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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
LIQUID REMOVAL SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2013/074620
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Various embodiments of the present invention comprise a liquid removal device used to remove excess poaching water or cooking oil from cooked foods. Devices of the present invention comprise a basket and a gas stream that is at least momentarily focused toward and into the basket. The device is configured to move a basket of cooked food into and out of a path of streamed ambient air, heated air or steam. In various embodiments, the gas stream is directionally focused by one or more air jets or air knives.

Inventors:
MILLIKIN RORY C P (CA)
THEIS THOMAS J (US)
Application Number:
US2012/065004
Publication Date:
May 23, 2013
Filing Date:
November 14, 2012
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SPINFRY, INC. (5367 Trillium Lane, Kelowna, British Columbia V1W 457, 457, CA)
International Classes:
A23C15/14
Foreign References:
US20040194635A12004-10-07
US20100258109A12010-10-14
US5611265A1997-03-18
US20100206179A12010-08-19
US20100037782A12010-02-18
US20050011370A12005-01-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOYD, Damon (Snell & Wilmer L.L.P, One Arizona Center400 E. Van Bure, Phoenix Arizona, 85004-2202, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WE CLAIM

1 . A device comprising:

a basket for holding a food item:

at least one gas stream directed toward said basket; and

a housing defining an interior and enclosing a liquid removal area, said basket and said at least one gas stream.

2. The device of claim 1, further comprising a cooking vessel.

3. The device of claim 2, wherein said basket is movable along a path crossing said at leas one gas stream.

4. The device of claim 3, further comprising automated linear actuators configured to move said basket along said path.

5. The device of claim 4, further comprising a controller.

6. The device of claim 5, wherein said controller is programmable,

7. The device of claim i, wherein said gas stream comprises at least one of ambient air, heated air and steam.

8. The device of claim L further comprising at least one air jet delivering said at least one gas stream.

9. The device of claim 1 , further comprising a heater within said housing.

10. The device of claim 1, further comprising a structure within said basket capable of moving a food item.

1 1. The device of claim 1, wherein said basket is movable in pivoting fashion past said at least one gas stream.

12. The device of claim S , further comprising a motor attached to said basket capable of vibrating said basket.

13. The device of claim 1 , further comprising a plenum at least momentarily charged with said gas.

14. The device of claim 1, further comprising two center diffuser plates positioned parallel to each other within said basket.

15. The device of claim 14, further comprising a plurality of openings configured in each of said center diffuser plates.

16. The device of claim 1. further comprising an air blower to produce said gas stream.

17. A method of removing liquid from a cooked food kern comprising; cooking said food item in a basket submerged in a liquid contained in a cooking vessel;

moving said basket along a path from said cooking vessel to a li uid removal area; and

directing a gas stream toward said basket.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising a controller configured to move said basket.

Description:
LIQUID REMOVAL SYSTEM

Field Of The Invention

The present invention relates to devices, systems and methods for removing a liquid. More specifically, the present invention relates to devices, systems and methods for removing liquids such as oil from fried food using a gas such as air or steam.

Background of the Invention

A popular method of cooking many food items is to fry or deep fry them. A brief list of foods that may be deep fried include various vegetables, french fries, potato chips, chicken, pork, beef, candy bars, ice cream, etc. Many other types of food are amenable to deep frying. Deep frying generally involves immersing the food item in a high-temperature, fat-based solution, such as cooking oil (e.g., canola oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, liquefied shortening, etc.) until the food is cooked.

While fried foods have a certain appeal due to the particular taste and texture imparted to foods that are fried, such fried foods have some undesirable characteristics. For example, immersing foods in cooking oil results in fat being introduced into the food, and this fat is not generally beneficial to the person consuming the food. Furthermore, conventional deep frying methods generally do not attempt to remove this added fat. The added fat that is consumed with fried foods raises health concerns because a high level of fat in one's diet is generally not recommended for good health and nutrition. High quantities of saturated fats such as those found in fried foods have been linked to adverse medical conditions.

Somewhat similarly, excess oil in fried foods prevents sodium and other seasonings from reaching the taste buds. If oil can be reduced, an enhanced flavor profile can be realized, allowing for the reduction of seasoning and sodium, and likewise providing potential health benefits. Likewise, reduction of oil expands the menu of foods that may be fried without sacrificing taste and health. For example, vegetables that would otherwise not be "fry-able" because residual oil would leave a poor or less than desirable taste, would become fry-able if the oil could be reduced or removed.

Thus, it is desirable to remove fat from fried foods prior to serving the foods, and the present invention provides new and effective means for removing excess fat from fried foods. Summary of the Invention

As set forth in the detailed description, in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention, systems, methods and apparatuses for removing excess liquids such as oil or water from foods are disclosed. A liquid removal device in accordance with the present invention generally comprises a basket for holding a food item, a gas stream, such as an air stream directed into the basket, and a housing having an interior that encloses both the basket and the gas stream. Methods for removal of liquid in accordance with the present invention generally comprise frying a food item in a basket and then blowing the oil off the food item by directing a stream of a gas (such as ambient air, heated air or steam) over the food. As will be described in more detail herein below, at least one air jet in any orientation may be used to directionally focus at least one gas stream over the food. Additionally, the basket may be moved in various ways (e.g., agitated, tumbled, vibrated, or the like) to assist in removing the oil and preventing the food from sticking to itself and/or the basket. In accordance with the present invention, the basket may be moved past stationary air jets, the air jets may be moved past a stationary basket, or both the basket and the one or more air jets may move past each other. Once oil is removed, the food may be ejected from the basket, for example, into a finished food receiving section.

