December 17, 2018

The Big Chill

 

Chuck Allgood explains how modern refrigeration helps restaurants thrive.



An image of Chuck Allgood, Refrigerants Technology Leader at The Chemours Company.

 

Would you like a pungent odor coming from your codfish? How about if it quivered to the touch like jelly—would that entice you?



Well, that’s what you’d get if you had some lutefisk, a Nordic delicacy. For those hailing from other parts of the world, it is an acquired taste, as are many other traditionally preserved foods. Before the arrival of refrigeration, traditional preservation methods, such as salting and fermentation, were the only ways to store perishable food.

Nowadays, the fridge in the kitchen, with all its amazing features, works wonders. But consider the power of a much less heralded appliance: the restaurant cooler. It has to work in a much harsher environment, battling limited ventilation, slicks of grease, and high ambient temperatures. Helping restaurant coolers prevail: advanced low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants like Opteon™, which have low discharge temperatures, reducing the burden on already-stressed refrigeration equipment (and already-stressed line cooks). Keeping expensive ingredients at optimal temperatures helps make restaurant food safe and delicious.

Refrigeration also keeps home cooking wholesome and nourishing. But no matter where people eat, food is perishable—none more so than seafood. And these delicate delicacies need to travel to get to your plate. Luckily, a whole cold chain runs from the fishing trawlers that harvest the catch to the cook who puts the fillet in the skillet. And all of it depends on refrigeration.

No matter if it’s apples reserved for the off-season, unripe bananas waiting their turn in produce, or fine fish on hold for the discerning diner, anything in cold storage must ship dependably and safely. One leak of a toxic refrigerant could ruin millions of dollars’ worth of inventory, as could equipment breakdown brought on by extreme conditions. Fortunately, refrigerants have advanced; ones like Opteon™ are safe and have very low GWP, which makes your sustainably harvested seafood sustainable for the rest of the planet, too.

New refrigerants also enable sustainability when people shop. Online retailing means that nonperishable staple goods are often shipped directly to consumers, leaving food markets free to focus on perishable, healthy food. In fact, as a result, markets are building modular, closed-door refrigerated sections.

Still, somewhere near the array of fresh fish, hills of broccoli crowns, or acres of Greek yogurt, you’ll find a few boxes of salt cod. Old favorites like that can be delicious, but they’re not to everyone’s taste. So if you turn up your nose at traditionally preserved foods like lutefisk, at least modern refrigeration gives you many more options.

This content was featured in the Chemical & Engineering News 12/17/18 issue.

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