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Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772

Analysis of some cod-desalting process variables

Ana Andres *, Sneyder Rodrguez-Barona, Jose Manuel Barat
Department of Food Technology, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n 14, 46022 Valencia, Spain

Received 25 June 2004; accepted 14 September 2004


Consumers prefer ready-to-use food products, which makes the commercialization of heavy-salted cod dicult because it
requires a previous desalting process. The optimization of cod desalting on an industrial scale involves the analysis of many process
variables, such as: stirring level, process temperature, origin of raw material, sh muscle zone, sample size, the additives used in the
desalting water, etc. The aim of this paper is to analyze the inuence of these process variables on the net weight changes in cod,
water uptake, salt loss and water holding capacity.
The results obtained allow us to propose a cod-desalting process at low temperatures, without stirring. The application of vac-
uum pulses can improve the kinetics of the process and salt can be used as an additive in the desalting solution to improve the prod-
ucts selife and process control.
 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Cod; Desalting; Process variables

1. Introduction The thermodynamic description of the cod-desalting

solution system is also a useful tool to fully understand
Salted cod is a highly appreciated product in the the changes in cod throughout the desalting process.
Mediterranean countries but it needs to be desalted be- This description includes the denition of the trans-
fore cooking. The desalting process is usually carried out ferred components, the description of the system phases
in the consumers kitchen and it takes about 24 h. in which the mass transfer processes occur, and the
Changes in consumer life style have been the main rea- denition of the driving forces and the associated
son for the decreasing consumption of salted cod, as mass transfer mechanisms (Barat, Rodriguez-Barona,
well as the relationship between great consumption of & Andres, 2004).
salt and cardiovascular diseases. Nowadays, ready-to- A number of factors such as cod origin, feeding,
use, high quality safe food products are what the con- maturity, etc. aect the quality of the raw material
sumer demands and the food industry must satisfy this (Solberg, Hegli, Skaanevik, & Solberg, 2000). Moreo-
demand. Thus, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge ver, cod salting after sh capture can be done using dif-
of the cod-desalting operation in order to control all the ferent techniques, aecting the cods nal quality
variables that take part in this process. There are many (Sigurgisladottir, Sigurdardottir, Torrissen, Vallet, &
studies on sh salting and drying but only a small num- Hafsteinsson, 2000); on Spanish ships cod is salted on
ber of papers analyze the cod-desalting process. board just a few hours after capture while on Norwegian
ships it was usual to keep the sh with ice on board until
they arrive in harbor and the cod is salted in factories.
Corresponding author. Fax: +34 96 3877369. Commercial salted cod can be dry salted cod with
E-mail address: (A. Andres). 47% moisture content, or wet salted cod with more

0260-8774/$ - see front matter  2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
68 A. Andres et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772

