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The Science of Freezing Foods

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There have been many methods of preserving food over the course of human history. It is an important process because it allows humans to store food and prepare for times that it might be harder to come by food. Winter and drought are just two obvious examples of the many instances that food preservation has been crucial to survival. Salting and drying meat and produce are two of the oldest methods of preservation, but perhaps the most effective is freezing food. While this was a more intricate task for most parts of the world before the invention of electricity, there have been incredible advancements made in this area over the past century.

Freezing Foods

Why Freezing?

Fruits and vegetables are harvested when they are as close to ripe as possible. While it might differ slightly for when exactly they are picked, most will undergo enzyme changes after they have been harvested. They will continue to age and eventually rot whether they are on the plant or off of it. Everyone has experienced this at one point in their lives. They might have gone to pick up and eat a piece of fruit only to find that it has grown mold or gone soft. This is where preservation comes into play. The goal is to extend the lifespan of the food so that people can eat it much later. There are some side effects with each method of preservation though. Nutrients might be affected for instance, especially with a method like drying. The majority of the vitamins leave the food along with the moisture as it becomes a very different item. This is what makes freezing so ideal. Rather than altering the food to make it last longer, it slows the process of decay, literally “freezing” it in time. This is the best way to ensure that all of the health benefits offered when it was fresh will still be available months later. It is also easy to freeze almost any kind of food. It is not just specific to produce or meat.

Rates of Freezing Foods

Rates of Freezing

There have been two main techniques developed when it comes to freezing food on a commercial level. The first is rapid freezing. This is ideal for large scale operations that deal with a lot of frozen food on a daily basis. It is effective in freezing food in large quantities with the purpose of getting it out to the masses. In addition to the speed of it, rapid freezing offers other benefits as well. It causes less damage to the cell wall for instance. Essentially what that means is that the food will remain more similar on a molecular level to what it was prior to freezing. This means good things in terms of nutrients and potentially taste. There is also a shorter window for germs and bacteria to grow. Needless to say this is the ideal way to freeze food, and for this reason many home freezer manuals suggest keeping it at the coldest setting. The downside of this is that freezer burn will be more common at colder settings. The food should be sealed properly and fully to prevent it. The other method is of course slow freezing, but it is recommended to do it as quickly as possible.

 

Fluctuating Temperatures

In order to maintain the best quality possible, frozen vegetables and fruits should be kept below freezing. If you have a reason to keep some foods a higher temperature than others, then maybe consider investing in another freezer all together. The higher the temperature the quicker the food will deteriorate. Fluctuating temperatures will also cause problems. It can cause moisture to build within the packaging which will in turn alter the texture of the food.

Frozen Foods

Purchased Frozen Foods

The frozen food industry is a multi-billion dollar one, and it will only continue to grow in the coming decade. It does not take long to figure out why this is the case. Pre-prepared foods offer full meals that can be warmed up at the convenience of the consumer. They are tasty, nutritional, and perfect for a busy schedule. This freedom that they offer is often not fully appreciated. Since the ready-made meal market is such a big industry though, regulations have been put in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved. One of the big steps implemented are metal detectors for frozen food industry. Thanks to the modern process of packaging and manufacturing ready-made meals come into contact with a lot of machinery on their way to the kitchen table. Many food companies as a result have utilized these metal detectors to catch any metal fragments that might have found their way into the food at some point in the process. These metal detectors are crucial in keeping everyone safe and catching hazards before they even happen.

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