Devices as disclosed herein may have various features including, but not limited to, housings, covers and access hatches, air or liquid baffles, various automated functions (air speed and temperature, air jet sequencing and directional movement, basket movement, etc.), heating elements, food particle and crumb collectors, food and oil holding areas, dispersed oil collectors and redirectors, oil filters, microprocessors, vibration dampening, and the like. As will become apparent from the following descriptions and attached figures, numerous embodiments and numerous benefits are realized from the present invention, including, but not limited to maintaining the temperature of the fried food items at desired temperatures, using residual heat to heat the gas directed at the food, maintaining device and food item temperatures, reusing and recycling oil and seasoning, reducing amount of seasoning on food, and others not specifically mentioned herein. Additionally, devices in accordance with the present invention are cost effective and simple enough to add on to existing kitchens and food preparation systems.

Brief Description of the Drawings

The subject matter of the invention is particularly pointed out and distinctly claimed in the concluding portion of the specification. The invention, however, both as to structure and method of operation, may best be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the claims and the accompanying drawing figures, in which like parts may be referred to by like numerals, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a device in accordance with the present invention;

FIGS. 2a, 2b are top views of devices according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 3a and 3b are top views of devices according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 4, 5 , 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1 1 and 12 are cross-sectional views of devices according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 13 and 14 are cross-sectional views of baskets in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 1 5 , 1 6 and 17 are cross-sectional views of devices according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 18 and 1 are top views of baskets in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 20a, 20b and 21 are cross sectional views of baskets in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 22 and 23 are cross-sectional views of devices according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a device according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 25 is a top view of a basket in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 26 is a front view of a device in accordance with exemplary embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The detailed description herein makes use of various exemplary embodiments to assist in disclosing the present invention. While these exemplary embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, it should be understood that other embodiments may be realized and that different combinations and modifications of structures, arrangements, applications, proportions, elements, materials, or components used in the practice of the instant invention, in addition to those not specifically recited, can be varied or otherwise particularly adapted to specific environments, manufacturing specifications, design parameters or other operating requirements without departing from the scope of the present invention and are intended to be included in this disclosure. Thus, the detailed description herein is presented for purposes of illustration only and not of limitation.

In accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the system, methods, and devices disclosed herein discuss cooking foods, for example frying foods, and removing excess and/or unwanted liquid such as oil, fat, grease, water, and the like, and maintaining a desirable temperature within the food that is being cooked. The terms "cooking" and "frying" and formatives thereof are used interchangeably herein. Other mechanisms for cooking food besides frying fall within the scope of the present invention, such as boiling, blanching, steaming, poaching, simmering, steeping, and the like. For consistency, "frying" will be used throughout without limiting the methods of cooking for use in conjunction with embodiments of the present invention.

Additionally, in various embodiments of the invention, water may be used in place of cooking oil in order to boil, poach, blanch or otherwise cook certain foods. For example, foods are housed within a basket and cooked in heated water in a water section, where the water section takes the place of the oil section. Such foods that may be cooked by this process comprise pasta products and vegetables.

In various embodiments, a device in accordance with the present invention comprises at least one basket to hold food for cooking and for removal of excess liquid after cooking. In various embodiments disclosed herein, a basket may be of any shape or size (e.g., circular, square, rectangular or otherwise) and may comprise any configuration of mesh or perforations to provide a plurality of openings in the sides and bottom of the basket. In various embodiments, a basket may comprise a bottom and sides fabricated from a wire mesh, and an open top. In various embodiments, baskets in accordance with the present invention may be designed for specific food types, such as baskets with vertical basket slots for "planar" foods (e.g., hash brown patties, chicken patties, etc.). For example, for hash brown patties, it may be desirable to keep the patties upright. P T/US2012/065004

In various embodiments, a device in accordance with the present invention

comprises at least one gas stream, for example comprising at least one of ambient air, heated

air and steam. According to various aspects of the invention, cooking oil is removed from

the food by "air jetting" or passing a stream of air or steam over the food to blow oil off the

food. After cooking in the cooking liquid (e.g., oil or water), a basket containing the food

may be moved to a liquid removal air, such as an air jetting section, where excess liquid is

blown off the food by one more streams of air or steam directed from air jets, air blades or

air knives at and into the basket. Air jets can take any now known or as yet unknown

configuration including varying shapes, sizes (length of an air knife or orifice diameter of an

air jet or example) and angles of orientation, (e.g., as illustrated in the drawing figures).

Similarly, any number of air jets may be used in a device in accordance with the present

invention for removal of liquid from food items.

In various embodiments, a device in accordance with the present invention

comprises a housing that defines an interior enclosing a basket for holding a food item, at

least one gas stream directed toward the basket, and a liquid removal area. The housing may

be fabricated from sheet metal such as stainless steel or any other fabrication materials. The

housing may include one or more covers that open to access the interior. The interior of the

housing may be divided up into one or more food cooking areas and one or more liquid

removal areas. For example, a device may comprise a housing that encloses both a cooking

vessel and a liquid removal area where the vessel and the liquid removal area are proximate

to one another and a basket for holding a food item can be moved from the cooking vessel to

the liquid removal area and back.

In various embodiments, the basket may be capable of moving/agitating during

and/or after air jetting in order to expose different surfaces of the cooked food to the air jets,

to keep food items from sticking to each other, and/or to dislodge any food that is stuck in

the basket after air jetting. Baskets may for example be capable of moving laterally and/or

vertically, shaking, rocking or vibrating. Baskets may be moved/agitated in any way now

known or as yet unknown, but include mechanisms such as direct drive, belt drives, screw

and gearing mechanisms, center post drives (bottom or roof mount), basket edge drives and

the like. Similarly, various components can be incorporated into devices and baskets in

accordance with the present disclosure. For example, posts or ramps or other physically rigid

structures may protrude into and optionally move inside baskets to move, flip or otherwise

disturb the food within the basket to ensure that all surfaces of the food items are exposed to the air jetting. Baskets may raise and lower and/or laterally translate by means of a mechanical device operated manually or electronically controlled by a user. For example, by raising a handle which is attached to the basket or basket platform and which extends through a slot in the device, the basket may be raised until an edge of the basket engages a structure (e.g., a lip) which causes the basket to turn on an axis and eject the food, for example, into a chute or storage area. In various other embodiments, an automated controller may be activated to move the basket for air jetting and food dumping.

