The Future of Digital Food

The Future of Digital Food

This article was translated from our Spanish edition.

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“I am craving a 3D printed grilled chicken . No, wait, it better be laser cooked , ”could be the kind of order you’ll hear in restaurants a few years from now. The Digital Foods team at Columbia University finally found a way to prepare laboratory meat to make it more edible, and they say it tastes better than the real thing.

Columbia Engineering vía YouTube

The group of scientists, led by professor of mechanical engineering Hod Lipson, has experimented with printed food since 2007. However, there was a big problem: they could n’t find a way to cook it , since it doesn’t behave the same as traditional meat.

Jonathan Blutinger, who led the project, noted that until now ingredients could be produced with pinpoint precision, but there was no viable heating method to recreate a ‘real’ dish, which is crucial for nutritional development, flavor and texture. of food.

The researchers found that lasers would be the best substitute for pans and griddles when it comes to 3D-printed meat . With this, they assure, it can have an appearance, taste and texture similar to ‘natural’ meat foods.

Recipe: How do you prepare laser cooked 3D chicken?

Producing ‘fake’ meat in 3D is a process that some laboratories have already mastered, but until now they have not found how to cook it in a way that resembles the ‘real’ one.

For this project, the scientists first prepared a “chicken meat puree” with real ground meat, which was used to model different shapes with a 3D printer. Then, they put the laboratory chicken samples under a laser that sent pulses of light to stir the meat and thus heat it. This cooking process takes between 5 and 14 minutes.

The results showed that the meat cooked with laser shrinks 50% less and retains twice the moisture, that is, it is more ‘juicy’ . In addition, it releases more flavor than with other methods such as grilling or cooking it, and this is very similar to traditional chicken.

In the study, the researchers say that the secret of the ‘seasoning’ is to emit the laser pulses at different wave amplitudes and direct them in such a way that they follow certain trajectories. For example, a blue laser penetrates better to cook the inside of the meat, while the infrared laser works to brown the outside of the piece.

After testing ‘3D laser chicken’ , the researchers say it tastes better than traditional baked meat, which is “promising for technology” according to Blutinger.

The future of Digital Food

Many consider laboratory meat to be an alternative to traditional livestock and meat industries , which consume high natural resources and have been the target of protests from environmental and animal rights groups.

While digital food seemed more like science fiction, preparing food on a 3D printer is now a reality. Today this technology has progressed so much that it is possible to create various ingredients and dishes, such as hamburgers, sushi and steaks.

The Columbia University Digital Food team and the developers of this project envision a promising future for laboratory food. His long-term vision is that in the future anyone can have access to a 3D food printer and print any dish they want as if it were a kitchen recipe.

One of the main obstacles that engineers point out is that there is no sustainable ecosystem behind it . They consider that first a type of “Food CAD” should be developed, that is, a software that is a combination of AutoCAD and Photoshop that allows people to design their food , as well as a kind of digital cookbook for this new futuristic kitchen .