We all want food that tastes fresh. One of the most effective ways to maintain food freshness long-term is by freezing it. In this blog, you will learn the top three methods of freezing food used in the food industry. Each freezing method has some distinct purposes and benefits. This means it is critical to choose the right freezing method for your food as improper freezing can lead to food degradation and freezer burn. Keep reading to explore the benefits of flash freezing, freeze-drying, and other freezing methods.
- When done correctly, freezing food prolongs its freshness and preserves flavor and texture.
- Frozen food can help combat food waste and can offer the same or better nutrients than fresh food
- There are numerous methods of freezing food, including contact freezing, flash freezing, and freeze-drying.
Why Freezing Is Important
The main goal of freezing food is to preserve it and make it last longer. Bringing the food temperature down slows the proliferation of bacteria and the rate of decomposition. Clarence Birdseye introduced early freezing methods in the 1920s. He watched how fish were preserved in the Arctic and brought some of these methods home. To properly preserve your food’s taste, texture, and color, you need to choose the proper freezing method. Improper freezing causes large ice crystals, which can break down the cell membranes in the food and alter its taste.
Fresh vs. Frozen Food
While many people believe fresh food is better than frozen food, some methods of freezing food can preserve freshness and nutrients better, such as flash freezing food. Here are some of the benefits of frozen food:
- Free of preservatives: Flash freezing food eliminates the need for added preservatives or any other unwanted additives.
- Prolongs freshness: Freezing maintains freshness when food is frozen at its peak ripeness. This allows you to use fresh ingredients year-round. Meanwhile, fresh food must be used quickly.
- Maintains nutrients: When food is frozen during its peak ripeness, it maintains its maximum flavor and nutrients. On the other hand, fresh food may have been picked weeks earlier when it was not at peak ripeness.
Another significant benefit to frozen food is that it combats food waste. Food waste is a significant problem in the food industry. Studies show that in 2019, globally, approximately 931 million tons of food were wasted. Another study shows that consumers now consider food waste when purchasing their food, leading to a rise in the popularity of frozen foods.
3 Popular Methods of Freezing Food
Various food industries have developed innovative ways to freeze their foods and preserve their taste and freshness. These are some of the most common freezing methods that are used in the commercial food industry. Choose the method that works best for your needs.
Contact freezing is the preferred method for freezing large amounts of products in blocks. The food is placed in pans filled with water. The pans are then placed on freezer plates to freeze the food quickly. The food is encased in ice which provides a barrier between the food and oxygen in the air, helping to stop oxidation and preventing dehydration. The downside to this freezing method is that the whole block must be thawed to access the food. If all the food is not used, it needs to be disposed of or refrozen, which degrades food quality. It is a suitable method of preserving large quantities of raw foods.
Flash or Blast Freezing
Flash or blast freezing is a method that quickly freezes food into individual pieces by blasting them with super-chilled air. The food is laid out on trays, and cold air is blown over them from above. A fan at the bottom of the chamber then pulls warm air away from the food. This process is continued until the food reaches a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius. This is an ideal method for fruits, vegetables, and seafood since the food does not stick together during the freezing process, and you can take out as much or as little product as you need without having to thaw the entire package. As freezing technology has developed, the food industry has created various flash-freezing techniques:
- Individual Quick Freezing (IQF): This freezing method freezes small food portions in minutes. It is used for food like berries, sliced vegetables, shrimp, and some types of pasta.
- Continuous Belt Freezers: This freezing method places the food on conveyor belts. The belts push the food through tunnel freezers and are considered a form of IQF.
- Spiral Freezers: Spiral freezers are flash freezers that can quickly freeze a large quantity of food while maintaining its quality. Their spiral design makes them more space-friendly than larger tunnel freezers.
This video goes into more detail about why flash freezing is so beneficial and the science behind it all.
Freeze drying is a method of dehydrating food at low temperatures. Standard dehydration processes use high heat and only removes about 80% of the moisture from foods. Freeze-dried foods are flash-frozen first and then exposed to a high-pressure vacuum. This causes all the moisture to vaporize and removes up to 98% of the moisture.
Freeze-dried foods have an extensive shelf life of up to 30 years when properly stored. In addition, because of the freezing process, these foods retain much more of their texture, taste, smell, and nutrition. Meanwhile, dehydrated foods can lose as much as 50% of their nutritional value.
Explore New Methods of Food Preservation and Preparation with SIAL America
These freezing methods can help you prevent food waste in your business and improve your profits. If you work in the foodservice industry, you want to learn as much about the industry as possible. Register for the first annual SIAL America convention to explore new strategies and learn new ways to preserve and prepare food.
SIAL America will be held in Las Vegas from March 22-24, 2022. There will be food professionals from around the world. Expect to get inspired, catch up on the latest trends, and expand your business at the conference.