Additives

Today, the term “food additive” covers nearly 2,500 chemicals that are added to foods for specific purposes such as preserving or processing and enhancing flavour or colour. The use of additives in the food processing industry has become so widespread that they are now consumed on a daily basis by the general population.


This list includes colouring, stabilizers, acidifiers, preservatives, enzymes and texturing agents, but it is this last class of food additives that brings great pleasure to molecular gastronomy enthusiasts by creating culinary extravaganzas with unexpected surprises every time! 
 

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Agar-Agar

Natural gelling agent extracted from red algae often used to create solid pearls, gel spaghettis and jellies.

In the industry, algae are first washed and then treated with an acid or an alkali to facilitate extraction or to increase the final product’s gelling capacity. The plants are then boiled under pressure, filtered and cooled. Next, two methods are used to extract water from the product: Either a freezing and thawing process or mechanical pressure is applied to the gel formed upon boiling. Finally, the plant gum obtained is dried and then ground according to the desired form: powder, flakes, bars or threads.
 

Did you know?

Agar-agar effectively replaces animal gelatin in a vegetarian diet and has virtually no taste or colour.

Is used in microbiology as a culture medium for bacteria, cells, yeasts and molds.

Is used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, and gelling and thickening agent in the food processing industry, which accounts for 90% of its total production.

Is included in some slimming diets due to its high-fiber, low-calorie satiating effect.

 

Calcium Lactate

Calcium salt used with sodium alginate in the process of spherification.

Table salt, or sodium chloride, is well known for its flavour-enhancing and preservative qualities, but in molecular gastronomy, calcium salts are used for gelling with sodium alginate. Three calcium salts, derivatives of three acids (lactic, gluconic, chloric), are usually used in molecular gastronomy. However, calcium lactate is more popular, since it leaves no aftertaste, whereas calcium chloride leaves a certain bitterness in the mouth, even after rinsing the spheres with water.
 

Did you know?

Calcium Lactate increases the remineralization of enamel when added to chewing gum containing xylitol.

Is found in many aged cheeses, where it is produced by bacteria during the aging process.

Is prescribed to treat calcium deficiency and osteoporosis.

Is used as a firming agent for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables as well as processed fish to prevent the degradation of their texture.

 
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Gelatin

Cold soluble gelatin that has the same textural properties and melt-in-the-mouth effect as traditional gelatin.​

Gelatin is probably one of the best-known additives outside the food industry. Its discovery dates back to the Egyptians, who used it to make glue. Since then, its use has obviously become greatly diversified! Gelatin is naturally formed when meat, bones or skin are slowly boiled to make a stock or stew. Once cooled, the mixture forms a jelly. Gelatin was known and used in cooking well before the product was marketed at the end of the 19th century when an American named Charles Knox introduced it on the U.S. market in the form of a powder.

Did you know?

Gelatin lends its name to the coloured film used on light projectors, as coloured gelatin-based gels originally served the same purpose in the first lighting equipment.

Is found in some cosmetics, as one of its derivatives, “hydrolyzed collagen,” is known for its anti-aging effects.

Is one of the main components in gel capsules that protect drugs and affect their absorption rate.

Is used to hold silver halide crystals in an emulsion in photographic films.

 

Gellan Gum

Gelling agents obtained via fermentation used to produce firm gels that slice cleanly and withstand high temperatures.​

Gellan gum is a polysaccharide whose origin differs from that of other hydrocolloids presented so far. Its rather recent discovery was the result of industrial research on gum from bacterial fermentation. Sphingomonas elodea bacteria transform simple sugars, phosphate, nitrogen and nutrients into chains of more complex sugars. Once the process has been completed, the microorganisms are eliminated by pasteurization. Precipitation in alcohol and acyl group clarification or elimination processes are applied to the gum to further transform it. Four derivatives are manufactured in the industry, each with different properties. Two forms are more widely used in cooking: highacyl and low-acyl gellan gum.
 

Did you know?

