Baking and Coating Substitutes for Frying Food

Professor Ya-Jane Wang (third from left) is recognized for her research with (from left) Jean-Francois Meullenet, head, Food Science; Mark Cochran, vice president for agriculture, and Lisa Childs, assistant vice president for technology commercialization.
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Professor Ya-Jane Wang (third from left) is recognized for her research with (from left) Jean-Francois Meullenet, head, Food Science; Mark Cochran, vice president for agriculture, and Lisa Childs, assistant vice president for technology commercialization.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It looks, feels and tastes fried, but a baked coating developed by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture may one day allow consumers to enjoy their favorites without all the guilt, fat and calories.

The Division of Agriculture has developed technology for the new patent-pending coating and has licensed it to Tekcapital PLC, a United Kingdom-based global university technology and intellectual property services company. Ya-Jane Wang, a professor of food science in the Division of Agriculture, is a co-inventor of the technology.

Tekcapital said the technology represents an important opportunity with potential adoption for mass marketing.

"The Division of Agriculture is pleased to enter into this agreement with Tekcapital as a way of advancing our work for the public good," said Mark Cochran, UA System vice president for agriculture. "Dr. Wang's efforts can potentially make a significant dietary impact for consumers."

"We developed this new food coating to provide a healthier alternative to fried foods that retains the taste and appeal of these popular products," Wang said. "Initial studies have found that there is no significant difference in the taste of the baked food using the coating and fried food, which clearly has a much higher fat content. We are very excited about the potential for this new coating to improve health."

The invention is an improved composition and process to bring liquid oil into a coating system, which consists of "predust," batter and breading for food products. The predust is a base component of the coating that helps the batter cling better. Wang said this reduces the fat content in the finished product by about 60 percent and enables baked products to successfully substitute for higher fat content fried foods.

Traditional coating systems use a low amount of oil because too much oil causes the predust and breading to turn into dough-like clumps. Added oil will also separate and float to the top of the batter. Because the starch – modified by enzymes to create a honeycomb-like structure that absorbs oil – delivers oil at each step into the coating system, it increases the oil content in the coating and consequently improves the sensory quality of baked products to give them the taste of being fried.

The cooking process also requires exposure to steam in addition to baking, Wang said. Steam is now a common step in preparation of many fast foods, she added.

The tests were run on chicken nuggets, but Wang noted the process can be applied to other foods that consumers like to eat fried such as chicken drumsticks and wings and onion rings.

Tekcapital said it believes the new technology has the potential to enable consumers who enjoy fried foods to benefit from a food with the taste, texture and appearance of fried food but with lower fat concentration. Health professionals advise that lower-fat diets can protect against obesity and obesity-related diseases.

"We are excited to have agreed to acquire this exclusive license from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and look forward to commercializing this technology with leading, forward thinking food companies that can benefit from improving the nutritional content of their product offerings," said Clifford M. Gross, executive chair of Tekcapital.


David Edmark, interim coordinator
Agricultural Communication Services


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