Which Comes First, the Food … or the Gas?


That’s not quite as silly – or naughty – a question as you might think! We’re talking, after all, about PurityPlus® nitrogen and its pervasive use in food processing. And, in that context, the gas definitely comes before the food – or before you ingest 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 ideal for freezing food quickly. Quick-freezing causes smaller ice crystals to form, and smaller ice crystals not only keep food around longer, they also, in many cases, give it a smoother, richer taste and texture.

That chocolate candy you and your sweetheart just shared on Valentine’s Day? Undoubtedly it was kept fresh and delicious in storage and shipping with a thin blanket of nitrogen crystals. And if it was aerated chocolate – scrumptiously light chocolate with air bubbles in it – you can bet it was nitrogen that made those bubbles possible. What chocolatiers do to get them is take melted chocolate, foam it up with a careful injection of liquid nitrogen, then let it cool. As it does so, the nitrogen evaporates and … Voila! Air bubbles appear where the nitrogen once was! Now, carbon dioxide or argon can be used to do this as well. But those gases make air bubbles bigger than you’d get with nitrogen, and bigger air bubbles just don’t leave the chocolate as creamy, smooth, and satisfying.

Of course, chocolate is but one of many foods that benefit from nitrogen.

  • Ice cream shops frequently use liquid nitrogen to make their prime product – again, because it freezes the ice cream faster than traditional methods, and the smaller ice crystals impart not only a richer taste but also a creamier “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 replaced with nitrogen, because nitrogen keeps the food fresher and extends its shelf-life immensely.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used often enough by food processors to pulverize food – especially cleverly conceived snacks – into chunks, slivers, or powders.
  • Restaurants use liquid nitrogen to freeze alcohol and chill drinks as well as to freeze and serve innovative desert concoctions – sometimes even special entrées or side dishes!
  • Bars and trendy microbrewery pubs use nitrogen to give beers a smoother taste and nitro taps to fizz up stouts, craft beers, and pale ales.
  • Very soon, many microbrew pubs are as likely also to be “nitrobrew” pubs. Nitrobrews are the latest “thing” that’s just starting to catch on – cold-drink creations that look like beer, are served in glasses, have a creamy coffee-like taste … and deliver a caffeine hit said to be far more potent than coffee’s.

So, from now on, if somebody mentions food and gas in the same breath, you know here’s no cause for alarm … as long as they’re talking about food processing with nitrogen. That’s the gas to get! And the best place to get it is from any of the PurityPlus® partners at more than 150 locations coast to coast.