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What is the Purpose of Adding Emulsifier

Emulsifiers are widely acknowledged for their diverse applications in food products. In today's blog post, we'll provide a concise overview of 14 crucial functions of emulsifiers in food and offer essential guidelines for their effective utilization.

Functions of Emulsifiers in Food

1. Emulsification: All emulsifiers are surfactants, which have hydrophilic and lipophilic groups in the same molecule, thus promoting emulsification in the oil and water phases. Emulsifiers with low HLB values stabilize emulsions of water in oil (W/O), and emulsifiers with high HLB values stabilize emulsions of oil in water (O/W).

2. Starch Complexation (Bakery Freshness): Most emulsifiers contain linear fatty acid chains in their molecules, which can be complex with the amylose in starch. This feature is very important. It can reduce the stickiness of reconstituted starch products such as instant mashed potatoes and instant noodles, prevent bread and cakes from becoming hard and stale, and help prolong the taste of food.

3. Protein Interaction: Emulsifiers can form complexes with gluten proteins to enlarge gluten protein molecules and form a gluten network with a firm and dense structure. They can enhance the mechanical strength of gluten and improve the air-holding properties of dough, thereby increasing the volume of the product.

emulsifier in bread

4. Viscosity Improvement: Certain emulsifiers added to foods containing sugar crystals dispersed in fat can form a covering layer on the sugar crystals to reduce the viscosity. This feature is useful for improving the fluidity of molten chocolate.

5. Foaming and Leavening: Food emulsifiers containing saturated fatty acid chains can stabilize foam in water and can therefore be used as foaming agents in instant desserts, mixed ingredients for cakes (i.e. cake mix), decoration materials, and other convenience foods. Emulsifiers containing unsaturated fatty acids can inhibit foam and can be used as defoaming agents in dairy products and egg processing.

6. Texture Improvement: Emulsifiers complexed with starch can reduce aggregation, and improve consistency and uniformity. Emulsifiers are suitable for pasta, dehydrated potatoes, bread, cakes, and other food products.

7. Lubrication: Saturated mono- and diglycerides used in extruded starch products provide good lubrication, facilitating process control. Adding 0.5%-1% mono- and diglycerides to caramel products can reduce adhesion to cutting tools, packaging materials, and teeth. Food emulsifierscan also be used to reduce stickiness in confectionery and chewing gum.

8. Crystal Improvement: In fat foods such as margarine, pastry, chocolate, and peanut butter, certain emulsifiers can be used combined with optimal processing conditions to improve their polymorphic crystallization, shape, and fat crystallization production speed. The optimal crystallization of these fats enhances creaminess and improves baking performance. These functions can also be used in sugar products and salt products.

9. Wetting: Emulsifiers are generally good wetting agents. The choice of emulsifier is based on the form of wetting required, such as wetting a waxed surface, capillary wetting, or powder wetting. The wetting function of emulsifiers is to reduce the interfacial tension between liquid and solid surfaces, allowing the liquid to disperse faster and more evenly on the surface. Emulsifiers can also be used to moisten instant foods such as spray-dried desserts, coffee, beverages, instant breakfasts, cocoa, and other foods.

10. Solubilizing: Food emulsifiers can improve the dispersion ability of liquids in liquids to form clear solutions. Emulsifiers are needed to aid dissolution in various colors and fragrances.

11. Defoaming (Antifoaming Agents): Emulsifiers are generally used to stabilize emulsions in products. However, in certain applications, especially during processing, it may be necessary to de-emulsify or defoam. In most cases, when de-emulsification is required, emulsifiers of opposite forms or those that disrupt the balance of the emulsion system are often used. The choice of emulsifier depends on the form of foam. For instance, in ice cream production, suitable emulsifiers are selected to control de-emulsification, ensuring that fat particles coalesce into the optimal form in the final product.

12. Flavor Enhancement: Emulsifiers facilitate the emulsification of fat-based systems such as gum arabic, sugar coatings, candies, and coatings, thereby improving palatability and enhancing taste quality.

13. Suspension: Suspensions consist of very fine insoluble particles dispersed firmly in a liquid medium. The suspending action of emulsifiers primarily helps redistribute insoluble components when wet, particularly when emulsifiers are combined with stabilizers or thickeners in suspension systems, achieving optimal performance over the product's shelf life. Chocolate is the most common suspension material in food.

emulsifier in chocolate

14. Dispersion: The dispersibility of solids, liquids, and gases depends on the emulsifier's ability to reduce interfacial energy. Food products such as ice cream, coffee, margarine, and flavored beverages utilize this phenomenon to create uniform dispersion.

Optimal Application Forms of Emulsifiers

The optimal application form of emulsifiers depends on various factors, such as the specific requirements of the product, the manufacturing process, and the desired outcome. However, generally speaking, emulsifiers are most effective when they are in a fully hydrated form.

The physical form of emulsifiers is crucial for their functionality and effectiveness. Emulsifiers in food can exist in different physical forms, such as powder, paste, or liquid. Among these forms, fully hydrated emulsifiers often demonstrate the best functionality and effectiveness. Fully hydrated emulsifiers can disperse more easily in the product matrix, ensuring uniform distribution and maximizing their functionality.

For example, to fully utilize the multifaceted effects of monoglycerides, such as starch complexation and foam production through protein binding, they should be in an oil-melted or hydrated state. Similarly, the particle size of powdered monoglycerides also greatly affects product outcomes. Generally, the higher the mesh size, the larger the contact area with other products, leading to greater effectiveness. For manufacturers of powdered improvers, finer powders have better dispersibility and larger contact areas, resulting in improved effectiveness.

Therefore, in many applications, manufacturers may find that using fully hydrated emulsifiers yields the best results in terms of emulsion stability, texture enhancement, and overall product quality.


emulsifier in cakes

Precautions When Using Emulsifiers

To achieve the best effect of emulsifier during use, you need to pay attention to the following points:

(1) The emulsifier should undergo a-crystalline pretreatment before use so that the emulsifier can exert its best effect.
(2) Making the emulsifier into a hydrated state before use can significantly improve and enhance the effect of the emulsifier, but it is not as effective as a crystalline pretreatment.
(3) If a powdery emulsifier is used directly, the effect is the worst, especially the coarser the particles.
(4) Mixing different emulsifiers can complement each other's strengths and weaknesses, synergistically enhancing their effectiveness.
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