than 50% moisture content, another factor that also af- experiment for dierent durations (0, 5, 10 and 30 min)
fects the desalting process. There are considerable dier- with completion of the 1-h process at atmospheric
ences in the cod pieces depending on the sh part from pressure.
which it derives. The thickness and the number of bones Process temperature: Cod pieces (2 1 1 cm3) were
can aect the characteristics of the desalted product. desalted in distilled water for 12 h at three dierent tem-
The use of certain additives may also improve the char- peratures (5, 10 and 15 C). A 15-min vacuum pulse of
acteristics of the nal product. Water hardness can 50 mbar was applied to half of the cod samples in order
greatly vary depending on the geographical region, to analyze the inuence of temperature on the eective-
and may aect cod desalting. NaCl aects the water ness of the vacuum pulse.
holding capacity of proteins and for this reason cod de- Origin of raw material: Salted cod samples manufac-
salted using a NaCl solution will improve process yield tured at the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aqua-
and will help to control the nal salt content in cod culture Research (NIFA, Troms, Norway) and samples
pieces. The use of polyphosphates is very common in bought in Spain were used to analyze the inuence of
the meat industry because it improves water holding this factor on cod desalting. Desalting experiments were
capacity (Henson & Kowalewski, 1992). The inuence done with cod pieces (4 2 1 cm3) at 5 C and with a
of water management during the desalting process is cod/water ratio of 1/9 (w/w) for 24 h without water
also important. Results from previous work support changes. 50 percent of the cod samples were desalted
the idea that a single-stage desalting process would be by applying a 15-min vacuum pulse at 50 mbar.
the best method from an industrial point of view, since Fish muscle zone: Cod pieces from loins, tails and ns
it gives a higher process yield and lower water waste were desalted in distilled water at 5 C for 48 h with a
than the traditional method, which involves several cod/water ratio of 1/9 (w/w).
water changes (Barat, Rodriguez-Barona, Castello, Sample size: Cod pieces of dierent sizes (2 1 1,
Andres, & Fito, 2004). 4 2 1, 4 4 1 and 6 2.5 1 cm3) were desalted in
The aim of this work is to analyze the inuence of distilled water at 5 C for 24 h with a cod/water ratio
some process variables involved in cod desalting as a of 1/9 (w/w) with and without a 15-min vacuum pulse
way to design an ecient process and to control the at 50 mbar.
characteristics of the nal product. Inuence of sh skin: Cod pieces of 4 2 1 cm3 with
and without skin were desalted in distilled water at 5 C
with a cod/water ratio of 1/9 for 12 h. A 15-min vacuum
pulse at 50 mbar was applied to half of the samples in
2. Materials and methods order to analyze the eects of cod skin on the hydro-
dynamic mechanisms.
A schematic diagram of the equipment used for cod- Use of additives in the desalting water: CaCl2 (0.1%,
desalting experiments is shown in Fig. 1. The equipment 0.5% and 1%), NaCl (2%, 3.5% and 5%) and Tripoli-
used controls the temperature, pressure and stirring level phosphates (1% and 2%) were tested at dierent concen-
in the system. trations. Cod pieces of commercial size were used
Experiments were performed to study dierent proc- (6 2.5 1 cm3) in the desalting experiments performed
ess variables. The raw material and the experimental at 5 C with a cod/solution ratio of 1/9 for 48 h, changing
conditions for each of the process variables studied are the desalting solution after 2, 7 and 24 h.
described below. Experimental conditions were done in duplicates.
Stirring level: Cod pieces (2 1 1 cm3) were desalted Mass, moisture and salt content, and water holding
in distilled water for 8 h at 5 C at dierent stirring levels capacity (WHC) were determined in all cases; the num-
(0, 60, 100, 300 and 500 rpm). ber of cod pieces used was enough to make determina-
Vacuum pulse: Cod pieces (2 1 1 cm3) were de- tions in triplicate. Moisture content was determined by
salted in distilled water for 1 h at 5 C. A vacuum pulse oven drying until constant weight was reached at
of 50 mbar was applied at the beginning of the desalting 105 1 C (Boeri, Davidovich, & Luppn, 1978). So-
dium chloride was determined after sample homogeniza-
Bath tion in distilled water by using an Ultraturrax T25 at
9000 rpm for 3 min and the sample was centrifuged to re-
move any ne debris. An aliquot of the centrifuged sam-
Vacuum pump
ple was taken and titrated in a chloride analyser
equipment (Sherwood Mod. 926, Cambridge, UK).
Water holding capacity (WHC) was determined in the
Refrigerant system
sh muscle throughout the net test described by
Magnetic stirrer Vacuometer
Hermansson (1986); a centrifuge tube was modied
Fig. 1. Scheme of the equipment used for desalting experiments. introducing a net were the sample was placed in order
A. Andres et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772 69

to separate the liquid extracted by centrifugation at application of vacuum pulses cause a faster desalting
10 2 C for 10 min at 4000 rpm. process. The duration of the vacuum pulse will depend
Relative mass changes (DM t ), water uptake (DM wt ) on the time required to achieve the equilibrium pressure
and salt loss (DM NaCl
t ) were estimated according to the in the system, which is related to the porosity of the
following equations: solid. Fig. 2 shows the values of mass gain (DM t ), water
DM t M t  M 0 =M 0 1 gain (DM wt ) and salt loss (DM NaCl
t ) after 1 h of desalting,
in samples submitted to vacuum pulses of dierent dura-
DM wt M t  xwt  M 0  xw0 =M 0 2 tion (0, 5, 15 and 30 min). Higher increases in mass and
water are observed for samples with vacuum pulses,
DM NaCl M t  xNaCl  M 0  xNaCl =M 0 3 which proves the contribution of the hydrodynamic
t t 0
mechanism to water inow. ANOVA results showed
where DM t : total weight change at time t; DM wt : water no signicant dierences between 15- and 30-min vac-
weight changes at time t; DM NaCl t : NaCl weight changes uum pulses, which means that for this sample size equi-
at time t; M t : mass sample after a time (t) of treatment librium pressure is achieved in less than 15 min. No
(g); M 0 : initial mass sample (g); xw0 : weight fraction of dierences in salt loss show that salt transfer mechanism
water in the sample at time 0; xwt : weight fraction of water is molecular and pressure gradients do not aect salt
in the sample at time t; xNaCl
0 : weight fraction of NaCl in transport kinetics.
the sample at time 0; xNaCl
t : weight fraction of NaCl in the The eectiveness of the vacuum pulse depends on the
sample at time t. porosity and the viscoelastic properties of the solid as it
The analysis of variance (one-way ANOVA) was per- has to resist a pressure gradient. From these results, it
formed using the computer program Statgraphics Plus can be said that the application of a 15-min vacuum
5.1. Software. The statistical analysis was performed to pulse at 50 mbar has a positive eect on cod-desalting
evaluate the inuence of the dierent process variables kinetics, at least during the rst hour of the process.
on product changes (mass, moisture, salt content and However, its viscoelastic properties can be aected by
water holding capacity). temperature and in that case the behavior of the solid
under pressure gradients can be dierent, as can be ob-
served in Fig. 3. The lower the temperature the faster
3. Results and discussion
The inuence of stirring on mass transfer kinetics in a 0.40 M t
0.35 w
M t
Relative changes