Air jetting can occur in the same basket in which the food is cooked, or the food, once cooked, can be moved and deposited into a different basket for air jetting. Depositing of food may occur in any suitable way. For example, food may simply be placed into the basket manually by an operator. Alternatively, the depositing of the food may be automated, for example via robotic/mechanical arms, conveyors and transport mechanisms which transport the food. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, in either respect, the present invention provides for rapid loading and unloading of fried food.

In various embodiments, oil blown off the food can be directed back into the cooking vessel. For example, oil may be blown directly off the food and back into the fryer vat to enhance oil recovery. Alternatively, walls surrounding the basket (which may be slanted to allow the oil to collect in a particular area), may "catch" blown oil as it is blown from the food, passing through basket and drip back into the fryer vessel. In various embodiments, the air jetted oil from the food may pass through a filter such as to remove food particles, breading and the like. In various embodiments, deflector plates may be used to block oil from being blown upwards and outside the housing of the device. For example, the air jetting of cooked food may be conducted in a liquid removal area of the device and covered with a lid that can contain and prevent air jetted oil from leaving the device. Such a closed- lid system can help to retain heat and conserve energy. Alternatively, in an open system, various deflection shields may be positioned around the air jetting area. For example, a shelf or other lateral protrusion may be configured in the walls surrounding the basket.

In various other embodiments, a recovery receptacle may surround the basket during air jetting to "catch" oil as it is blown from the food. In this way, oil is air jetted from the food, passes through the food basket, and ends up in the recovery receptacle. The walls of a recovery receptacle may be slanted to allow the oil to collect in a particular area, such as an area where the oil is to be drawn away. In such embodiments, a recovery receptacle may have a port (e.g., at the bottom of a slanted area) which allows the collected oil to be T/US2012/065004

recirculated elsewhere (e.g., returned to fryer, stored, etc.). Various manual or automated

valves may also be provided to control when, and the rate at which, oil flows from recovery

receptacle to the desired destination. The drain permits the removal of extracted oil without

removing any internal parts (such as an oil collection tray) from the oil removal device. In

an aspect of such embodiments, the drain can include a drain valve which can be used to

turn on and turn off or otherwise control the flow rate of extracted oil from the oil device.

Because air jetted oil may be collected in a recovery receptacle, the added benefit of keeping

residual heat within the device may be provided.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, once oil has been

removed from the fried food, the food can be ejected into a holding area. As described

below, a holding area may be within a device or external to the device. In various

embodiments, a misting system may be associated with the discharge of food. For example,

a liquid such as oil or water may be misted onto the air jetted foods. Such a misting may

facilitate the adherence of seasonings applied after the cooking and air jetting of the foods,

but be light enough such that it does not affect the other post-air jetted traits of the food (i.e.,

generally lower oil content, texture, flavor, etc.).

In various embodiments, entry and exit structures such as chutes may be specially

configured on the device to facilitate the introduction and ejection of certain foods from

specialized baskets. For example, a chute may be slotted for foods such as hash brown

patties that allow the foods to be deposited into the vertical basket slots. Similarly, exit

chutes may be similarly slotted. In various embodiments, a food exit chute may direct (or

even re-direct) food to an external or internal food holding drawer. For example, the basket

may "dump" the food via a rotating and/or translating arm(s). Alternatively, trap doors on

the bottom of the basket may open an allow food to pass externally through a chute or from

the basket to a drawer. An internal food holding drawer may provide benefits in that

additional heat sources for holding the food are unnecessary as the ambient heat within the

device maintains the food at desired temperatures for longer periods of time.

In various embodiments, a discharge system can eject foods into separate holding

trays either within the device itself or into separate holding trays outside the device. For

example, controllers can allow the selection of types of food, and thus their basket

destination, the parameters dictating the processing of such foods, and ultimately the

discharge of such food. In various embodiments, the discharge of the food may be

considered "smart" in that different foods are ejected into different holding systems. Thus, in such embodiments, multiple holding systems below the unit, separate from the unit, or otherwise proximate the unit are provided and selected by the system so that foods such as fish do not mix with fries due to a desire to avoid comingling of odors and flavors, allergies, or the like.

In various embodiments, the device includes components and mechanisms directed toward temperature control. Foods that are fried tend to have excess oil toward the surface as well as throughout the fried food item. As the fried food cools, the outside of the food tends to cool first. The warmer inside temperature of the food draws the excess oil on the surface of the fried food to the inside of the food, resulting in an undesirable texture and taste of the fried food as well as limiting the shelf life of the food. This cooling pattern increases the amount of oil within the fried food, contrary to many health trends. Various embodiments of the present invention provide mechanisms for reducing this unwanted cooling during and after the oil removal process, leaving the excess oil at the surface of the fried food to be removed before it is drawn to the center of the fried food, thereby resulting in a fried food that is healthier and more desirable than fried food produced by current methods.