Gellan gum replaces agar-agar in culture media that must be maintained at very high temperatures.

Is used in gelatinous beverages that are popular in Asia, but marketing abroad proved to be difficult, particularly in North America with the beverage “Orbitz.”

Often replaces pectin in sugar-free jams and is added to dry cake mixes to maintain enough moisture during cooking.

Adheres salt crystals that are sprayed onto pretzels, without adding fat.

 
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Iota Carrageenan

Natural gelling agent derived from red algae used to create smooth, elastic gels (iota carrageenan) or firm, brittle gels (kappa carrageenan).

Iota carrageenan has a greater affinity with calcium, although it is not necessary in order for it to congeal. Calcium, like potassium with kappa carrageenan, lodges between double helices to stabilize the gel. Iota carrageenan usually produces an elastic gel that does not degrade if it is frozen and thawed. It also forms a stronger gel in the presence of starch. 

Another type of carrageenan, lambda, significantly differs from the other two. It does not gel, with or without the addition of ions, but is used to thicken dairy products. It is used less often but is sometimes combined with kappa to change the texture of certain products.
 

Did you know?

Iota carrageenan ensure the consistency of various dairy products such as cottage cheese and ice cream, as they prevent the separation of proteins.

Keep cocoa particles in suspension in chocolate milk.

Trap moisture in cured meats to give them a juicy texture.

Improve the texture of processed products such as sauces, dairy desserts and salad dressings, as they increase the products’ viscosity.

 

Kappa Carrageenan

Natural gelling agent derived from red algae, used to create smooth, elastic gels (iota carrageenan) or firm, brittle gels (kappa carrageenan).

Due to its composition, kappa carrageenan forms a brittle, firm gel, which is potentiated and stabilized by the presence of potassium. Many layers of kappa molecules join together forming double helices that produce this particular texture. The final product is greatly affected by salts, sugar or proteins, such as those present in milk. Interactions between positive and negative charges of the additive and solution create a network similar to the meshes of a net, which keep all of the particles in suspension, preventing their aggregation and the collapse of the structure.

Did you know?

Kappa carrageenan ensure the consistency of various dairy products such as cottage cheese and ice cream, as they prevent the separation of proteins.

Keep cocoa particles in suspension in chocolate milk.

Trap moisture in cured meats to give them a juicy texture.

Improve the texture of processed products such as sauces, dairy desserts and salad dressings, as they increase the products’ viscosity.

 
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Liquid Nitrogen

A major component of air used in its liquid form to create the smoothest ice cream and cook with the cold.​

It was not until the 19th century that scientists managed to liquefy gases by cooling them to extreme temperatures. Nowadays, the use of such processes is undeniable, and it is now impossible to visit a hospital without coming face-to-face with a liquid oxygen tank. Liquid nitrogen is also widely used in this environment to conserve body fluids such as blood or sperm, in addition to eliminating potentially malignant skin lesions such as warts.

Did you know?

Liquid nitrogen is produced directly from ambient air liquefied after distillation separates its various components.

Has been used since 1902 as a source of energy to propel a cryogenic motor vehicle.

Is used to cool certain materials to produce a state of superconductivity.

Is the basis for a new concept in ecological funerals whereby the corpse is dipped in liquid nitrogen and then turned into fine particles.

 
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Methylcellulose

Natural emulsifier derived from cellulose, used to create denser foams and, when exposed to heat, to create gels that will melt as they cool down. ​

Derived from cellulose, a structural component of plant cells, methylcellulose was first introduced at the end of the 1930s in Germany, then a few years later in the United States. This extract from wood or cotton has several desirable characteristics such as film formation, water retention and the ability to form a gel with heat, which will melt upon cooling.  Methylcellulose is useful in the industry due to its stability during cooking and its ability to trap moisture and air, which increases the volume of dough and frozen dairy products. When added to French onions, it preserves the onion’s shape and texture during cooking and reduces oil absorption by forming a film.

Did you know?

