Using The Functional Properties of Starch to Enhance Instant Products (Soups, Sauces, and Gravies)

Most instant foods are sold as dry mixes. These mixes thus require the consumer to prepare by reconstitution. Usually this involves water or other basic liquids commonly sold, i.e., juices, milk, broth. The reconstitution could require the use of heat.

The commercial process to manufacture these dry mixes usually involves the blending of several ingredients before packaging. Starches used in these foods are typically of low moisture content. Instant starches are usually less than 5% moisture and if cook-up starches are incorporated, they would most likely possess a moisture of less than 10%. Usage levels for added starch is typically 8%-15% based on mix weight.

Instant foods can and are produced commercially via spray-drying preblended mixtures, or utilization of freeze-drying, drum-drying, or extrusion. Starches used in foods of this type generally contribute to the product functionality and characteristics. Viscosity, texture, stability, appearance, and eating quality can be either controlled or affected by the incorporation of starch.

Instant foods processed via spray-drying, drum-drying, or extrusion may not support the use of added starches. The process may adequately gelatinize any natural starches within the mix.

Instant mixes formulated with instant modified starch usually require the addition of ingredients for dispersion. Such products may already be included in the product formula, but if not, ingredients such as sucrose, dextrose, low-DE sweetener solids, maltodextrins, and/or flours can be used as the dispersing aids. These will eliminate or significantly reduce the potential of lumping or “fish eyeing,” as it might be referred to.

Some manufacturers have utilized the technique of agglomeration, as a method to reduce lumping during hydration. Another method may be to request not only a modified instant starch, but one of coarser particle size. The larger particle reduces the surface area available for hydration and thus results in slower water uptake. It can produce a somewhat initial grainy texture as compared to the other accepted procedures. Also the reverse is possible by utilizing a finer particle size, thus increasing surface area and increasing hydration rate.

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