For example, embodiments of the present invention comprise regulating the cooling of the food. After the food is fried in the oil, the food comprises an average temperature that is close to the temperature of the oil. When the food is removed from the oil, at a time t a , the average temperature in the oil begins to decline based on any number of factors. For example, if the food is exposed to room temperature, the average temperature will decline more rapidly than if the food is exposed to a higher ambient temperature. Thus, a change in temperature, ΔΤ may be defined as the difference between the average temperature at the time the food is removed from the oil and an average temperature at some other point in time, ¾,. C, then, is the ratio between ΔΤ and At, where At = ¾ - Exemplary embodiments of the present invention minimize cooling in order to prevent the collection of oil towards the center of the fried food prior to serving to a consumer. Additionally, exemplary embodiments reduce the total oil consumption of the food by removing the oil before the food begins to cool, thereby making the fried food healthier.

Examples of heating mechanisms used in connection with maintaining and regulating the temperature of the food, the device, and food holding areas used in accordance with the present invention include, but are not limited to, the hot air blown over the food, and heat lamps, radiant bulbs, heating elements and other heaters. Food holding 65004

areas can include "staging areas" where cooked food is maintained until it is ready to be air

jetted as described in more detail below, a "post-air jet" holding area, or any other area

where it would be desirable to maintain the cooked food at an elevated temperature.

As should be apparent, any mechanisms, known or as yet unknown, that can provide

heat and help maintain and regulate the temperature of the food and the environments and

structures through which the food passes should be considered within the scope of the

present invention, whether those mechanisms are integrated within or external to the systems

described herein. Additionally, various means of insulation may be provided and integrated

with devices as disclosed herein, such as in the housing, to help maintain the desired heat.

For example, various seals (e.g., rubber, polymer, etc.) may be configured around the

various covers and closure mechanisms, providing an insulation effect, as well as possible

other benefits such as sound and vibration dampening.

Food temperature may also be maintained by using heated air for air jetting. At least

some of the heat required to heat air can be captured from fryer heat flue, thus enhancing

energy efficiency and reducing emissions up kitchen stack. In various embodiments, a heat

exchanger may be provided to use what would otherwise be wasted residual heat from the

fryer vessel, components, and surrounding air, to heat the air that is forced through the air

jets and/or air knives. In various alternative embodiments, additional heating elements (e.g.,

electric, gas, etc.) may be used in place of, or to supplement, the heating of air for air jetting.

According to various exemplary embodiments of the present invention, devices used

herein are available in numerous sizes and/or capacities. All sizes and capacities of devices

discussed are contemplated within the scope of the present invention. For example, the

device may be available in commercial sizes for use by restaurants and other food-frying

establishments and large food manufacturers and producers that must produce hundreds, if

not thousands, of pounds of fried food every day. Commercial devices may range in size

depending on the desired capacity for the device. Other embodiments of the invention

provide a device that is amenable to use by smaller businesses and food stands, or even in a

user's home. For example, devices in accordance with the present invention may be

configured to be easily "retrofit" to existing kitchen cooking devices and appliances. Those

skilled in the art will appreciate that various embodiments of the present invention can

comprise floor models, ventless coiintertop models, pressure fryer models, and home

models. Materials used to construct the various components of the device described herein

may comprise any number and type of heat resistant materials, such as high temperature plastics, ceramics, metals, and the like, which are not detrimentally effected by the temperature of the oil and heating elements described herein.

In various embodiments in accordance with the present invention, a device for personal use may produce as little as one serving of food and may be configured to sit on a countertop. A smaller embodiment of the device may have two compartments with covers, one being the fryer compartment and the other being the air jetting compartment. The consumer can fry the food in the fryer compartment and then move the basket into the air jetting compartment.

In various embodiments, the device in accordance with the present invention may include various systems, mechanisms, and methods for damping vibration. Various damping mechanisms may be utilized in connection with any number of cooking devices that comprise air jetting and/or moving elements. Various mechanisms include basket partitions, basket material choices, various damping materials and springs placed at edges of the device, under the device, in connection with the air jetting and driving mechanisms, or at any other location configured to facilitate damping the vibrations to which the device and other structures may be subject.

In various embodiments, any number of parameters of the present invention may be automated with one or more controllers. For example, a controller may regulate, among other aspects, the amount of time for air jetting the food, movement of the basket(s), movement of foods from one section to another, air/steam speeds, or the like, all according to pre-programmed settings or from input from a user, for example through a key pad or various buttons, dials or switches. Controller may comprise any type of controller known in the art for controlling electrical and/or mechanical systems (e.g., printed circuit boards and the like). As a motor controller, a controller may direct the operation of a motor to move/agitate and/or move the basket. In other embodiments, controller accepts input from a user for temperature, air jetting time, and other factors a user would want to control in relation to the operation of the device. In further embodiments, a controller may control automatic extraction of the food from device when the cooking and air jetting process is complete. In other embodiments, devices in accordance with the present invention can include any number of automated safety features, for example, fire suppression systems such as an Ansul® automated system.

In various exemplary embodiments, the device may further comprise a timer. The timer may comprise an analog and/or digital timer which counts a user-defined time frame. For example, the user may enter a desired time frame, such as 30 seconds, which corresponds with the time required to remove a desired amount of oil from the fried food. In other embodiments, the timer may comprise a timer which counts up from zero to a desired time. In yet other embodiments, the timer may comprise an analog timer which counts down from a user-defined time frame. Any timer which is capable of counting a user-defined time frame is within the scope of the present disclosure.

With the above being noted, FIG. 1 illustrates a liquid removal device 100 in accordance with the present invention. In general, the liquid removal device 100 comprises a basket 102 for holding a food item, at least one gas stream 103, and a housing with an interior enclosing the basket 102, the at least one gas stream 103, and a liquid removal area where the liquid is removed from the food. In various embodiments, the one or more gas streams 103 are at least momentarily directed toward and into basket 102. In various embodiments, the device 100 is used to remove excess liquid, such as poaching water or frying oil, from food items 105 residing in the basket 102. The one or more gas streams may comprise forced air delivered from an air jet for the purpose of "air jetting" the food. In various embodiments, the one or more gas streams may emanate from suitably configured nozzles, blades or knives. In various embodiments, the basket 102 may be in motion at various times, as indicated by general movement 104. For example, the basket 102 may move laterally or vertically to cross in front of the one or more gas streams 103, or alternatively the basket 102 may vibrate, shake or rock above or underneath the one or more gas streams 103 to place each of the food items 105 into the path of the gas streams 103 for a period of time.

