Which Comes First, the Food or the Gas?

That’s not quite as silly – or improper – a question as you might think! We’re talking, after all, about PurityPlus® nitrogen and its prevalent use in food processing. And, in that case, the gas definitely comes before the food – or before you ingest the food, anyway! No cause for panic. Nitrogen and food make an ideal team, as we’re going to explain.

At minus 196-degrees centigrade, liquid nitrogen is perfect for freezing food rapidly. 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 many cases, deliver a smoother, richer taste and texture.

That chocolate candy you and your significant other just shared on Valentine’s Day? Undoubtedly it was kept fresh and flavorful in storage and shipping with a thin blanket of nitrogen crystals. And if it was aerated chocolate – delectably light chocolate with air bubbles in it – you can bet it was nitrogen that made those bubbles possible. What chocolatiers do to produce them is take melted chocolate, foam it up with a measured 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 also. But those gases make air bubbles bigger than you’d get with nitrogen, and bigger air bubbles just don’t leave the chocolate as rich, smooth, and satisfying.

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

  • Ice cream shops routinely use liquid nitrogen to make their prime product – again, because it freezes the ice cream sooner than standard methods, and the tinier ice crystals lend not only a richer taste but also a more appealing “mouth feel.”
  • The packaged foods you get at the grocery store? In practically every example, the oxygen that would otherwise be trapped in the packaging is swapped out with nitrogen, because nitrogen keeps the food fresher and extends its shelf-life significantly.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used as often as not by food processors to pulverize food – particularly 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 unusual desert concoctions – occasionally 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, quite a few microbrew pubs will also surelyly be “nitrobrew” pubs. Nitrobrews are the freshest “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 provide a caffeine slap said to be far than coffee’s.

So, from now on, if someone mentions food and gas in the same breath, you know here’s no cause for distress … 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 Northern Illinois is from Weldstar Specialty Gases, your local PurityPlus® partner.