Which Comes First, the Food or the Gas?

That’s nowhere near as dotty – or naughty – a question as you might think! We’re talking, after all, about PurityPlus® nitrogen and its extensive use in food processing. And, in that circumstance, the gas absolutely comes before the food – or before you swallow the food, anyway! No need for alarm. Nitrogen does food good, as we’re about to explain.

At minus 196-degrees centigrade, liquid nitrogen is perfect for freezing food rapidly. Quick-freezing causes tinier ice crystals to form, and tinier ice crystals not only keep food edible longer, they also, in lots of instances, deliver a smoother, richer taste and texture.

That chocolate candy you and your sweetheart just shared on Valentine’s Day? It’s reasonable to assume it was kept fresh and yummy in storage and shipping with a thin blanket of nitrogen crystals. And if it was aerated chocolate – irresistably light chocolate with air bubbles in it – you can assume it was nitrogen that made those bubbles possible. What chocolatiers do to produce them is take melted chocolate, foam it up with a deliberate injection of liquid nitrogen, then let it cool. As it does so, the nitrogen evaporates and there you have it: bubbles of air! Now, carbon dioxide or argon is occasionally used to do this as well. But those gases make air bubbles fatter than nitrogen would give you, and fatter air bubbles just don’t leave the chocolate as rich, smooth, and satisfying.

Of course, chocolate is just one of many foods preserved and/or enhanced with nitrogen.

  • Ice cream shops often use liquid nitrogen to make their prime product – again, because it freezes the ice cream sooner than standard methods, and the tinier ice crystals impart not only a richer taste but also a more appealing “mouth feel.”
  • The packaged foods you get at your grocer’s? In almost every case, the oxygen that would otherwise be trapped in the packaging is exchanged for nitrogen, because nitrogen keeps the food fresher and prolongs its shelf-life significantly.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used often enough by food processors to pulverize food – especially briliantly formulated snacks – into chunks, slivers, or powders.
  • Restaurants use liquid nitrogen to freeze alcohol and chill drinks as well as to freeze and serve inventive desert concoctions – every now and then even special entrées or side dishes!
  • Bars and popular microbrewery pubs use nitrogen to lend beers a smoother taste and nitro taps to fizz up stouts, craft beers, and pale ales.
  • Not long from now, quite a few microbrew pubs are as likely also to be “nitrobrew” pubs. Nitrobrews are the latest “thing” that’s just starting to hit it big – cold-drink creations that have the look of beer, are served in glasses, have a creamy coffee-like taste … and deliver a caffeine slap said to be way more potent than coffee’s.

So, after today, if anybody mentions food and gas in the same breath, you know here’s no reason to vacate the room … as long as they’re talking about food processing with nitrogen. That’s the gas to get! And the best place to get it in Southern California is from WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment, your local PurityPlus® partner.