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The history of shock freezing

People have always been interested how to preserve and save food for a long term without loss of food quality, how to achieve long-term ways to store fresh fruits, meat, fish and vegetables? The first canned food appeared during the Napoleon Bonaparte military companies. Despite the fact that freezing in cooking actively used for more than 150 years, it is impossible to avoid the loss of consumer qualities when using traditional technologies. The structure of the fabric, the taste, aroma, and nutritional content - all this is largely violated or lost. Deep freeze technology has led to revolutionary changes in cooking and food trade. However, the process of popularizing this method lasted almost 100 years! What is the secret of shock freezing?

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Inuit Gift

Inuit, natives of northern Canada, are skilled fishers and hunters. In the beginning of the 20th century, in Europeans eyes, they looked like savages, but they were involuntarily able to give impetus to the development of modern technologies.

Inuit practiced a very innovative method for preserve the fish harvesting. It was customary to keep the fresh catch alive in an artificial tank or cage until a strong wind began to blow. Then the fisherman laid out the fish on a hill, and it was almost instantly petrified by frost. Inuit-style shock freezing allows you to make can prepping that is significantly different in quality from conventional freezing. Northern fishermen empirically determined the importance of the speed of the process that the wind provides.

In 1912, an entrepreneur, naturalist, and businessperson from the United States, Clarence Birdseye went to the Canadian province of Labrador to trade fox furs. There he encountered local harvesting of fish and was surprised that the product stored for several months after defrosting possesses all the qualities of a fresh catch. Our hero returned with the firm intention to make a revolution in technology and business.

Clarence Birdseye and Food Fast Freezing

The American, apparently, was the first "civilized" person to learn that not only the temperature of conservation is important, but also the dynamics of the process. After returning to the United States in 1917, Birdseye experimented with cooling rate and product size for several years. After a number of successful developments, in 1924 he opened Birdseye Seafoods Inc., for wholesale trade of frozen meat, fish, and vegetables. First, the business goes well in Springfield, and then the trade in other states are being developed.

First wave

The first freezers could not provide the necessary intensive cooling, so Birdseye installed powerful fans inside the units and combined frozen ice with sodium chloride to produce an endothermic reaction. The goods sold by Birdseye Seafoods Inc ., were already stored in ordinary freezers, and delivered to retailers in refrigerated trucks.

In 1929, the quick freezing of products becme interested by giants of the food market: Goldman Sachs-Trading Corporation and Postum Company. Clarence Birdseye sold them all patents and the Birdseye Seafoods trademark, continuing to be a refrigeration consultant at these companies until 1938.

The most amazing thing happened after the Second World War. Trade of frozen foods developed explosively, but the principles of accelerated shock freezing were used only by the Birds Eye and General Foods brands. Only at the end of the 20th century, accelerated deep cooling gained worldwide recognition and became a key technology for increasing the competitiveness of a business engaged in the logistics of quality products and prepared meals.


Why the Clarence Birdseye revolution did not conquer the world market in the 1930s and 1940s? Because fundamental science always conquer from the application of the invention to practice. For a long time, believed that the only important part was the extremely low temperature that the Birdseye machine generated — a deep-freeze chamber.

No one did the study of processes occurring at the sub-cellular and molecular levels, so the introduction of shock freezing turned to profanity that lasted for several decades. The capacities and volumes of intensive cooling grew, and the quality of the products remained the same as at the end of the 19th century, when the first compressor-freezer units massively used.

Only in the 80s-90s of the XX century, physicians and technologists of the food industry, who studied the low-temperature destruction of biological tissues, finally figured it out. It turns out that the key to success lies in stopping the formation of ice crystals. The faster the phase change of matter occurs, the more ice fractals (crystallization centers) form, but the smaller their size.

In traditional freezing, lasting 3 to 5 hours, the fractal density is less, but their size is times larger. Mechanical damage by ice microstructures leads to rupture of tissue membranes and destruction of cellular structures. As a result, muscle fibers are stratified, torn, and crushed. Nutrient juices enter the interstitial space. Such meat after defrosting is very different in its properties from fresh: it is tougher after cooking, its microtexture becomes unnatural, its taste and aromatic properties are mostly lost. The qualitative composition of vitamins and enzyme groups is significantly deteriorating.

In addition to the loss of consumer properties, low-temperature degradation affects the loss of the product with the so-called freezing, which directly depends on the entry of juices into the interstitial zones.

There is another deep-freeze chamber bonus that benefits the manufacturer and the final consumer - it reduces the time of the first stage of the process (lowering the temperature from positive to zero). The high speed of this zone protects against the development of colonies of microorganisms that originally existed in fresh meat products, vegetables, fruits, and berries.

Shock Freezing today

Modern shock freezers are universal devices capable of preparing both protein products and crop nomenclature for long-term storage. However, there are no universal solutions for all issues. Like physicians, modern inventors of shock freezers come from "loyalty" ranges, which depend on the types of tissue and the size of the fragments. Therefore, the best and most productive deep-freeze chambers are adapted to a rather narrow segment of production.

As an example, I want to cite the latest events in the life of a large manufacturer of frozen semi-prepped products - the company "MLM-Ra." When the task was set to enter the international market, the key investments were aimed at the purchase of shock freezers of spiral type with increased productivity. Within six months after the conversion, the company received a number of competitive advantages in the post-Soviet countries' markets, Poland and Israel. Currently, negotiations are underway on deliveries to China and preparation of the enterprise for an IPO. So new technologies cease to be secrets and become powerful business factors.

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