Which Comes First, the Food or the Gas?

That’s not quite as brainless – or rude – a question as you might think! We’re talking, after all, about PurityPlus® nitrogen and its prevalent use in food processing. And, in that situation, the gas absolutely comes before the food – or before you ingest the food, anyway! No need for panic. Nitrogen and food make a perfect team, as we mean} intend to explain.

At minus 196-degrees centigrade, liquid nitrogen is just the thing for freezing food rapidly. Quick-freezing causes smaller ice crystals to form, and smaller ice crystals not only keep food around longer, they also, in many cases, deliver a smoother, richer taste and texture.

That chocolate candy you and your sweetheart just shared on Valentine’s Day? It was undoubtedly kept fresh and yummy in storage and shipping with a thin blanket of nitrogen crystals. And if it was aerated chocolate – enticingly light chocolate with air bubbles in it – you can figure on it being nitrogen that made those bubbles possible. What chocolatiers do to produce them is take melted chocolate, foam it up with a careful injection of liquid nitrogen, then allow it to cool. As it does so, the nitrogen evaporates and … Voila! Air bubbles appear in the pockets previously filled with nitrogen! Now, carbon dioxide or argon is sometimes 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 that benefit from nitrogen.

  • Ice cream shops often use liquid nitrogen to make their prime product – again, because it freezes the ice cream faster than standard methods, and the less conspicuous ice crystals lend not only a richer taste but also a more appealing “mouth feel.”
  • The packaged foods you get at your grocer’s? In just about every instance, the oxygen that would otherwise be trapped in the packaging is replaced with nitrogen, because nitrogen keeps the food fresher and extends its shelf-life considerably.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used as often as not by food processors to pulverize food – particularly smartly conceived 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 – sometimes even special entrées or side dishes!
  • Bars and tony microbrewery pubs use nitrogen to lend beers a smoother taste and nitro taps to fizz up stouts, craft beers, and pale ales.
  • In time, quite a few microbrew pubs will also undoubtedly be “nitrobrew” pubs. Nitrobrews are the newest “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 offer a caffeine hit allegedly far than coffee’s.

So, henceforth, if somebody 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 Pittsburgh is from Greco Gas, your local PurityPlus® partner.