How to measure and analyse the texture of food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and adhesives.

Monday, 15 December 2014

It’s time to perform Textural Magic! Part One

An introduction to Culinology, Texture and Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular gastronomy, originally a term coined to describe the scientific study of food and cooking, is now more associated with innovative modern cuisine.

Successful chefs have realised that to be at the top of their game they need to create new culinary experiences using a combination of unusual tastes, textures and theatrical twists to give the eating experience a new multi-sensory dimension. This is enabled by a variety of new high-tech equipment, adjusted traditional preparation techniques and a handful of clever chemicals.

Whilst molecular gastronomy has been the application of scientific principles to the understanding and improvement of small scale food preparation, a recent explosion in food technology and the demand for gourmet, nutritious and unique sensory experiences has created a new career opportunity called Culinology. This blends the training of a culinary arts chef with food science and nutrition education to form an exciting new highly desirable career path.

Gastronomy on a plate
With culinary arts and science now appearing to merge into one, many famous restaurants are acquiring food laboratories on their premises, while universities and colleges are beginning to offer Culinology degrees. As gastronomic specialities currently seem to be exclusive to top restaurants, it is only a matter of time before scientists at major food companies develop the techniques and adopt the right ingredients to perfect these culinary delicacies for the mainstream market.

Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adria and Pino Maffeo are presently at the forefront of this radical style of worldwide cooking phenomenon. Sardine-flavoured sorbet, snail porridge and honey handkerchiefs are presented on a daily basis, with the aid of an arsenal of equipment more typically found in scientific laboratories and a selection of magic ingredients.

Among this equipment sits a Texture Analyser, the source of ultimate objective quantification of whether the food is ‘more crisp, firm, sticky, etc.’ as a result of a new technique or the addition of a certain ingredient to the formulation. Heston Blumenthal has been featured on TV employing a Texture Analyser and an Acoustic Envelope Detector (with the help of Professor Malcolm Povey at Leeds University) to help him perfect the perfect crispy fish batter.
Texture is magical. The way a food “feels” affects the way we perceive its appearance, aroma and taste. And while manipulation of mouthfeel can seem mysterious, many tricks can help developers create and maintain the perfect texture — be it real or illusion. 

Examples of molecular gastronomy delights and how to create novel textures

The food texture market is expected to reach nearly $12 billion by 2018, with a CAGR of 5.0% from 2013 to 2018. The texturising agents market is witnessing steady growth on the platform of diverse applications in bakery and confectioneries, and for meat and poultry products. Texturisers such as thickening, gelling, emulsifying, stabilising, binding, and clarifying agents have many versatile functions, which have escalated their usage in application-specific ingredients and new upscale end-use products.

Texturising agents are mainly used for improving the texture of the food by providing it with creaminess, clarity, thickness, viscosity, and various other characteristics. Various texturising ingredients available in the food texture market add various characteristics to the food. They are used alone or in a blend, in order to provide texture to the ultimate product and are helpful in providing stable structure to the food, thus increasing its shelf life.

There are also numerous new technologies with regards to structuring oils that are on the verge of appearing in experimental kitchens around the world including ethyl cellulose, combinations of β-sitosterol and γ-oryzanol and waxes. These technologies, with diverse potentials, may be used to vary the structure in everything ranging from liquid oils, to chocolate to comminuted meat products. In a similar fashion to hydrocolloids, these different oleogels vary in appearance from opaque to transparent gels, in hardness from soft to hard gels and in melting profile from thermally stable to unstable gels. Solid vegetable or fish oils can now be created and tailored without using other sources of traditional fats such as lard or butter imparting new and exciting sensory experiences yet to be experienced by the consumer!

Gels form when molecules of a given gelling agent interact to form three-dimensional networks. The texture of a gel rests not in a single moment, but every moment of consumption — the way the product breaks during the first bite, how it shatters or smears across the tongue and palate during mastication, and how long it takes to reduce the product from its original size, shape and consistency to that which is swallowed. And the characteristics that affect the perception at each of these stages of consumption are numerous. Whilst some gels rely on chemical interaction for their gelation, other gels form as a result of thermogelation. The differences in gelling and melting temperatures and chemical interaction durations are common tools exploited by food scientists.


This is just a brief introduction to the subject of 'textural magic'. After Christmas we will be looking into some options for performing textural magic...

  • Performing textural magic with the use of texturising agents
  • Performing textural magic with the use of new food preparation techniques
  • Textural magic – designing texture into your food products 
So look out for these posts in the New Year!

Please note that illustrations will be numbered 1 - 4, 5 - 8, and 9 - 15 through the rest of the series.

We can design and manufacture probes or fixtures for the TA.XTplus texture analyser that are bespoke to your sample and its specific measurement.

Once your measurement is performed, our expertise in its graphical interpretation is unparalleled. Not only can we develop the most suitable and accurate method for the testing of your sample, but we can also prepare analysis procedures that obtain the desired parameters from your curve and drop them into a spreadsheet or report designed around your requirements.

For more information on how to measure texture, please visit the Texture Analysis Properties section on our website.

TA.XTplus texture analyser with bloom jar The
TA.XTplus texture analyser is part of a family of texture analysis instruments and equipment from Stable Micro Systems. An extensive portfolio of specialist attachments is available to measure and analyse the textural properties of a huge range of food products. Our technical experts can also custom design instrument fixtures according to individual specifications.

No-one understands texture analysis like we do!

To discuss your specific test requirements click here...

Watch our video about texture analysis Replicating Consumer Preferences
 Texture Analysis applications

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