How to

6 June 2016

Flash Freezing: How Does it Work?


In simple terms, flash freezing is the rapid freezing of an item so as to avoid the formation of larger ice crystals. This is done primarily to avoid the damage that large ice crystals can cause, particularly with food and biological tissue/cells.

Flash freezing was first pioneered on a large scale by Clarence Birdseye, namesake of the multinational frozen food brand still operating today. While taking part in a fur-trading expedition on the Canadian Peninsular of Labrador in 1912, Birdseye took note of the methods used by the local Eskimo population to preserve their food for the winter via an early form of flash freezing. Their process involved making use of the natural elements to rapidly freeze fish as it was caught. This helped to retain the freshness of the item by only promoting the growth of smaller ice crystals, which leave the cell walls of the fish intact.

Wondering how these methods might work for other types of food, Birdseye returned to the US and applied the same principles to his ‘Quick Freeze Machine’. By 1924 he had founded the General Seafood Corporation, and the frozen food industry was born.

These days we have moved on a bit from using natural snow, ice and wind to freeze our food. The most widely used method for food is now the quick circulation of cold air via a refrigeration unit, while for flash freezing biological tissue or other samples in a laboratory, liquid nitrogen is often used at -196°C. Although the techniques used may have changed, however, the guiding principle behind it all still stems from the Eskimos, over 100 years ago.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.