Commercial Hardware and Techniques (part 6) - Cooking with Cold: Liquid Nitrogen and Dry Ice - Dangers of liquid nitrogen

- 7 Kinds Of Fruit That Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Eat
- How to have natural miscarriage
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Signs Proving You Have Boy Pregnancy

3. “Cooking” with Cold: Liquid Nitrogen and Dry Ice

Common and uncommon cold temperatures.

Okay, strictly speaking, cooking involves the application of heat, but “cooking” with cold can allow for some novel dishes to be made. And liquid nitrogen and dry ice can be a lot of fun, too!

If there’s one food-related science demo to rule them all, ice cream made with liquid nitrogen has got to be the hands-down winner. Large billowy clouds, the titillating excitement of danger, evil mad scientist cackles, and it all ends with sugar-infused dairy fat for everyone? Sign me up.

While the gimmick of liquid nitrogen ice cream never seems to grow old (heck, they were making it over a hundred years ago at the Royal Institution in London), a number of more recent culinary applications are moving liquid nitrogen (LN2, for those in the know) from the “gimmick” category into the “occasionally useful” column.

3.1. Dangers of liquid nitrogen

But first, a big, long rant about the dangers of liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen, one of the noble gases, is inert and in and of itself harmless. The major risks are burning yourself (frostbite burn—it’s cold!), suffocating yourself (it’s not oxygen), or blowing yourself up (it’s boiling, which can result in pressure buildup). Let’s take each of those in turn:

  • It’s cold. Liquid nitrogen boils at –320°F / –196°C. To put that in perspective, it’s further away from room temperature than oil in a deep-fat fryer: seriously cold. Thermal shock and breaking things are very real concerns with liquid nitrogen. Think about what can happen when you’re working with hot oil, and show more respect when working with liquid nitrogen. Pouring 400°F / 200°C oil into a room-temperature glass pan is not a good idea (thermal shock), so avoid pouring liquid nitrogen into a glass pan. Splashes are also a potential problem. A drop of hot oil hitting your eye would definitely not be fun, and the same is true with a drop of liquid nitrogen. Wear closed-toed shoes and eye protection. Gloves, too. While the probability of a splash is low, the error condition isn’t pleasant.

  • It’s not oxygen. This means that you can asphyxiate as a result of the oxygen being displaced in a small room. When using it, make sure you’re in a relatively well-ventilated space. Dorm rooms with the door closed = bad; big kitchen space with open windows and good air circulation = okay.

  • It’s boiling. When things boil, they like to expand, and when they can’t, the pressure goes up. When the pressure gets high enough, the container fails and turns into a bomb. Don’t ever store liquid nitrogen in a completely sealed container. The container will rupture at some point. Ice plugs can form in narrow-mouthed openings, too, so avoid stuffing things like cotton into the opening.

“Yeah, yeah,” you might be thinking, “thanks, but I’ll be fine.”

Probably. But that’s what most people think until they’re posthumously (post-humorously?) given a Darwin Award. What could possibly go wrong once you get it home? One German chef blew both hands off while attempting to recreate some of Chef Heston Blumenthal’s recipes. And then there’s what happened when someone at Texas A&M removed the pressure-release valve on a large dewar and welded the opening shut. From the accident report:

The cylinder had been standing at one end of a ~20’ × 40’ laboratory on the second floor of the chemistry building. It was on a tile-covered, 4–6″ thick concrete floor, directly over a reinforced concrete beam. The explosion blew all of the tile off of the floor for a 5’ radius around the tank, turning the tile into quarter-sized pieces of shrapnel that embedded themselves in the walls and doors of the lab... The cylinder came to rest on the third floor leaving a neat 20″ diameter hole in its wake. The entrance door and wall of the lab were blown out into the hallway. All of the remaining walls of the lab were blown 4 to 8″ off of their foundations. All of the windows, save one that was open, were blown out into the courtyard.

Do I have your attention? Good. End rant.

Okay, I promise to be safe. Where do I get some?

Look for a scientific gas distributor in your area. Some welding supply stores also carry liquid nitrogen.

You’ll need a dewar—an insulated container designed to handle the extremely cold temperatures. Depending upon the supplier, you may be able to rent one. Dewars come in two types: nonpressurized and pressurized. Nonpressurized dewars are essentially large Thermoses. The pressurized variety has a pressure-release valve, allowing the liquid nitrogen to remain liquid at higher temperatures, increasing the hold time.

Unless you’re renting dewars and having them delivered to your location, stick with a non-pressurized one. Small quantities of liquid nitrogen in nonpressurized dewars don’t require hazmat licenses or vehicle placarding when properly secured and transported in a private car. It’s still considered hazardous material though, because handled improperly, it can cause death. Transportation falls under “material of trades” and it is your responsibility to understand the regulations. For example, New York State defines anything under 30 liters / 8 gallons as a small quantity.


Standard lab safety protocols for driving small quantities of liquid nitrogen around usually state that two people should be in the car and that you should drive with the windows down or at least cracked.

When it comes to working with liquid nitrogen, I find it easiest to work with a small quantity in a metal bowl placed on top of wooden cutting board. Keep your eyes on the container, and avoid placing yourself in a situation where, if the container were to fail, you would find yourself getting splashed.

Don’t sit at a table while working with it. Standing is probably a good general rule to reduce chances of injury. And remember: it’s cold! Placing a noninsulated container such as a metal bowl directly on top of countertops, especially glass ones, is not a good idea.


I once cracked a very nice countertop with an empty but still cold bowl during a demo at a large software company whose name begins with the letter M. I’m still sheepishly apologizing for it.

One final tip: when serving guests something straightaway after contact with liquid nitrogen, check the temperature (using an IR thermometer) to make sure the food is warm enough. (As a guideline, standard consumer freezers run around –10°F / –23°C.)

Top search
- 6 Ways To Have a Natural Miscarriage
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Losing Weight In A Week With Honey
- Can You Eat Crab Meat During Pregnancy?
- Grape Is Pregnant Women’s Friend
- 4 Kinds Of Fruit That Can Increase Risk Of Miscarriage
- Planning with Kids : Meals - Essential kitchen appliances
- Some Like It Hot
- Mexican food: It's A Wrap
- Tasty soup for babies to eat better
- Life with your New Baby : 1st Week: Day 7 Tuning in - Your baby’s cries
- Life with your New Baby : Neonatal Intensive Care Babies
- Life with your New Baby : 1st Week: Day 6 Finding your way - Bathing your baby
- Pip banana prevents and cures gastric ulcer
- 10 good foods for brainworkers
- Toy affecting kids' characters
Top keywords
Miscarriage Pregnant Pregnancy Pregnancy day by day Pregnancy week by week Losing Weight Stress Placenta Makeup Collection
Top 5
- 5 Ways to Support Your Baby Development
- 5 Tips for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 2)
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 1)
- Is Your Mental Health Causing You to Gain Weight (part 2) - Bipolar Disorder Associated with Weight Gain