The principal applications of seaweed in the commercial world is for carrageenan which is a long chain polysaccharide that is extracted from red seaweed. Carrageenan has the important functional properties of texturising, stabilizing and emulsifying for processed foods.
One of carrageenan’s key attributes is its reactivity with milk proteins. As little as 0.1 percent is sufficient to suspend cocoa in milk, one of its earliest uses. It is also used as a water-binding agent and meat extender, making it a long-time ingredient in dog food.
More recently, this quality is being employed in processed meats for human consumption such as patties, sausages and low-fat hamburgers (Leiria Campo et al, 2009).
Activity 6: Food and carrageenan
- Do a quick internet search to discover what texturising, stabilizing and emulsifying mean. Now visit the Experimental Kitchen website to learn of the special cooking applications of carrageenan.
- Have you ever used gelatine or carrageenan in your cooking? If so, what were you making?
- What are the advantages of carrageenan over gelatine?
Reveal the answers
- Texturising means treating something in order to give the required texture,
- Stabilizing means ensuring something doesn’t fluctuate,
- Emulsifying means enabling two liquids to blend together which would not naturally mix.
- I have never used carrageenan in my cooking knowingly although I have undoubtedly eaten it. Most of us consume this ingredient on a daily basis. I have used gelatine however, to get my cheesecakes, jellies and panna cotta to set.
- Carrageenan can be eaten by vegans and vegetarians while gelatine is an animal product and cannot. Carrageenan is also more versatile than gelatine as it can withstand hotter food temperatures, giving rise to hot jellies, and is thermo-reversible, which means if reheated it will re-set.