Cooking instructions - not as simple as you may think

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard states that where cooking instructions are provided to ensure product safety, they shall be fully validated to ensure that when the product is cooked according to the instructions, a safe, ready-to-eat product is consistently produced; this is also supported in both EU and UK guidelines and regulation. It is paramount therefore that food companies can demonstrate that their cooking instructions reliably produce a product that is safe to consume. These instructions must be developed with respect to the product’s desired sensory characterises, in-home cooking equipment variability, consumer behaviour and compliance with the various retailer policies.

This paper highlights some of the factors that should be considered in this important, but often under-valued aspect of the product development process, to ensure compliance and the delivery of a great product to market.

Different cooking techniques

Each year, Leatherhead’s cooking instruction team conducts around 15,000 cooking trials covering all types of techniques including oven, microwave, hob and grill. Products are cooked to reduce micro-organisms to safe levels and produce optimal sensory qualities for eating such as appearance, flavour and texture. The choice of cooking method will be determined by the product’s size, whether it is solid or liquid, if it contains raw protein, what will be the easiest and quickest approach for consumers and what will deliver the best sensory outcome. Cooking techniques should be discounted if they don’t deliver on ease or sensory quality.