Which Comes First, the Food or the Gas?

That’s not quite as frivolous – or crude – a question as you might think! We’re talking, after all, about PurityPlus® nitrogen and its wide use in food processing. And, in that context, the gas absolutely comes before the food – or before you ingest the food, anyway! No cause for distress. Nitrogen does food good, as we’re about to explain.

At minus 196-degrees centigrade, liquid nitrogen is ideal for freezing food quickly. Quick-freezing causes less conspicuous ice crystals to form, and ice crystals that aren’t very big not only keep food edible longer, they also, in lots of instances, give it a smoother, richer taste and texture.

That chocolate candy you and your special valentine just shared on Valentine’s Day? It’s reasonable to assume it was kept fresh and tasty 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 count on it being nitrogen that made those bubbles possible. What chocolatiers do to create them is take melted chocolate, foam it up with a careful injection of liquid nitrogen, then leave it to cool. As it does so, the nitrogen evaporates and there you have it: bubbles of air! Now, carbon dioxide or argon can be used to do this also. But those gases make air bubbles fatter than nitrogen would give you, and fatter air bubbles just don’t leave the chocolate as velvety, smooth, and satisfying.

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

  • Ice cream shops often use liquid nitrogen to make their prime product – again, because it freezes the ice cream quicker than standard methods, and the less conspicuous ice crystals impart not only a richer taste but also a softer “mouth feel.”
  • The packaged foods you find 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 improves its shelf-life markedly.
  • Liquid nitrogen is employed often enough by food processors to pulverize food – especially briliantly crafted snacks – into chunks, slivers, or powders.
  • Restaurants use liquid nitrogen to freeze alcohol and chill drinks as well as to freeze and serve original desert concoctions – every now and then even special entrées or side dishes!
  • Bars and hip microbrewery pubs use nitrogen to serve beers with a smoother taste and nitro taps to fizz up stouts, craft beers, and pale ales.
  • Very soon, lots of microbrew pubs are as likely also to be “nitrobrew” pubs. Nitrobrews are the newest “thing” that’s just starting to take off – cold-drink creations that appear to be beer, are served in glasses, have a creamy coffee-like taste … and offer a caffeine whack allegedly way stronger than coffee’s.

So, after today, if anyone mentions food and gas in the same breath, you know here’s no reason to run out of 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 Western Michigan is from GTW, your local PurityPlus® partner.