The study of process engineering is an attempt to combine all forms of physical processing into a small number of basic operations, which are called unit operations. Food processes may seem bewildering in their diversity, but careful analysis will show that these complicated and differing processes can be broken down into a small number of unit operations. For example, consider heating of which innumerable instances occur in every food industry. There are many reasons for heating and cooling - for example, the baking of bread, the freezing of meat, the tempering of oils.

But in process engineering, the prime considerations are firstly, the extent of the heating or cooling that is required and secondly, the conditions under which this must be accomplished. Thus, this physical process qualifies to be called a unit operation. It is called 'heat transfer'.

The essential concept is therefore to divide physical food processes into basic unit operations, each of which stands alone and depends on coherent physical principles. For example, heat transfer is a unit operation and the fundamental physical principle underlying it is that heat energy will be transferred spontaneously from hotter to colder bodies.

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