Referring now to FIG. 2a, air knife 206 may be used to provide a focused and directional stream of air or steam toward and into basket 202. For example, a basket 202 having a round shape may move underneath a stationary and radially oriented air knife 206, or the air knife 206 may move over a basket 202, or both the basket 202 and the air knife 206 may both move. The exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2b comprises three air knives 206 radially positioned over basket 202. Any number of air knives capable of focusing and directing a gas stream is within the scope of the present invention. In various embodiments, the air knives may be on a timing sequence that allows for a controlled removal of oil. For example, multiple air knives may be activated in a particular sequence (e.g. pattern, duration, etc.) to drive oil from the food. Referring now to FIG. 3a, stationary agitators, such as at least one finger 307 or other physical structure may protrude into the basket 302 to move the food items in the basket 302 as the basket 302 moves relative to the one or more air knives 306. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3b, stationary ramps 308 may be positioned in the basket 302 and configured to flip food items over in the basket 302 as the basket 302 moves relative to the one or more air knives 306. In the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 3a and 3b, one or more air knives 306 may be directed downward or at any angle into the basket 302 to impinge on food items residing in the basket 302. In various embodiments, a basket 302 may move through the path of the air streamed from the one or more air knives 306, with the food items in the basket 302 encountering solid structures or ramps capable of moving or flipping the food within the basket such that all the food is exposed to a jetted gas stream for a period of time.

With reference now to FIG. 4, a liquid removal device in accordance with the present invention comprises vessel 409 containing cooking water or frying oil 413. A cover 410 may be opened and closed allowing the interior 414 of the device to be accessed and the food deposited therein. The various covers such as cover 410 may further provide heat retention benefits by preventing the escape of heat within the device. As noted above, covers such as cover 410 may also be configured with various seals to provide insulation/heat retention and pressurization capabilities, as well as other benefits such as sound dampening. Further still, a cover such as cover 410 may be used at different locations on the device in accordance with various aspects of the present invention. For example, a cover may be present at both the ingress and egress points where food passes in and out of the device. In the exemplary embodiment, cover 410 may be secured with a lever 41 1, such as for example when vessel 409 is to be pressurized.

Still referring to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, a cooking basket 402 is positioned in an upper position "A" for loading and unloading food items. The cooking basket 402 is positioned in a lower position "B" for the cooking of the food items submerged in the oil 413. For example, the basket containing food may be lowered into oil as would be done in a conventional fryer. After cooking of the food, the basket 402 is raised back to position "A." While the basket 402 is being raised, and/or after the basket 402 is fully raised, one or more air jets 406 direct jetted air or steam streams into the basket to blow oil off the food to reduce oil and fat content. In various embodiments, air jets such as 406 may deliver air or steam only when the basket reaches the top of a lift cycle ( illustrated in the raised position "A"), or alternatively, both as it being raised and when it reaches the top of lift cycle as will be discussed below. Agitation of the basket as it rises, when parked at its peak lift cycle, and/or as it is air jetted, may help expose different surface areas of food to air streams. For example, rolling or tumbling of the food in the basket helps distribute and move the food, thereby exposing different surface areas of food to air streams. Air jets may be located throughout a fryer and/or in the housing of the device or hood (in embodiments which have such structures). As illustrated, the various air jets 406 may be attached to a manifold or plenum 412 that is filled with ambient or heated air or steam. Although illustrated with only one basket, the device in accordance with the present invention may comprise any number of baskets.

FIGS. 5a and 5b illustrate a sequence of preparing food in accordance with the present invention, comprising the cooking food of food and subsequent air jetting of food. The device 500 comprises a cooking vessel 509 fitted with a cover 510. The cover is securable with lever 51 1. As illustrated in FIG. 5a, the basket 502 is submerged in cooking oil 513 to cook the uncooked food 505a. As illustrated in FIG. 5b, the basket 502 may be raised to remove it from the oil and to pass the cooked food 505b in front of a plurality of air jets 506. The plurality of air jets 506 may attach to a plenum 512, and the air jets 506 may be angled in any direction. The basket 502 may be raised and lowered manually by handle 522 or by automation. The one or more air jets 506 blow the oil off the food. The oil swept off the food may then combine again with the bulk of the oil 513. After sufficient de-oiling, the cooked and de-oiled food 505b may be removed from the basket 502 and the cycle restarted with uncooked food.

Referring now to FIG. 6, a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a liquid removal device in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 600 comprises a cooking vessel 609 fil led with cooking oil 613, and a basket 602 attached to a translating arm 618 that pivots to raise and lower the basket 602 between the two positions illustrated. The device 600 further comprises a food discharge chute 616 and a fire suppression system 623 with an appropriately configured and directionally aimed fire suppression system nozzle 624. The device 600 also comprises a vented or ventless air filtration assembly 625. The device 600 cooks food when the basket is in the lowered position with the food submerged in the oil, and blows off excess oil from the cooked food as the basket is pivoted in front of the path of the one or more air knives 606. In this exemplary embodiment, air knives 606 are arranged in a relatively parallel arrangement to direct gas streams at and into the basket 602 as it passes in front of the air knives 606. When the basket reaches the uppermost position, the cooked and air jetted food may drop out of the food discharge chute 616. The chute 616 may also serve as a loading chute for the uncooked food.

