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What is Liquid Nitrogen?
Liquid nitrogen refers to the element nitrogen in a liquefied state. This is a clear, colorless liquid which is produced via liquid air's fractional distillation.
Liquid nitrogen has a temperature of -196°C / -321°F. It is classified as a cryogenic fluid which causes rapid freezing when it comes into contact with living tissues.
The extremely cold temperatures provided by this liquefied gas is most often used in modern cuisine for the production of frozen foams and ice cream. After freezing food, nitrogen boils away creating a thick nitrogen fog which may also add to the aesthetic features of a dish.
Given the extreme temperature of liquid nitrogen, it must be handled with care. Mishandling of this may cause serious burns to the skin. It must be stored in special flasks and handled only by trained people. Aprons, gloves and other specially designed safety gear are best used when handling liquid nitrogen.
Used mainly in the form of a coolant for molecular gastronomy, liquid nitrogen is not ingested. It is poured directly onto the food which needs to be cooled causing it to freeze. Any remaining nitrogen evaporates, although sufficient time must be provided to allow the liquefied gas to be eliminated and for the dish to warm up to the point it will not cause damage during consumption.