications.

I Cut 122 Strip Cutting

Solutions, not machines

In the QSR market, products such as McCrispy, Zinger Burger, Chicken Tender Strips, skewer meat, nuggets and popcorn are all standardized. They have one thing in common: their production requires multiple cuts or multiple processes. Single machines can’t meet the requirements anymore, so complete solutions are necessary. Marel can support processors in making the right product-market combinations by implementing its dedicated standardized solutions.

Raw material

If the end products should be QSR cubes, Marel can offer a standardized process and can also advise on the raw material. For making a fast-food cube, a calibrated product is preferable. That’s because a weight-calibrated product gives a better uniformity of the end product and a better control of the process. However, purchasing calibrated raw material is more expensive than uncalibrated product. And the availability could sometimes be an issue.

If the raw material is uncalibrated, it’s the exact opposite. The process can’t be controlled properly, meaning that it will be more difficult to produce the cubes just as nice as the QSRs want them to be. So the impact of the raw material must not be underestimated.  

Dices Cubes

What’s the difference between dicing and cubing?

A dicing machine isn’t useful for QSR fixed-weight fixed-shape cube cutting. If you take all the fillets and simply cut as many cubes out of them as possible, you’ll get some smaller and some bigger pieces, all with different shapes and different weights. You have no control over this process, and that’s what we call dicing. Those dices typically go to supermarkets into bags of 500 gram, and you’ll use them for goulash or stir fry. It is true that you’ll get more dices than cubes out of a fillet, but this presumable yield win isn’t valid for QSR purposes.  

Fixed-weight cubing for QSRs requires a specific procedure, with an analysis of each individual fillet or strip. Therefore, cubing needs more processes and intelligent software to make it work, it is not simply cutting squares. The uniformity and consistency of the production process for every single cube are crucial. Meeting these strict requirements is an absolute necessity, because QSR chains only accept 18-22 gram or 15-20 gram fixed-weight cubes that have the same shape and dimensions. The challenge is to achieve the highest yield out of every fillet, with the lowest possible giveaway.

Cubing is not simply cutting squares. More processes and intelligent software are needed to make it work.

Morten Dahlqvist

Morten Dalqvist
Marel Product Specialist Portioning

The cubing process

The preparation of the fillets before portioning, such as height calibration, is also very important. Marel’s SmartSplitter performs horizontal slicing, with its knife set at a fixed position. Lying on the conveyor belt, the fillet enters the SmartSplitter and anything that is above the height of the knife will be cut away. The end result is a piece of trim and a nice, calibrated piece of breast meat.

The cubing process needs the height-calibrated breast fillet as its input. First, the I-Cut 122 TrimSort portion cutter cuts the fillets into strips. After this, the additional process makes the same I-Cut 122 cut the strips into cubes. The recipe for this process is easy to program via the HMI display of the I-Cut 122. It is controlled by internal machine software, which can be combined with overarching Innova process control software.

Flexibility

This standardized configuration can produce high volumes of in-spec cubes. Marel knows exactly how to produce the strips with the required characteristics and the right quality and avoid making them look like French fries. Irrespective of what kind of raw material is brought in, it is always possible to create a high-quality strip and cube.
This solution is very flexible. Processors who don’t produce cubes day-in-day-out, want to make other types of products too. That can be done by adding a SensorX, a RoboBatcher or even another component to the line. In this way, the same portioning line setup can produce burgers, tenders, and schnitzels.

Compilation Of Cuts2402
Mccrispy Black

McCrispy

A relatively new product in McDonald’s core menu around the world is the McCrispy. It is the company’s first new permanent chicken burger menu item in 15 years. It is a 70-gram teardrop design whole muscle burger, in fact a crunchy breaded fillet, and it will be on equal terms with the Big Mac, Nuggets or Quarter Pounder. Marel already knows how to produce the McCrispy and has solutions available.


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