Extend the Life of Hot Hold Cheese Sauces: Steam Table Study Results

steam-table-mac-n-cheese

Consumers love savory cheese sauces. However, bulk cheese sauces with pasta kept in steam tables in a restaurant’s back-of-house, cafeterias, made-to-order pasta bars or similar settings face challenges. When hot-holding macaroni and cheese, it can lose its silky smooth and rich texture, leaving behind an undesirable thick and tacky mouthfeel. In addition to moisture evaporation from heat, steam table dishes that contain starch based carriers, such as pasta or potatoes, lose moisture even more rapidly and result in mushy, dry or gelatinous consistencies.

Steam tables are among the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the food service industry, delivering hot meals to patrons and ensuring food safety. The formulation of the cheese sauce plays a critical role in its ability to hold up to prolonged thermal treatments. Food service companies will choose cheese sauce suppliers that deliver superior products that also maintain their original quality over longer periods of time. 

In collaboration with a food manufacturer, Grande Custom Ingredients Group’s team of food scientists conducted a controlled study to prove that the use of Grande Gusto® in a cheese sauce formulation they provided extended the time that the finished product could remain on a steam table

Food Service Steam Table Study 

The goal of the Steam Table Study was to evaluate whether Grande Gusto, an all-natural whey ingredient that partially replaces fresh or powdered cheese, would increase the moisture retention of macaroni and cheese for extended periods of heat exposure and lead to better product consistency.

Steam Table Study Methods

Two common steam table pan sizes were used. The control and Grande Gusto were kept at comparable temperatures and tested in the following pan sizes, each holding 2,800 grams of finished macaroni and cheese:

  • Uncovered half pans (12”x10”x2½”) — common in buffet-style serving
  • Covered third pans (12”x6⅔”x4”) — common for premade sauces in back-of-house

Cheese Sauce Formulas

Cheese sauces were prepared ahead of time and heated on the day of testing. The following formulas were used. 

cheese-sauce-formula

The Grande Gusto 100 formula has a 38% reduction of processed cheese, with an increase in water.

Sensory Results

In both the covered and uncovered pans, there was no significant change in flavor. However, when comparing texture, the Grande Gusto formula had minimal difference on the steam table over time. The control had a mushy, tackier mouthfeel as it broke down over time.

Moisture Content Results

Grande Gusto retains moisture far better than the control. Using Grande Gusto in a mac and cheese sauce increased the resiliency of the product and allowed it to remain more fluid.   

uncovered-half-pan-steam-table

covered-third-pan-steam-table

Overall Conclusions

Grande Gusto can help cheese sauce formulators reduce moisture loss in prepared foods by up to 66% when kept on a steam table. In the covered test, the control lost three times more moisture than the Grande Gusto extension. In the uncovered study, the control lost 1.5 times more moisture

According to this study’s findings, instead of changing out a pan of hot macaroni and cheese every hour, an operator could extend that time to 90 minutes or longer before noticeable moisture loss begins to occur. 

What does that translate to over an eight-hour period? The Grande Gusto cheese sauce would require about five pan changes whereas the control would require eight

The Difference for Food Manufacturers

Food companies that manufacture bulk cheese sauces for foodservice and hospitality can deliver foods with greater appeal by using Grande Gusto, and extend product life and potential profitability. Not only does Grande Gusto perform consistently during thermal treatments, it is also freeze-thaw and acid stable, making it ideal for a variety of formulations and conditions.

This Steam Table Study is one more example of how the food scientists at Grande Custom Ingredients Group collaborate with R&D teams to help perfect their formulations and achieve their goals. Have a formulation challenge? We’ll work together to understand your application, equipment, processes and the conditions in which it’s prepared. 

Contact our team today to discuss how Grande Gusto can benefit your cheese sauce formulations and to request a sample.

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