With reference now to FIG. 7, a cross sectional view of another embodiment of a liquid removal device in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 700 comprises a cooking vessel 709 filled with cooking oil 713, and a basket 702 attached to a translating arm 718 that pivots to raise and lower the basket 702. The device 700 further comprises a food discharge chute 716 and a fire suppression system 723 with fire suppression system nozzle 724. The device 700 also comprises a vented or ventless air filtration assembly 725. The device 700 cooks food when the basket is in the lowered position with the food submerged in the oil, and blows off excess oil from the cooked food as the basket is pivoted past the one or more air knives 706. In this exemplary embodiment, air knives 706 are arranged in a relatively radial arrangement to direct gas streams at and into the basket 702 while it pivots and passes in front of them. When the basket reaches the uppermost position, the cooked and air jetted food may drop out of the food discharge chute 716. The chute 716 may also serve as a loading chute for the uncooked food.

With reference now to FIG. 8, a device 800 in accordance with the present invention comprises a basket 802 that pivots between a lower position and an upper position. The basket 802 is attached to a translating arm 818 configured to pivot at point 819. The pivoting motion is used to raise and lower basket 802. As the basket containing cooked food is raised from the lower to the upper position, the basket 802 passes in front of one or more appropriately configured and positioned air knives 806 that focus and direct gas streams at and into the basket 802 to remove the excess oil from the food. The device 800 also comprises both a food entry chute 815 for depositing food to be cooked and air jetted and a food exit/discharge chute 816 for removing food that is cooked and air jetted. Either chute may have its own cover that, in various embodiments, may be manually operated or automated. As illustrated, a cover on the food entry chute 815 may comprise a spring loaded "trap" door 817. In other embodiments, either chute may have multiple trap doors containing springs, pistons, or the like that bias the doors to a closed position. When food is placed on biased doors, the doors open (e.g., by the weight of the food itself) and allow the food to fall into device. Alternatively, the doors may be controlled by an operator or an automated process that signals and controls when the doors should open. With continued reference to FIG. 8, food may be ejected through the exit chute 816 into an external food storage area by the translating arm 81 attached to basket 802. As arm 818 moves basket 802 towards the exit chute 816, basket 802 turns and gravity allows the food to fall from basket 802 through the exit chute 816. This process may be manual or may be automated. For example, by turning a crank, the basket may be raised, and if needed, it may be translated to a dumping position, where it engages a lip or other section of the device proximate the exit chute 816 that causes the basket to turn or pivot and allow the food to be ejected through the chute. As illustrated in FIG. 8, the device 800 also comprises a drain pipe 820 and a valve 821 that may be used to drain and/or transfer the oil 813, and/or to refill the vessel with oil 813. If air jetting directs only into a separate reservoir, a similar drain pipe and valve can be used to remove oil which has been extracted from the fried food.

Referring now to FIG. 9, a cross sectional view of another exemplary embodiment of the device 900 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. The device 900 comprises similar features to the device 800 illustrated in FIG. 8. Therefore description of each of the components is not required. However, the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 9 comprises a radial arrangement of air knives 906 rather than a more parallel arrangement. Regardless of the particular placement, configuration and directional aim of the air knives 906, the basket 902 is movable such that it can pass directly in front of the air knives 906 as it is moved from a lower cooking position to an upper food unloading position.

With reference now to FIG. 10, a cross sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a device 1000 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 1000 comprises a basket 1002 attached to a motor 1026. The motor 1026 may be used to raise and lower the basket 1002, and/or to vibrate, shake or rock it. For example, the cooked food can be raised out of the oil 1013 contained in the vessel 1009, and then moved underneath the gas streams emanating from one or more air jets 1006. The air jets 1006 may be attached to a plenum 1012 such that forcing air or steam into the plenum 1012 will result in the air or steam being distributed amongst the one or more air jets 1006. Device 1000 also comprises a door 1017 that may be hinged or spring loaded, which can be opened for placing food into and/or for removing food out of the device. Device 1000 further comprises an automated fire suppression system 1023 with at least one appropriately configured and directionally oriented nozzle 1024. The device 1000 may comprise any commercially available fire suppression system such as an Ansul® system. The embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10 also comprises a vented or ventless air filtration assembly 1025.

Illustrated in FIG. 1 1 is an embodiment of the device 1 100 in accordance with the present invention, which comprises a heat exchange system. The device 1100 comprises an air blower 1 127 the forces ambient air past a heat exchanger 1 129. The heat exchanger 1 129 pulls heat from the exhaust heat 1133 moving from the cooking vessel 1 109 out through flue 1 130. In this way, heated air 1 134, rather than ambient air, is supplied to the one or more air jets 1 106 positioned for air jetting of cooked food.

Referring now to FIG. 12, a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a device 1200 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Although this embodiment of device 1200 comprises only two baskets 1202, a plurality of baskets may be provided within the device 1200 in various configurations (e.g., side-by-side, stacked, etc.). By providing multiple baskets, different foods can be kept segregated from others allowing for individual parameters relating to the processing to be controlled (e.g., keeping fish separate from French fries). Additionally, larger total output through multiple batching may be facilitated. Likewise, the structures (e.g., chutes, conveyors, etc.) used for delivering the foods to and from the baskets may be configured to distinguish and choose/elect between baskets, the type of food or the like. In this regard, a loading system can be programmed to ensure the input chute, via a mechanism, will load different foods into different baskets.