solidliquid system was analyzed to determine the min- 0.30

0.25 M NaCl
imum stirring conditions required to ensure that mass 0.20

transfer rate will be controlled by the solid phase. The 0.15

most relevant parameters involved during cod desalting 0.05
were analyzed at dierent stirring conditions (Table 1) 0.05
and no signicant dierences were found from the 0.10 30 min 15 min 5 min 0 min
ANOVA results (a < 0.005). Vacuum pulse duration
These results show an important advantage from the
Fig. 2. Relative mass changes (DM t ), relative water gain (DM wt ) and
practical point of view since no stirring is needed in cod salt loss (DM NaCl ) after 1 h in samples desalted at 5 C and dierent
desalting. vacuum pulse duration.
Mass transfer kinetics in solidliquid systems can also
be aected by pressure gradients due to the action of the
hydrodynamic mechanism (Chiralt & Fito, 1997; Chiralt 5C 10C 15C
et al., 2001; Fito, Andres, Chiralt, & Pardo, 1996; Fito & 0.7 5C-VP 10C-VP 15C-VP

Pastor, 1994). Pressure gradients resulting from the 0.6


Table 1 0.3
Relative mass changes (DM t ), moisture (xw) and salt content (xNaCl)
obtained during cod-desalting process at dierent stirring conditions 0.2
w NaCl 0.1
Stirring DM t x x
(rpm) (g/g) (g water/g sample) (g NaCl/g sample)

0 0.24 + 0.08 0.7620 0.0005 0.035 0.019 -0.1

Time (h)

60 0.273 0.018 0.77 0.06 0.0225 0.0002 -0.2

100 0.23 0.05 0.771 0.102 0.0242 0.005 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
300 0.21 0.03 0.77 0.13 0.0291 0.0005
Fig. 3. Inuence of temperature and a vacuum pulse (VP) application
500 0.20 0.04 0.76 0.14 0.03 0.04
on the relative water gain and salt loss during desalting process.
70 A. Andres et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772

and higher the water uptake even for those samples 0.5
without vacuum pulse, revealing the important role
played by cod structure in water transport phenomena 0.4
(Fito & Chiralt, 2003; Krokida & Maroulis, 2001;
Toldra, 2003). 0.3

Cod can be salted by dierent methods and the struc-
ture of the salted cod will be aected by the salting proc- 0.2 tails
ess (Andres, Rodriguez-Barona, Barat, & Fito, 2002;
Barat, Rodriguez-Barona, Andres, & Fito, 2002; Barat, fins
0.1 loins
Rodriguez-Barona, Andres, & Fito, 2003). For this rea-
son, dierences can be observed during cod desalting
depending on the history of the raw material character- 0 20 40 60
ized in this case by the origin of the salted cod used in Time (h)
the experiments (Fig. 4). Salted cod bought in Spain
has been captured and immediately salted onboard Fig. 5. Relative mass changes during desalting process for dierent
muscle zone.
while salted cod bought in Norway has been captured
and kept with ice until arriving at the corresponding fac-
tory. This dierence and maybe some others related with ics during the desalting process can be aected by these
the sh history lead to a dierent salted cod with a dif- dierences (see Fig. 5). This is an important practical as-
ferent behavior during the desalting process, as illus- pect to be considered by the cod industry because the
trated in Fig. 4. No signicant dierences can be time required for cod desalting will depend on the mus-
appreciated in terms of net salt loss and net water gain, cle zone.
but dierences in net mass gain and moreover in water The higher mass gain observed in tail pieces can be
holding capacity (WHC) reveal signicant cod structure attributed to the presence of a central bone lled with
dierences depending on the manufacturing process. water, because no dierences on water and salt content
Salted cod is usually cut into pieces before desalting, were found in the muscle from other sh parts. It is also
whose size and shape should be commercially accepted. expected that desalting kinetics will be aected by sam-
It is usual to nd in the market cod pieces corresponding ple size, and the time needed for desalting must be
to tail, loin and ns and muscle with important mass dif- experimentally determined. Results of mass changes,
ferences depending on the sh part. Mass transfer kinet- and relative water gain and salt loss obtained from dif-

(a) 0.76
Norway Norway VP (b)
Spain Spain VP 0.74

0.50 0.72
M ot

0.30 0.70
0.00 0.66
0 10 20 30
Time (24 h)

