The Science of Airplane Food: The Meals You Should NEVER Serving and Why Taste Buds Fail in Flight
Airplane dining is a hot topic, and it’s no surprise. When they reach their destination, they relieve stress, especially for those overwhelmed by the economy, and when they don’t, they can leave travelers with bitter memories of their vacation.
Some pilots may reasonably wonder why they can’t hit the target every time. One reason may be the lack of attention paid by the catering company to the science of aviation nutrition.
Of course, there is an element of science in cooking on the ground, but more so in flight, because you have to take into account the strange things that happen to the taste and smell of passengers on board an aircraft at altitude.
Here we reveal everything, including dishes that work well during flights and those that are doomed to fail.
HOW OUR SENSE OF TASTE AND SMELL GREATLY CHANGES IN FLIGHT
Airplane dining is a hot topic, and it’s no surprise. When they reach their destination, they relieve stress, especially for those crammed into the economy, and when they miss their destination, they can leave travelers with bitter memories of their escape.
Lufthansa (above) has done extensive research into the science of in-flight meals.
According to a study for Lufthansa by the Fraunhofer Institute, Artemis Aerospace As noted in a recent blog post, salt is perceived to be 20-30% less intense and sugar 15-20% less intense at high altitude, and overall almost 70% of passengers lose their sense of taste.
This is due to a combination of factors including engine noise levels in decibels and less than 12 percent humidity that rivals a desert atmosphere.
Artemis added: “In addition, low cabin pressure also lowers blood oxygen levels, which means your olfactory receptors, which play a critical role in smelling, become less sensitive.”
Emphasizing how important our sense of smell is, Artemis Aerospace explains that about 85 percent of what we think of as “taste” is actually related to our sense of smell. He adds, “So when people blame aviation food for being bland, it might not be a completely fair assumption.”
TYPES OF FOOD AND DRINKS THAT ARE SUITABLE ON PLANES
Lufthansa stated, “Typically, stews and curries work well under low pressure because the spices remain ‘taste stable’ at low pressure when reheated.”
Professor Charles Spence from Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, works closely with the aviation industry on dishes that work and don’t work at altitude.
He told MailOnline Travel that “umami-ahead foods” are ideal – “so tomatoes, anchovies, mushrooms, aged cheese and so on, all umami-rich sources probably work well in the air.”
Because on-board ovens dry out food, meals tend to be accompanied by more sauce, Prof Spence said.
German carrier Lufthansa said: “In general, all stews and curries work well under low pressure conditions because spices — for example, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, chili, paprika, cardamom, etc. — remain “taste stable” at low pressure at reheating. There is no need to increase the amount of spices in a regular recipe.”
Professor Charles Spence told MailOnline Travel that “umami-forward foods” is an ideal proposition for airlines, “so tomatoes, anchovies, mushrooms, aged cheese and so on, all umami-rich sources probably work well in the air.”
Private aviation firm VistaJet agree
It said, “In general, all curries are well tolerated. Because they are sauce-based, they are very easy to reheat in the microwave or in the on-board oven, and the spicy flavor stays the same.”
VistaJet also offers pasta.
Generally, all stews and curries cook well under low pressure because the spices remain “taste stable” at low pressure when reheated.
It went on to say, “Spaghetti or pasta generally transports well, especially when reheated properly. At VistaJet, for example, we reheat pasta in a 300-degree oven in tin foil to the point where we are careful to “just reheat” and not overcook. The best pasta to enjoy? Good tomato sauce, pure umami, mixed with the fat content of mozzarella in pasta, creates a warm and delicious dish that can be enjoyed on any flight.”
Lufthansa agrees, once again showing that pasta must be of good quality and that care must be taken when adding herbs.
It said: “First of all, you need to use strong, high quality pasta. Penne is perhaps the most durable. When using creamy sauces, it is important to use only fresh herbs, as dried herbs tend to have a “hayy” flavor. Here, the amount of “regular” recipe herbs needs to be increased—even doubled—to achieve the same flavor profile as at ground level.”
In terms of drinks, Professor Spence reveals that Bloody Mary works because it gives you a “mind hit”.
And highland wines also have an expert recommendation.
Professor Spence said: “Interestingly, you probably prefer a more fruity New World number, even better if it comes from a vineyard at a height, as is the case with many Chilean wines. One of the assumptions here is that the wines will be created at the same atmospheric pressure, which is equivalent to an altitude of 5-6000 feet above sea level, as in a normal aircraft cabin.”
Professor Spence also recommends craft beer with added fruit.
FOOD AND DRINKS THAT DO NOT WORK ON PLANES
Lufthansa serves Brussels sprouts sparingly due to the “strong smell”.
Professor Spence has some advice for airline sommeliers.
He said, “Old World wines that contain tannins don’t necessarily taste as great at the height.”
And Parmesan cheese is potentially dangerous because it smells like sweaty socks.
Professor Spence said: “Parmesan cheese should probably be avoided, although it is a great source of umami, given that one of the key volatile chemicals found in sweaty socks.”
Lufthansa labeled rice-based risottos as poor palatability, citing the fact that “they become dry and sticky when reheated”. He added: “However, replacing rice with alternatives such as barley makes the dish suitable for in-flight meals.”
Cauliflower dishes are unlikely to be served by airlines – as they have a pungent odor
An example of a VistaJet menu that was offered on a flight from Paris to Los Angeles.
Lufthansa also explained why it is wary of certain vegetables, adding that “Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and sauerkraut should only be used sparingly” due to the “strong smell”. In addition, it stated that “they are also more difficult to digest than other vegetables.”
Meanwhile, VistaJet has added oysters and duck breast to its list of hazardous materials.
It said: “Oysters are the real taste of the sea, but for health and safety reasons, we do not serve them on board as the correct temperature cannot be guaranteed from kitchen to serving.” Instead, opt for light, healthy sushi or sashimi. Earthy and spicy seasonings will work great at altitude.
“And duck breast with plum sauce is a classic, but in the air it has a hard time conveying the mouthfeel and taste. At altitude, the chest becomes dry, the skin loses elasticity and may become stale in taste.