How do you fry potatoes in space?

againstIt may sound very dangerous, but in case future astronauts want to eat french fries during their time in space, the European Space Agency (ESA)ESA) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) check whether potatoes are undercooked in weightlessness or turn into undercooked mush.

Banner photo: Bubbles form around French fries in weightlessness. (European Space Agency)

If humanity is to have a permanent presence in space and to undertake trips that could last for months or years, the astronauts’ kitchen will have to go beyond freeze-dried shrimp cocktails and offer menus much like the ones we found on Earth.

This meant that they would have to adopt terrestrial cooking techniques in order to be able to function in a state of weightlessness. Instead of starting with something easy, like coleslaw, it looks like the ESA decided to take the plunge in serving French fries.

The problem is, frying isn’t just a pan of hot oil in which you toss potatoes. Frying is a set of very complex physical and chemical processes, some of which may not work in weightlessness. One of them, in particular, is the formation of bubbles on potatoes during cooking. Without gravity, the oil cannot circulate around the potatoes, which can cause bubbles to stick, forming an insulating layer of steam that prevents the potatoes from cooking properly.

To investigate this question, the research team built an experimental frying pan that acts as a circuit to control the potatoes and a high-speed camera to record the cooking as well as the magnification rate, size, distribution, and velocity of bubbles escaping from the potatoes. . The temperature of the oil and the inside of the potato was also recorded.

Experiment with the Frying Carousel for coating French fries in microgravity. (European Space Agency)

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The machine is fully automated, sealed and pressurized for safety reasons. This was very important, as it was tested on an ESA jet plane, which described the arcs/ parabolic flights To create a state of weightlessness for a few seconds.

Animation of a weightless fryer in action. (European Space Agency)

According to the space agency, bubbles formed and detached from the potato’s surface just as they do on Earth. While the process still requires some parameter tweaking, it holds hope for interplanetary frying in the near future and could have ramifications beyond the kitchen.

According to team member John Leumbas:

Besides nutrition and convenience, studying the frying process in space could also lead to advances in a variety of fields, from conventional boiling to producing hydrogen from solar energy in microgravity.

The study published in Food Research International: Is frying in space possible? and view them on the ESA website: Flying frying in microgravity.

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