LIQUID NITROGEN: A Health Hazard?

So, it has been a solid month and a bit since the season 8 finale of MasterChef Australia and I am pleased to say that my little void at 7:30 pm is now filled with re-runs of How I Met Your Mother. As much as I would love to go on about how good these TV shows are, there is yet another debatable trend that is circulating the food industry which must be investigated, stat.

As you may have figured from the title, the trend under the spotlight is that of using Liquid Nitrogen as a cooking process. The first time I realised that using Liquid nitrogen was such a ‘hot’ trend in the culinary field was while watching the latest MasterChef season. Seeing Matt Preston’s jaw-dropping, eye-popping reaction combined with George and Gary’s mini enthusiastic bobs said it all.  Just like Elise’s parfait, the liquid nitrogen became one of the reoccurring highlights of the season.

But in this day and age, where organic products are all the rage, is this chemical cooking process safe for us?

liquid-nitro

LET’S FIND OUT:

WHAT: Nitrogen is a natural gaseous element that can be distilled into a liquid which has a boiling point of -195.8°C. Due to such a low boiling point, liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and can thus be used in molecular gastronomy to freeze food or make ice cream (Molecular Gastronomy Network).

HISTORY: Contrary to popular belief, liquid nitrogen has been around ever since the late 19th Century and first appeared in an 1890 recipe book titled Fancy Ices authored by Mrs. Agnes Marshall. This cutting edge trend, however, only start to gain steam in the year 2011 as arguably popularised by scientific cook Heston Blumenthal and many others (BBC).

PROS:

  • The liquid nitrogen is never ingested as it is not an ingredient but a coolant in the cooking process (MGN).
  • Speeds up cooking (cooling) process.
  • Cools food to a very low temperature and so keeps the food cooler for longer (MGN).
  • Can make old dishes, bang up-to-date by reinventing the dish with this new technique.
  • Makes for a great theatrical effect.

CONS (MGN):

  • Can severely burn and destroy skin or eyes if comes into contact with it. Thus, gloves and eye protection must be worn at all times.
  • Can only be stored in ‘Dewars’ and not any other containers because if liquid nitrogen is exposed to ambient heat then, the nitrogen returns to its gaseous state and may explode out of the container.
  • If there is no proper ventilation causes asphyxiation as there would be more nitrogen in the air, when compared to the proportion of oxygen.
  • Stomach or organ explosion if ingested as the low temperature of the nitrogen messes with your body temperature.

Final Thoughts:

I have never personally tried out the liquid nitrogen cooking process or eaten any dishes that have been made using that process, but after doing this research, I think that liquid nitrogen might just be a great trend that has been successfully resurrected.

True, there are some very big risks, such as stomach explosions, associated with this cooking technique. But this is only the case if the liquid nitrogen has been improperly administered and you actually consume the liquid nitrogen, which a reasonable person would not do. Many people use it and if used with the proper technique and skill, this method of cooking can most certainly be classified as revolutionary.

I would highly recommend people to try out some meals that have been prepared using liquid nitrogen, because I most certainly will.  But make sure you eat it at a good restaurant that has been doing this for a long time. For those who are keen to explore different cooking styles, I say go for it! – After all, the excitement on the MasterChef contestants faces said it all, and if they can do it, so can you*!

* Please check usage instructions and wear protective gear. If there is any liquid that has mixed with the food, do not eat it. If you have just started out with cooking, make sure someone with some experience is with you. Safety First!

PICTURES:
Featured Image: http://cceag.org/wp-content/uploads/to-the-day-of-russian-science-making-sorbet-with-liquid-nitrogen-ridus-300x207.jpeg
NITROGEN: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/04/02/article-2302999-008CFADB000004B0-52_634x403.jpg
Matt (contestant s8): http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2016/07/17/13/365C7FC600000578-3694276-image-a-9_1468757344110.jpg
Reynold (contestant s7): https://twohappybellies.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/img_7199.jpg?w=496&h=496&crop=1

It’s more than just theater,

Deeksha xxx

 

 

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