Methylcellulose is calorie-free when ingested, as human digestive enzymes are unable to alter its molecules; the intestine does not retain it.

Is used in the composition of anti-constipation treatments due to its ability to absorb a lot of water during its passage through the digestive tract.

Acts as a performance additive in concrete mixtures due to its properties that improve the product’s viscosity and its adhesion to surfaces.

Is a main component in the manufacturing of fake semen used in the pornography industry.

 

Popping Sugar

Popping sugars are different from regular hard candy in that it is pressurized carbon dioxide gas bubbles that are embedded inside the candy, creating a small popping reaction when it dissolves in one’s mouth. 


Popping sugar, much like the candies you might have grown up with, but with a twist. These sugars have been specially designed for culinary arts. They are used to decorate meals and beverages on new levels creating a fun and memorable experience for your dishes. These sugars come unflavoured but you are able to transform them into any flavour that you prefer. These little bursts of flavour will bring your guests to great surprise and flashbacks of their childhood. 

 

Sodium Alginate

Natural gelling agent extracted from brown algae often combined with a calcium salt in the process of spherification. ​

As you probably guessed, the name of this additive comes from its marine origin. In fact, sodium alginate is extracted from brown algae found on the coasts of the North Atlantic, Asia and South America. Its discovery was made by a chemist named E.C.C. Stanford, who described the molecule for the first time in 1881. The food industry uses these algae extract in many different processes and, depending on the desired properties, manufacturers prefer several varieties of marine plants (Laminaria hyerborea, Laminaria digitata, Laminaria japonica, Ascophyllum nodosum, Ecklonia maxima).
 

Did you know?

Sodium alginate re-shapes chilli pepper powder or pulp that can then be used to stuff olives.

Is used to make very reliable dental impressions due to its fine grain size.

Encapsulates certain probiotics so that they reach the intestines without being destroyed by stomach acid.

Is used to make replicas of human body parts during the filming of special effects.

 
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Soy Lecithin

Natural emulsifier extracted from soybean often used to shape watery solutions into airs. ​

Although you may not be aware of the usefulness of the lecithin molecule, your body knows very well how to use it! Lecithin is a constituent of cell membranes, specifically a phospholipid. It is like a hydrophilic pinhead with two hydrophobic fatty acid legs, which are essential properties for the formation of emulsions. Besides cells in the human body, lecithin is mainly found in egg yolks, soybeans, liver, and wheat germ. The pharmacist Théodore Gobley isolated and described egg lecithin for the first time in 1847. Gobley gave it the name lekythos, the Greek word for egg yolk. He then spotted the group of molecules in many parts of animal bodies and in large quantities in the bile, blood and brain.
 

Did you know?

Soy lecithin is incorporated into many cosmetics to help soften the skin and better absorb other ingredients.

Is used as a supplement in many types of animal food, providing fat and protein.

Prevents food from sticking to the bottom of dishes and pans when added to non-stick cooking sprays.

Enhances the colour and forms a protective coating on painted surfaces when added to the paint.

 
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Xanthan Gum

Natural thickener derived from glucose via fermentation often used to stabilize emulsions and thicken sauces and drinks.​

Xanthan gum belongs to the hydrocolloid family, and like each member of this family, its molecules must have time to hydrate after having been dissolved. This hydration period allows water to penetrate inside hydrocolloid molecules, which then facilitate reactions as they are surrounded by water and suspended in the solvent. Hydration can be done equally well in a hot or cold liquid. Heat only slightly alters the thickening effect of xanthan gum once the product has cooled, but its viscosity is temporarily decreased during the process. This additive also tolerates a wide range of pH and the presence of salts and alcohol up to 60%, but it is best to complete the hydration phase before these additions.
 

Did you know?

Xanthan gum causes a noticeable increase in viscosity at concentrations as low as 1%.

Prevents the formation of ice crystals in ice cream and increases the moisture and volume of gluten-free bakery products.

Is a common ingredient in fake blood recipes.

Provides a high-fat mouth feel in many light sauces, milkshakes and dips.

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