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What is Culinary Gelatin?

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What is Culinary Gelatin?

January 30, 2018 - customcollagen

You may know that culinary gelatin is used to set a wide variety of dishes – you may even be aware of some its more popular uses. What you may not know, however, is what culinary gelatin is actually made of and how it’s produced. You may also be surprised to learn that the ingredient can come in a variety of different forms, each of which lends itself to a specific kind of cooking. As with any other tool, the full potential of culinary gelatin can be unlocked only if you’re familiar with all of its capacities. That’s why we’ve put together this informative guide on the varieties available on the market today and the best ways to make use of them.

 

Creation of Culinary Gelatin

All forms of gelatin – culinary and otherwise – are created by boiling down portions of an animal that contain collagen. Depending on the type of gelatin in question, the meat used in this process can be from pigs, fish or cows. Skin, bones, tendons and other tissue are carefully cleaned and prepared before boiling, and the resulting liquid is then evaporated and clarified to create a pure, flavorless product. Once solid gelatin is created, is either then pressed (to create sheets) or ground (to create powder). Though the type of animal used in the creation of the gelatin can have some impact on its nutritional value, the gelatin’s consistency and behavior is virtually identical across species. There is, however, significant difference between powdered and sheet gelatin – not in terms of flavor or nutritional value, but rather in terms of how it is used in a culinary setting.

 

Gelatin Powder

Generally speaking, powder is the superior choice if you need to disperse the gelatin throughout a dish. Powdered gelatin consists of tiny, individual granules and as such dissolves much more quickly and easily into liquids than the sheet variety. This ease of dissolution comes at the expense of clarity – powdered gelatin often lends an opaqueness to whatever liquid it’s introduced into, which can make it difficult to work with in cases where aesthetics are a concern. There are, however, specialized products that sidestep that shortcoming. Our SuperClear Gelatin, for example, is designed to ensure that the liquids you work with retain their natural clarity, making it an excellent choice for edible art and other dishes where transparency is a must. Otherwise, powdered gelatin should be considered the standard choice for everyday usage, a versatile ingredient that can be used in the creation of countless dishes. Though your recipe should indicate the amount of gelatin to be used, a good rule of thumb is that you’ll need seven grams of powder (or one tablespoon) for each cup of liquid you would like to set.

 

Sheet Gelatin

Sheet (or leaf) gelatin, on the other hand, is more often used in professional kitchens. In addition to generally providing superior clarity, sheet gelatin is also considered to be more stable and consistent than its powdered brethren. What’s more, the variety is also thought to have less impact on the overall flavor of the resulting dish, as excess water can be squeezed out of the sheets after they’ve been soaked. Though sheet gelatin is somewhat more difficult to work with, the rewards are significant for those willing to put in the time and effort to learn its unique attributes. If you’re interested in substituting sheet gelatin in a recipe that calls for the powdered variety (or vice versa), remember that four tablespoons of powder equals one sheet.

 

Gelatin Tips and Tricks

Now that you know what culinary gelatin is and the forms it can come in, you’re probably ready to get into the kitchen to try using it for yourself. Before you do, here are a few things to keep in mind – these tips may save your initial attempts from the under or oversetting common to first-time gelatin users.

Dissolve First In most cases, gelatin cannot be added directly to a dish. It must first be dissolved in a bit of water to ensure that it hydrates (or “blooms”), a process that must be undergone to ensure its setting abilities.

A Warm Base – Make sure that whatever you’re adding gelatin to is warm, at least above room temperature. Otherwise, the gelatin may cool too quickly and harden into strings that’ll remain present in the final product. By the same token, it’s important that you work with gelatin quickly, as any pauses in preparation simply gives the dish more time to solidify before you’re ready for it to do so.

Temperature Troubles – Though the temperature of the dish itself is of the utmost importance, you must also remember to consider the temperature of your kitchen and of the area in which the dish is allowed to set. Cooler temperatures will make your gelatin set more quickly, which can sometimes be used to your advantage. If you, for example, lack the time to let your dish set properly, you can briefly stick it in the freezer to speed up the process. Exercise caution in doing so, however, as the consistency of your dish can quickly go from “pleasantly buoyant” to “frozen rock-solid.”

 

Conclusion

Home cooks and professional chefs alike have come to understand just how valuable gelatin is to their kitchens. Its usage allows for the creation of dishes that would be incredibly difficult or even impossible to achieve otherwise. If you’re getting ready to use culinary gelatin for the first time, then you’re about to set off on a cooking and baking adventure that’ll lead you to all sorts of new recipes and flavors. If you’d like some advice on where to start, why not take a look at some of our favorite gelatin recipes? You should also feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly customer service associates, any one of whom would be happy to give you guidance on how to best make use of culinary gelatin in your kitchen.

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