Table of Contents
- Let’s start with the basics
It is estimated that the IQF market will grow over 1669 million U.S dollars, by the year 2024. Clearly, IQF is a very popular and increasingly common food freezing method used within the food industry.
But what is IQF, anyway? And how does it actually work? Why is it so popular?
That’s precisely what you’re about to find out!
Let’s start with the basics
What Is IQF?
IQF is an abbreviation for individual quick freezing.
It’s a type of food freezing technique typically used for smaller foods, or pieces of food. It works quickly, and rather well, making it a cheaper, more convenient alternative to other food freezing methods.
Each component is separated and frozen separately. For example, even a bag of chickpeas would be individually frozen before being put together in a bag. This makes it easier for you to work with them and separate them as you like, rather than separating them individually from what usually ends up feeling like a large block of peas.
How Does IQF Work?
Generally, there are two ways to execute the IQF process. The mechanical way, and the cryogenic way. The growing efficiency and improvements with these methods have given rise to the popularity of the product as a whole.
Let’s take a deeper look into what they look like.
Mechanical IQF Freezing
This process functions on the principles of cold air circulation and aerodynamics. The cold air continually flows under a transportation belt. This belt resembles a conveyor belt, upon which individual products or their pieces rest.
The cold air continually passes over these pieces of food. Simultaneously, these pieces also pass through a freezer towards the exit of the belt.
This mechanism works well because it can be used for a diverse range of products, and is cost-effective as well.
Cryogenic IQF Freezing
Cryogenic IQF freezing works quite differently and involves the use of liquid nitrogen.
During this process, food is immersed within the liquid at very low temperatures. Additionally, the food is also continually kept in motion to prevent the pieces from sticking together.
Manufacturers tend towards machine IQF freezing because it’s a cheaper alternative. While the cryogenic method is efficient, the cost of the liquid nitrogen increases the overall cost significantly.
Common Foods That Are Frozen Using the IQF Method
All kinds of foods are frozen through the IQF method. This includes fruits, vegetables, poultry, seafood, and other meats. However, this method worlds best when the foods used are smaller.
Even so, poultry and meats are usually chopped up into smaller pieces to get maximum benefits out of the IQF method.
Here are some common examples of IQF vegetables:
Here are some common examples of IQF fruits:
- French fries (potatoes)
Additionally, shrimp, scallops, bread, and sometimes even chicken breasts and steaks are frozen with the IQF method. It is extremely versatile in its application.
Which raises a different question.
Are IQF foods good for you?
What Are the Benefits of IQF?
There’s plenty of good things associated with both the IQF process, as well as its effects on the foods we consume. As we’ve briefly discussed above, the process itself is convenient and affordable.
However, here are a few key benefits of the outcome.
Better Taste & Overall Quality
Since the process is so quick, the foods are able to retain their original goodness. This is because the slower a food is frozen, the higher are the chances of ice crystals forming.
Now, when big ice crystals come in contact with your food they diminish the overall flavor, giving them a very ‘unfresh’ taste.
If you’re a regular or even an occasional consumer of frozen foods, you’ve probably experienced the following situation. You want a couple of chicken sausage, but you’ve bought a pack of twelve. Now, you can’t separate the two you want without having to thaw the entire block.
By freezing each piece individually, IQF aims to solve this problem. This way, your food does not stick together and you can eat as little or as much as you please.
Are IQF and Cold Store Freezing Different?
IQF is not the only method of food freezing there is. Another popular method is cold store freezing. However, the two are very different from each other.
The cold storage method is usually used to freeze larger quantities of food. For example, blocks of fish, chicken, and other meats that are transported or sold in bulk.
The IQF method works better on smaller quantities.
Flash freezing is a quicker method, involving exposure to low temperatures for only a short period of time. This allows foods to retain their texture and moisture.
However, in the case of cold store freezing, prolonged and continuous exposure to the cold creates larger ice crystals that permanently deteriorate the texture and taste of the product.
Try Flash Freezing Your Food at Home!
So that’s the answer to that big, food industry question – what is IQF?
Now that you know what it is, you should give it a shot yourself. That’s right you can do it on your own. However, you do need a blast chiller or an IQF freezer.
Although, if you don’t have either, a regular freezer might just work. Simply clean your fruit or veggies, set them apart on a baking tray, and toss them into your freezer for a quick freeze.
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