Articles - Food Processing


March 2023

Articles - Food Processing


March 2023

Corn is the primary grain farmed and produced in the world and has been used for centuries in Central and South America to produce products such as tortillas, tacos, and corn chips. The growing diversity of the global population in the early 1900s saw many people exposed to different foods and flavors, with Mexican-based foods such as fried tortilla chips gaining popularity in the United States.

Since the 1930s, corn-based products have increasingly become part of the mainstream snack food industry, with fried tortillas evolving into mass-produced corn chips, and are now one of the world’s most popular snack foods. As one of the most established equipment manufacturers for food production equipment, Heat and Control has been involved with producing corn-based snack foods since the 1950s and is a one-stop-shop for specialized processing, seasoning, inspection,

conveying, weighing, and packaging corn products.


The production of corn-based snack foods has come a long way since Elmer Doolin started selling corn chips from his garage. Today, there are simple manually operated lines, semi-automatic or fully automated systems available for corn-based snack products. Heat and Control will assess the needs of the individual customer and design a tailored production line to suit the production requirements and growth goals.

For processors, cooking corn allows the development and maintenance of a unique, consistent flavor and texture for their corn and tortilla chips, taco shells, tostadas, and tortillas. Over the years, Heat and Control have perfected the operations of corn preparation to assure consistent quality of corn products for our customers, giving each product a unique, tasty flavor.

Given the large variety of corn-based products, there are different processes and equipment for each line of snack foods. Corn preparation can be quite complex if you do not have the correct equipment. There are many variations in finished corn products - with the shape developed to suit the purpose - corn chips for dipping are produced with a curve to make it easier to pick up-dip; chips that are used for Nachos are larger to accommodate salsa, guacamole and melted cheese.


The corn used should be whole grain, free of foreign material, and contain a minimum of cracked kernels. Most manufacturers use yellow corn rather than blended. However, some processors use corn varieties such as white or blue to differentiate their finished product. It is essential that clean, uniformly sized, and impurity-free corn is used in the mixture. The cleaner the corn is before cooking, the better the masa is later.

Broken pieces of corn will absorb larger quantities of water and will cause wet, sticky masa, making it difficult to cook and resulting in a poor product.

The first step is to produce a dough or masa. When cooking the corn, it is important to hydrate the corn kernels and loosen the pericarp (external skin) and increase the moisture content of the corn by adding water. Calcium Hydroxide or “food grade lime” as it can sometimes be referred to, must also be added to the corn to improve the flavor, as well as weakening and removing the outer layer of the corn pericarp so the chip is crispier. The addition of lime also controls microbial activity, improving shelf life.

Heat and Control has a wide range of equipment to produce the Masa and ensure consistent quality. Our processing systems including Masa Production Systems and Corn Washers enable food manufacturers to duplicate the masa recipe every time. Extruders and Sheeters accurately form and transfer masa without altering the texture and flavor of the product.


When toasting tortilla chips, a belt moves chips through the oven and exposes both sides of the chip to the oven burners. The oven burners crust both sides of the chip and toast the bottom side of the chip using burners located under the top belt. This seals the chip and prevents the chips from sticking to the belt after the first transfer point. The quantity of toast marks varies depending on what the market desires.

In the frying process, moisture is removed from the chip and replaced with oil to develop the texture, flavor, and appearance of the chip. Heat and Control cooking systems, such as fryers and ovens, can evenly distribute heat and give precise control of cook time and temperature. We have a range of Tortilla Toaster ovens for uniform toasting of tortilla and taco shell production.

Our world-class frying systems can provide precise control of oil flow, temperature, and cook time for corn chips, tortilla chips, and tostadas.


Conveying corn-based snack foods is a delicate process, as the product can break, and the all-important seasoning can fall off if lower quality conveyors or vibratory systems are used. Heat and Control conveyor systems can reduce product breakage

by up to 60% using Fastback® Horizontal motion. The gentle

slow-forward, fast-back motion prevents product damage and seasoning coating loss. The Heat and Control seasoning applicators, such as our Fastback Revolution® Seasoning Systems, uniformly apply seasonings with less breakage and waste.

Corn snack foods are an ever-changing industry, as consumers are exposed to new products and flavors. Since 1950, Heat and Control have committed to assisting food manufacturers to respond to market changes by continuously improving equipment and providing our customers with the best equipment and technology to increase production levels.

Our complete Corn Product Systems are designed by engineers with years of experience in snack food products, making Heat and Control the leading single source supplier of all the equipment you need to process, season, weigh, inspect and package the highest quality corn chips, tortilla chips, and other corn snacks.

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