0.7 (c) Time (h) (d)

0.6 12 24


M NaCl


0.2 -0.14
0 -0.15

12 24
Spain Spain VP Norway Norway VP
Time (h)
Fig. 4. Inuence of the raw material and vacuum pulse (VP) on some of the parameters analyzed during desalting process ((a) relative mass gain
(DM t ), (b) water holding capacity (WHC), (c) relative water gain (DM wt ) and (d) salt loss (DM NaCl
t )).
A. Andres et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772 71

Table 2
Relative mass changes (DM t ), relative water gain (DM wt ) and salt loss (DM NaCl
t ) in cod samples (with and without skin) after 12 h of desalting in
atmospheric pressure conditions and with a vacuum pulse pre-treatment (15 min at 50 mbar)
Cod samples Desalting process DM t DM w
t DM NaCl

With skin Atmospheric 0.266 0.003 0.197 0.002 0.1381 0.0013

Vacuum pulsed 0.28 0.03 0.21 0.02 0.1369 0.0009
Without skin Atmospheric 0.2635 0.0109 0.191 0.008 0.1388 0.0003
Vacuum pulsed 0.320 0.015 0.236 0.003 0.1409 0.0004

Table 3
Relative mass changes (DM t ), relative water gain (DM wt ) and salt loss (DM NaCl
t ) and water holding capacity (WHC) in cod samples desalted during
48 h in distilled water with and without some additives and changing the desalting solution after 2, 7 and 24 h
Additive Concentration (%) DM t DM w
t DM NaCl
t WHC (%)
Distilled water 0.33 0.02 0.4776 0.0005 0.1588 0.0009 85 4
Tripoliphosphates 1 0.36 0.04 0.5195 0.0007 0.1602 0.0007 77 4
2 0.37 0.02 0.519 0.002 0.1566 0.0004 80 5
CaCl2 0.1 0.34 0.03 0.4903 0.0012 0.1550 0.0003 78 2
0.5 0.34 0.02 0.4856 0.0007 0.1701 0.0006 81 3
1 0.33 0.02 0.4655 0.0003 0.1539 0.0004 81 2
NaCl 2 0.34 0.02 0.512 0.002 0.1392 0.0003 79 5
3.5 0.37 0.02 0.505 0.003 0.1582 0.0008 80 1
5 0.41 0.03 0.5329 0.0002 0.1569 0.0008 82 3

ferent sample size with and without a vacuum pulse and process, it must be pointed out that no signicant dier-
the statistical analysis nd the expected dierences be- ences in the water holding capacity were observed, indi-
tween sizes but no interaction between the two com- cating that the additives that promote higher water
bined variables (size and vacuum pulse). uptake do not involve stronger links between water mol-
The inuence of skin on mass transfer kinetics during ecules and the solid matrix.
cod desalting was analyzed in terms of relative mass
changes, relative water gain and salt loss; the results ob-
tained after 12 h of cod desalting are shown in Table 2. 4. Conclusions
ANOVA results showed that the presence of the skin
has not a signicant inuence on the parameters ana- Cod desalting can be performed without stirring the
lyzed (a > 0.05). These results are coherent with the con- desalting solution and no dierences in the desalting
siderations presented by Burguess, Cutting, Loverns, kinetics can be attributed to the presence of the cod skin.
and Waterman (1987), who reported that cod skin does On the other hand, mass transfer kinetics during the
not present any resistance to mass transfer mainly due to desalting process are greatly aected by the products
its low fat content (0.3%). structure, which in turn is highly dependent on the
The inuence of some additives in the desalting water cod-salting method used, the sh part, and the size
was analyzed in terms of relative mass changes, water and shape of the cod pieces. Low temperature, a
uptake, salt loss and water holding capacity (Table 3). 15 min vacuum pulse at 50 mbar and the use of salt solu-
No signicant dierences were obtained in terms of salt tions for cod desalting improve mass transfer kinetics
loss. However, higher mass changes were observed for although process variables should be optimize depend-
those samples desalted with salt solutions and tripoli- ing on the size and shape of cod pieces.
phosphates due to a higher water uptake. There are
two interesting advantages in the case of salt solutions
because the results show the possibility of getting better Acknowledgements
yield of the desalting process but also of obtaining cod
samples with the same nal salt content in the liquid The authors acknowledge the European Union
phase independently of their size, shape, etc. because it (FAIR program, PL 98-4179) for their nancial support
is well known that at equilibrium the salt content of given to this research and we would like to thank the
the liquid phase of the sample will be equal to the salt Foreign Language Co-ordination Oce at the Polytech-
concentration of the desalting solution. In spite of the nic University of Valencia for their help in revising this
benets obtained by using salt solutions in the desalting paper.
72 A. Andres et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 70 (2005) 6772

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