With further reference to FIG. 12, the device 1200 further comprises automatic basket lift arms 1231 that may be part of a controlled mechanism to raise and lower the various baskets 1202 such as into the oil 1213 and up into the path of air jetting. Air jetting of food is accomplished by locating at least one plenum 1212 in an area where a basket may move through, or where a basket may stop in a cycle. Any number of plenums 1212 may be configured in the device 1200. Each plenum may then have any number of air jets 1206 attached to it, with each air jet 1206 individually angled in any direction needed to adequately direct gas streams into the baskets and onto the food. Each air jet 1206 is configured to deliver a directionally focused gas stream 1203 as illustrated. By arranging the various plenums 1212, and by directionally adjusting each of the various air jets 1206, liquid removal from the food can be optimized. Additionally, each of the baskets 1202 comprise air diffuser plates 1235 and center diffuser plates 1232. The center diffuser plates 1232 are described in more detail below. In order not to add undue weight to the basket itself when gas streams are impinged on and into the basket, air diffuser plates 1235 may be attached to the automatic basket lift arms 1231 to make a platform structure onto which baskets 1202 may rest. Baskets 1202 may be placed manually on and taken off the platform using basket handles 1222. The set of air diffuser plates 1235 deflect any air streams away from the oil in the vat, thereby preventing oxygenation of the oil. Openings configured in the air diffuser plates 1235 allow for oil to percolate up through the plate to the food in the basket, thereby ensuring the cooking process is not affected. Furthermore, oil being blown away from the food can return to the oil vat below via openings configured in the air diffuser plates 1235.

Referring now to FIG. 13, a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a basket 1302 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Basket 1302 comprises two center diffuser plates 1332 that divide the basket 1302 into compartments. The plates are oriented perpendicular to the flat open top of the basket 1302 and are spaced relatively close together and parallel to one another. The two parallel center diffuser plates 1332 may be configured with any number of openings of any size, such as circular holes. As will be explained in more detail below, center diffuser plates 1332 are used to stop air jetted oil from reaching other food in the basket. Additionally, center diffuser plates 1332 partition a basket into smaller compartments so that smaller food items may be more readily accommodated and prevented from clumping together.

With reference now to FIG. 14, a cross sectional view of an embodiment of a basket 1402 comprising center diffuser plates 1432 is illustrated. Illustrated is the side view of a basket 1402 that has been cross-sectioned just in front of the first of a pair of parallel center diffuser plates 1432a and 1432b. As shown in the expanded view within FIG. 14, each center diffuser plate 1432a and 1432b comprises a plurality of openings 1436a and 1436b. An opening 1436a depicted with a solid line indicates that the opening is visible and is in the center diffuser plate 1432a positioned in front and in view, whereas opening 1436b depicted with a dashed line indicates that the opening is in the rear center diffuser plate 1432b and is not visible. As illustrated, the parallel center diffuser plates 1432a and 1432b are fabricated and positioned such that the set of openings 1436a in center diffuser plate 1432a do not substantially align with openings 1436b in center diffuser plate 1432b. In this way, an oil stream 1437 coming off of food during the air jetting process travels through opening 1436a in a center diffuser plate 1432a only to encounter a solid portion of plate 1432b a short distance therein. The oil stream 1437 can then deflect off the center diffuser plate 1432b, (as illustrated by oil deflections 1432), and run down and out of the basket 1402, rather than onto other food items in the basket. The center diffuser plates 1432a and 1432b, positioned parallel to one another and in close proximity provide a narrow channel to catch and direct air jetted oil away from the food and out of the basket.

Referring now to FIG. 15, a cross section of an embodiment of a liquid removal device 1500 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 1500 comprises a rotating drum 1540 that can continuously move food from a point of entry, through an air jetting area and out to a point of exit. Rotating drum 1540 may comprise a mesh or wire construction or a circular pan shape with radial partitions. The device 1500 further comprises a food entry chute 1515, a food discharge chute 1516, and a heater 1539. In various embodiments, a heater 1539 is optional depending on how the device is insulated, whether it is a closed or open system, and other variables. Device 1 00 also comprises one or more air jets 1506 configured to produce one or more directionally focused gas streams 1503. Also provided in the illustrated embodiment is an oil collection pan 1541. Cooked food to be air jetted may be dropped into the food entry chute 1515 where it enters the rotating drum 1540. The rotating drum 1540 then moves the food past the one or more air jets 1506 where oil is air jetted from the food. The air jetted food then is moved further around the drum to the point where it falls out of the drum and into the food discharge chute 1516.

Referring now to FIG. 16, a cross section of an embodiment of a liquid removal device 1600 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 1600 comprises a conveyor belt 1642 that can continuously move food from a point of entry, through an air jetting area and out to a point of exit. Conveyor belt 1643 may comprise any type of mesh or wire or other porous construction. The device 1600 further comprises a food entry chute 1615, a food discharge chute 1616, and a heater 1639. In various embodiments, a heater 1639 is optional depending on how the device is insulated, whether it is a closed or open system, and other variables. Device 1600 also comprises one or more air jets 1606 configured to produce one or more directionally focused gas streams 1603. Also provided in the illustrated embodiment is oil directing pan 1643 that directs the air jetted oil blown from the food into an oil collection pan 1641. Cooked food to be air jetted may be dropped into the food entry chute 1615 and onto the start of the conveyor belt 1642. The conveyor belt 1642 then moves the food past the one or more air jets 1606 where oil is air jetted from the food. The air jetted food then is moved further down the conveyor to the point where it falls off the conveyor and out of the food discharge chute 1616. Referring now to FIG. 17, an embodiment of a device 1700 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 1700 has a number of elements common to device 1600 illustrated in FIG. 16. Therefore, it is not necessary to repeat the description of these common elements having like element numbering. However, the exemplary embodiment of 5 the device 1700 illustrated in FIG. 17 further comprises a photoelectric eye 1744 that may be used to start the device 1700 when food is detected. For example, food that is deposited into the food entry chute 1715 may fall directly in front of the photoelectric eye 1744 causing the device 1700 to switch on, activating the movement of the conveyor belt 1742 and the evolution of the focused gas streams 1703. The device 1700 further comprises one

10 or more tumbler ramps 1745 that may be positioned along the route of the conveyor belt 1742. The tumbler ramps 1745 are appropriately shaped to flip particular foods over when the food item encounters the tumbler ramp 1745.

