Chilling is the process of cooling foods in the refrigerator or a cooling machine. The temperature ideal for chilling is 32 F-40 F at which the food is simply cooled and not frozen( a temperature at which liquids solidify and solids undergo further solidification or ice crystals start forming in them). Chilling of food is done to preserve its quality as the low temperature prevents/ discourages the growth and activity of detrimental bacteria which results in spoilage of food when kept in normal atmospheric temperature. Meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, chocolate, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, milk and dairy products, sauces and dips, seasonings, condiments, medicinal preparations, and a lot of cooked or commercially processed foods are chilled to delay their spoilage, retain their freshness and appeal. Popular chilled recipes include chilled soda drink, chilled fruit salads, Gazpacho (Spanish cold soup), Vegetable Rolls and Cold Noodles (Japanese Cold Pasta).
History of Chilled Recipes
The history of chilling food dates back to 1960s in the western cuisines when the fist foods to be chilled were meat slices and pies. Salad garnish and dairy-based desserts were introduced to the refrigerator from the 1970s. 1980’s saw a rapid expansion in the range of items that were shoved into the refrigerator. Soups, pastas, sandwiches, snacks and pizzas were being refrigerated by then. The last decade of the twentieth century expanded the range of chilled food preparations. The food includes a variety of sauces, dips, non-milk based desserts, green salads, beverages, sushi, ready-to-eat and packaged meals and a lot of other dishes. Chilling was used as a primary means of preservation of most of the readily perishable household and commercial foodstuffs.
Popular Chilled Recipes
Chilling increases the appeal of some food items. Chilled recipes like milkshakes, soft drinks, fruit juices, fruit salads, dairy-based salads and others are a strong temptation for many. These preparations when served at room temperature will lose their appeal. Popular chilled recipes include recipes for:
· Desserts – Chilling serves to enhance the flavors and texture of some desserts and is often a step that completes the preparation of the dish. Ice box desserts are some of the most popular chilled desserts. One recipe for cookies calls for layering cookies with a sweet creamy and chocolaty mixture and chilling it. The layered cookies are arranged in a stack and the chilled product is cut into rectangular pieces and served. Chilling is an important step in the preparation of a number of frosted cakes. Usually, party cakes are smeared with icing made of butter-cream or fondant, decorated with cherries and frozen. Trifles, tartlets, iced espresso, chilled frappes, cheesecakes, fruit salads, puddings and parfaits are some of the most commonly prepared and eaten chilled desserts.
In the contemporary cuisines, it is not only the western cuisine but also the Asian cuisine which has a number of chilled recipes. The Indian and Chinese dessert rice puddings and semolina custard taste very good when chilled.
· Beverages- Chilled drinks are one of the most popular category of anytime drinks, though it is during the summer season that they are consumed the most. Popular chilled recipes include those for frozen chocolate drinks, smoothies, fruit juices, lemonades, soda and soda dessert drinks, floats, and milkshakes.
· Salads and soups – these are accompaniment dishes that taste the best when served chilled. A number of seafood salads, indirectly including the Caesar salad taste delicious when served chilled. Pasta salad, greens salad, and artichoke hearts salad are some of the savory chilled salads that are served as side courses. Although most soups are ideally served hot, some soups are best served cold. Gazpacho is a Spanish raw vegetable soup that is served chilled with shrimp and crouton toppings. Cold Beet Borscht is a Ukrainian beet soup that is prepared by pureeing beets along with other vegetables and seasonings. Vichyssoise is a French cold soup made of potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also added to the soup to enhance its flavor. Avocado, melon and other fruits are also used for making some delicious cold soups.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Chilling Food
Chilling food is done primarily to preserve the quality of food for a period beyond its natural span of spoilage. Some dishes are chilled as the recipe mandates that as a part of the process of preparation. In such cases chilling not only preserves the quality of food, but also provides it the necessary texture and flavor. Chilling is extremely essential for preserving meats, vegetables and cooked food overnight.
Though chilling tends to prevent the food from spoilage, not all foods are ideally recommended for being chilled. If frozen for a long time, the food tends to lose its moisture which makes it stiff. Certain foods are best preserved at room temperature.
Methods Similar to Chilling
Chilling is often confused with freezing which is a similar process. Freezing takes place at a much lower temperature than chilling (at around 0 degrees centigrade and much lower than that). While chilling does not result in altering the form and texture of the food undergoing the process, freezing invariably does. A liquid food is solidified on freezing and a solid food becomes hard on being subjected to the process. Chilled recipes on the other hand, retain their original state after being subjected to the process. In a refrigerator, freezing takes place only in a special chamber called the freezing chamber which is dedicated for the purpose.
Tips for Chilling
· Chilling food is done by setting the temperature of the refrigerator at or below 8 degrees Centigrade( 46 degrees Fahrenheit). Care should be taken to not set the refrigerator at freezing temperatures because that will change the quality of food with the formation of crystals in it.
· When chilled, the foods should be kept covered as otherwise it will become dry and also there is a risk of subtly flavored foods catching on the flavors of strongly flavored foods kept in the vicinity. It is a misconception that chilling improves the quality of food subjected to it or prevents its damage totally. Chilling only helps in retarding the process of damage by retarding the growth of harmful microorganisms, it does not actually destroy or kill the bacteria and neither does it enhance the quality of food. Chilled dishes do perish but only at a much slower pace than compared to items which are not chilled.
· Even hot food can be kept for chilling in the refrigerator though many may think that this might burden the chilling apparatus of the refrigerator with additional load. The fact is refrigerators can take in such load as they are specifically designed for cooling food. However, it is advisable that the entire quantity of hot food is not kept all together in one big container in the refrigerator. Instead, the food can be divided into small quantities in smaller containers for faster chilling without any additional burden on the cooler.
· While chilling food it is better to keep fewer containers in the refrigerator. This not only gives a neat appearance but more importantly allows the coolness produced to circulate freely between the containers and get distributed evenly.
· Chilling is maximum in the top shelves and hence any food that is adversely affected by such exposure should not be placed there. For example, leafy vegetables tend to wilt due to excessive coldness when kept in the top shelf of the refrigerator.