When it’s ok to put cans in microwaves

For whatever reason, food’s been all over the news like a rash lately. If it’s not the prices it’s the organic GM debate, if it’s not the…actually don’t get me started. But no matter what it is, science, technology and maths will always be found nearby, flexing their muscles.

Let’s start with crisps. How do you get them to be evenly flavoured? Any ideas? Actually forget it because a team of physicists at the Birmingham Uni. already had a top one. After tagging individual crisps with a radioactive chemical that release positrons, they were able to keep tabs on them through the flavouring process. The state of the art imaging techniques they used then pointed the way to improving the flavour. Simple as.

More on this is here. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/597447.stm

And it’s not just crisps. You see nothing gets past a scientist – not even putting cans in microwaves. Cans and microwaves just don’t mix. You’ve done it. We’ve done it. People on YouTube have done it. So we don’t need to tell you why. But a specialist can-making company gave the act a green light recently.

A new type of steel matched with a more shallow and wider design seemed to do the trick for these innovators. And does it actually work? A thousand heating experiments in a standard microwave later say it does. Cue round of applause everyone.

One more bit of knowledge before you shoot off. Before packing food, pasteurising it to free it from harmful microbes is crucial. And the usual weapon of choice? A blast of intense heat. Which for obvious reasons rubs cooks up the wrong way. So scientists came up with a new system to put the problem to bed. It works something like this.

After creating a vacuum over the food surface, hot steam deals with the bacteria. A second vacuum then makes an appearance to whip the steam away again. Pasteurisation is done and the food is cooled. Not bad for less than a second’s worth of work.

Get the ins and outs of vacuum steam pasteurisation here: http://www.foodtechinfo.com

You can improve food and all its processes as:

  • physicist, developing radioactive labelling techniques to study food processing
  • mathematician, modelling the behaviour of fluids
  • food scientist, organising taste tests for food products or developing new pasteurisation techniques
  • quality control inspector in a food factory, ensuring high standards are kept
  • chemical engineer, designing equipment and processes to flavour foods
  • metallurgist, testing the qualities of new metal alloys for food packaging
  • packaging technologist, who decides what shapes, colours and labels are most appealing and effective
  • microbiologist, testing packaged food for dangerous micro-organisms
  • An environmental health officer, doing routine checks on restaurants and food factories
  • A scientific writer, summarising the latest scientific information on food safety for the Food Standards Agency

Explore the Institute of Food Science and Technology Tasty careers website.