This 3D-Printed Chicken Breast Is Cooked With Frickin ‘Lasers
Who does not dream to go home after a long day and simply press a few buttons to get a hot, home-cooked 3D-printed meal, courtesy of a digital personal chef? This can be done without the use of microwaves and the usual frozen dinner on TV. Columbia University engineers tried to make that fantasy, and they now know how to simultaneously 3D print and cook pureed chicken layers, according to a new role published in the journal npj Food Science. Sure, it’s not on the same level as the Star Trek Replicator, which can synthesize complete food on demand, but it’s a start.
Coauthor Hob Lipson runs the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University, where the research is conducted. First introduced to his team 3D printing of food items back in 2007, using the Fab @ Home personal crafting system to create multi -material edible 3D objects with cake frosting, chocolate, processed cheese, and peanut butter. However, commercial devices capable of simultaneously printing and cooking food coatings are not yet available. There have been several studies examining how to cook used food lasers, and Lipson’s team thinks it could be an available avenue to explore further.
“We’ve noticed that, while printers can produce ingredients that are exactly to the millimeter, there is no heating method with the same degree of resolution,” said coauthor Jonathan Blutinger. “Cooking is important for the nutrition, flavor, and texture improvement of many foods, and we’re wondering if we can develop a method with lasers to ensure these characteristics can be controlled.” They used a blue laser diode (5-10 watts) as the main heating source but also experimented with near-half infrared lasers for comparison, as well as a standard toaster oven.
Scientists bought raw chicken breast from a local store and then cleaned it in a food processor to get a smooth, uniform consistency. They removed any tendons and cooled the samples before repacking them into 3D-print syringe barrels to avoid clogging. The cooking device uses a high-powered diode laser, a set of mirror galvanometers (devices that detect current electricity by deflecting light beams), a fixture for custom 3D printing, protection of the laser, and a removable tray on which to cook the 3D-printed chicken.
“In the first laser cooking, our laser diode was attached to the 3D printed property, but as the experiments progressed, we moved to a setup where the laser was vertically placed on the head of the wiping mechanism, “wrote the authors. “We were allowed to setup it to print and cook the ingredients on the same machine.” They also tried cooking the printed chicken after it was sealed in plastic wrap.
The consequences? Laser -cooked chicken retains twice as much moisture as regular cooked chicken, and it is reduced by half as much while retaining the same flavors. But different laser variations produce different results. Blue lasers have been proven to be ideal for cooking chicken indoors, under the surface, while infrared lasers are better at surface browning and broiling levels. In the case of chicken with plastic packaging, the blue laser acquires less browning, but the near-infrared laser is more efficient at browning the chicken by packaging. The team was even able to brown the surface of the packaged chicken in a pattern reminiscent of grill marks.