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Cryogenic freezing is used to produce food in a fast and efficient manner. It has the ability to preserve food in a way that it retains its quality, flavour and moisture.
This method of preservation uses a spray nozzle or directly immerses the food into liquid nitrogen, which freezes it almost instantly.
Foods are naturally fragile and need to be carefully handled and cooled or frozen to maintain their freshness and texture. Cryogenic freezing and chilling systems ensure precise temperature control for a wide variety of raw foods, including vegetables, meat, fish and poultry.
The ice crystals that form during the freezing process are small and evenly distributed, which preserves the product’s texture and flavor. Moreover, a fast-freezing process also prevents drip loss, which causes nutrient loss and can lead to an uneven texture in the final product.
Using liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide to freeze your meat and poultry products allows you to achieve more consistent temperature control, faster freeze times, better yields and higher quality. The gas lowers the temperature down to -196degC, making it ideal for producing high quality burgers and sausages.
Cryogenic freezing is often used to produce ready-to-eat meals and prepared entrees that appeal to discerning consumers. Frozen pizzas and calzones are examples of such products that achieve more efficient processing with a cryogenic system, resulting in higher productivity and less rework.
As a result, the cost of manufacturing such food items has dropped. However, a good understanding of the fundamentals of freezing and thawing is essential for delivering the highest quality product to the market.
Food safety is another important consideration when preparing and transporting temperature-sensitive foods. Whether you are removing heat from meat and seafood, or moving a delicate fruit from the field to market, you need to chill and freeze quickly for better quality and extended shelf life.
The use of liquid nitrogen and carbon dioxide during chilling and freezing reduces food safety concerns by reducing the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms. It also helps to improve the quality of raw foods by minimizing bacterial growth, off-flavors and short shelf life.
For food producers, ensuring proper product handling and transportation requires efficient cryogenic systems that can be installed in large transport bins or totes to provide uniform chilling for maximum quality and shelf life. This reduces rework and return rates, thereby improving your bottom line.
Cryogenic food freezing is a safe and effective way to freeze products quickly. This technique can help to increase production efficiencies, while also improving product quality and reducing dehydration losses.
Freezing can reduce food safety concerns by slowing or stalling the growth of spoilage causing microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. In the poultry industry, for example, cryogenic chilling can eliminate the need to use water-based ice, dry ice or a continuous chilling system.
The rapid chilling of raw food materials can also improve quality and decrease labor costs. In addition, it can reduce the risk of cross contamination between different foods.
However, there are some safety risks associated with cryogenic gasses. When the liquids evaporate they can displace oxygen and can form a vapor that can be very heavy and can be difficult to disperse. This hazard is more prevalent in enclosed or confined spaces and can result in asphyxiation.
In addition, when cryogenic gases are evaporating they can cause enormous pressures to build up in containers, especially wide-mouthed glass Dewars. Without proper venting, these large pressures can cause explosions or fires.
For these reasons, all applications involving cryogenic liquids or gasses must adhere to strict safety precautions. They must follow the manufacturer’s recommended safety procedures, including use of gas level monitors that can accurately measure the concentrations of the gases.
Moreover, cryogenic gasses must be stored and used in systems that are designed to withstand the extremely low temperatures they can generate. Several different types of containers are available, and they must be carefully selected to withstand the extreme temperature ranges that these materials can generate.
When transporting and transferring these gases, users must ensure that they are in well-ventilated areas and handled slowly to minimize boiling and splashing. This is particularly true when handling liquid nitrogen or other cryogenic liquids in wide-mouthed glass Dewars.
The same is true of dry ice, which can be a useful cooling agent in laboratories. Unlike liquid nitrogen and other cryogenic substances, dry ice is non-toxic, but it does convert to carbon dioxide at -78 degC and has a very low boiling point.
Cryogenic freezing can be used to freeze food products quickly, enabling manufacturers to increase production efficiencies and reduce costs. The use of liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide at low operating temperatures of -80oC ensures that the heat transfer rate is high and allows for quick freezing times.
In addition to ensuring the product has a stable temperature, cryogenic systems can also help reduce food safety concerns. Chilling raw meat or poultry with liquid CO2 before further processing reduces the chances of spoilage by slowing or stalling the growth of spoilage organisms.
The poultry industry is increasingly using cryogenic chilling to reduce food safety and improve quality. These systems can replace water chill baths, water ice or dry ice to quickly remove heat from raw products, allowing the processing team to focus on other tasks.
A cryogenic freezer can be used on its own or in combination with mechanical refrigeration systems to provide the flexibility to expand freezing equipment, increase throughput and improve food quality. These types of freezers are available in a variety of sizes and configurations, including compact, modular units with individual freezing zones that can be independently controlled, according to McCormick.
To increase a freezer’s energy efficiency, processors can add a high-efficiency heat exchanger that can use recirculating refrigerants to transfer the heat to the frozen product. The heat exchanger can be installed above or below the product, or both, McCormick said.
Impingement freezing offers an additional advantage for processors because it is more flexible than other types of freezing technology. Unlike conventional axial-flow fans, impingement generates high-velocity jets of cold gas that can be applied above and below the surface of the product. This can significantly enhance the product’s overall heat-transfer coefficient, and provide a much wider range of freezing temperatures.
Another benefit of impingement freezing is that it is less likely to damage the product’s surface, as is common with other types of freezing systems. This is due to the high-velocity jets of cold, pressurized air that are perpendicular to the surface of the product.
Aside from these advantages, cryogenic freezing has some risks that are unique to this method of cooling and should be carefully considered. These include asphyxiation and toxic hazards.
Cryogenic food freezing is a cost-effective method to achieve fast freezing times for products with variable shapes and high volumes. It delivers production efficiencies alongside measurable product quality improvements, particularly with regard to losses due to dehydration.
In addition to achieving a faster freeze time, cryogenic food freezing also produces a higher retention of water with smaller ice crystals that enhance the quality and taste of the frozen product. As a result, it is increasingly being used in the frozen foods industry.
There are several different types of specialised freezers available, depending on the type of product and amount of manufacturing space needed. Some are primarily designed for food packaging and processing, while others focus on specific food product applications such as meats, baked goods, seafood or dairy products.
Liquid nitrogen and liquefied carbon dioxide are the two gases most commonly used in cryogenic freezers. Using these gases allows food processors to freeze and chill their products more quickly than conventional mechanical IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) tunnels.
To calculate the cost of a particular system, manufacturers must consider both the purchase price of the gas and the running costs. The liquid gas can be a costly and often variable resource, but the savings on energy consumption and low maintenance costs make it a worthwhile investment for many food processors.
For example, frozen pizzas can be prepared quickly and easily for discerning consumers to enjoy. This enables a restaurant to meet increasing demand for value and convenience while maintaining the quality of their product.
This is because the pizza can be put in the freezer, then sliced and assembled for quick assembly before serving. The rapid freezing of the individual components also reduces moisture loss in the cooked product and preserves proper portioning.
For this reason, a rapid cryogenic freeze can be very beneficial for breakfast items such as eggs, sausages, bacon, ham, pancakes and pastries. The rapid freezing of these components, combined with assembly, can increase productivity and reduce re-work while preserving yield targets.