Referring now to both FIGS 18 and 19, two embodiments of baskets 1802 and 1902 in accordance with the present invention are illustrated. Each basket comprises a tumbler bar

15 1846 and 1946 that may be pulled up through the food in order to tumble the food and facilitate oil removal. Tumble bars such as 1846 and 1946 may be manually moved through the food in the basket or they may be automatically pulled through the food. The movement of the tumbler bar 1846/1946 through the food may occur when the food is being air jetted. Additionally, each of the baskets 1802 and 1902 illustrated may comprise a basket handle

20 1822 and 1922.

Referring now to FIGS. 20a and 20b, a basket 2002 comprising a tumbler bar 2046 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. In these drawing figures, the mesh of the basket 2002 is not illustrated so that the internal tumbler bar 2046 may be seen. As seen in FIG. 20a, the tumbler bar 1946 may ride within tumbler bar tracks 2047. As directional

25 arrows in FIG. 20b illustrate, tumbler bar 1946 may be moved up through the food on these tracks.

With reference now to FIG. 21, an embodiment of a basket 2102 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Basket 2102 comprises two substantially parallel air deflection plates 2148 positioned inside the basket 2102. Each air deflection plate 2148 30 comprises a plurality of air deflecting fins 2149 bent into the gap between the two plates 2148. Each air deflection fin 2149 may be rectangular shaped, and may be fabricated by cutting a rectangular design on the plate 2148 only on three edges and then bending on the fourth edge to make the protruding fin. The air deflection fins 2149 may be staggered into 4

the gap between the plates 2148 as shown. In this way, the gas streams 2103 directed

vertically down into a basket 2102 may be deflected laterally into each side of the basket

2102 from the center.

Referring now to FIG. 22, a cross section of an embodiment of an automated liquid

removal device 2200 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Device 2200

comprises automated linear actuators 2250 that raise and lower each basket 2202 past the

gas streams emanating from air jets 2206. The actuators 2250 may be programmed to

automatically move the baskets up and down a fixed number of times for each batch of food.

A door 2217 may be configured with a switch such that the liquid removal process is started

when the operator closes the door 2217. This automated device 2200 also comprises an oil

drain 2220 for oil recovery and a divider 22 1 to separate each liquid removal area. The

automated device 2200 may comprise any number of liquid removal areas, with any number

of baskets 2202 and linear actuators 2250 to move the baskets 2202.

With reference now to FIG. 23, a cross section of an embodiment of a liquid removal device 2300 is illustrated. The device 2300 comprises grease trap screens 2352 to catch

and/or filter oil removed from food as the oil transfers from the basket 2302 to the oil

collection pan 2341 below. The grease trap screens 2352 may comprise a metal mesh such

that the screens can be washed in a dishwasher. Device 2300 further comprises a plenum

2312 that is charged with air blower 2327. The air delivered into the plenum 2312 is

distributed amongst the plurality of air jets 2306 as illustrated.

Referring now to FIG. 24, a perspective view of a device 2400 in accordance with

the present invention is illustrated. The device 2400 comprises two chambers 2452 that may

both comprise liquid removal areas that the basket 2402 may fit into. Alternatively, one

chamber can comprise a cooking vessel, such as a deep fat fryer, whereas the other chamber

may comprise the liquid removal area to air jet the oil off the fried food. Covers 2417 are

provided on each chamber to control the oil during the frying and/or air jetting operations.

With reference now to FIG. 25, a top view of a basket 2502 in accordance with the

present invention is illustrated. The basket 2502 comprises a handle 2522 usable to move the

basket 2522 into and out of various cooking vessels, liquid removal areas and liquid removal devices in general. The basket 2502 further comprises a plurality of vertical dividers 2553

that together define vertical basket slots 2554 for "planar" foods (e.g., hash brown patties,

chicken patties, etc.). For example, for hash brown patties fritters and the like, it may be

desirable to keep the food upright in vertical basket slots 2554 to facilitate the blowing of oil off the food. Any number and configuration of vertical basket slots 2554 is within the scope of the present invention.

Referring now to FIG. 26, a front view of a liquid removal device 2600 in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. In this exemplary embodiment, device 2600 comprises two air knives 2606 positioned on opposite sides of basket 2602. The gas supply to each air knife 2606 is from a gas supply pipe 2655 attached to a plenum 2612. The plenums 2612 may be fabricated out of, for example, sheet metal, air ducting material, or flexible metallic foil. Plenums 2612 culminate into long and narrow air knives 2606, where the length of each air knife 2606 is approximately the length of the basket 2602. In this way, food items within basket 2602 can be air jetted by each of the air knives 2606 as the basket 2602 is moved upward past the two air knives 2606. The basket 2602 may have vertical basket slots (as illustrated in FIG. 25) for holding relatively flat food items in a vertical orientation such that the air jetting removes oil from each flat side of each food item. The plenums 2612 illustrated in FIG. 26 exemplify only one embodiment. Any configuration for plenums and any number of plenums within a liquid removal device such as 2600 is within the scope of the present invention.

Various principles of the present invention have been described in exemplary embodiments. However, many combinations and modifications of the above-described structures, arrangements, proportions, elements, materials, and components, used in the practice of the invention, in addition to those not specifically described, can be varied without departing from those principles. Various embodiments have been described as comprising automatic processes, but these processes may be performed manually without departing from the scope of the present invention.