What Is the Difference Between IQF and Cold Store Freezing?

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What is IQF

Frozen food will keep anywhere from 1 to 12 months, depending on the type of food. But often, even if the food keeps, it may get freezer burn. As a result, you may not be able to offer your customers the best in food quality.

The thing is, cold store freezing isn’t the only option when it comes to food storage. Another available option is “individual quick freezing,” or IQF.

So what is IQF? And what’s the difference between IQF and cold store freezing?

Read on to find out!

What Is Cold Store Freezing?

Plastic bags with different frozen vegetables in refrigerator

Before we discuss what IQF is, you should first understand what cold store freezing is, since it’s what’s traditionally used in the industry. Why?

Because it’s very efficient for freezing large volumes of food products. Not only that, but it’s good for larger foods, such as whole chickens or other types of meat.

How is cold store freezing performed?

First, food products are placed on a tray, then put into a cold storage unit until the food is completely frozen.

As you can guess, this process takes quite a bit of time. Because of this, there is more of a chance of big ice crystals forming.

When freezing foods, big ice crystals are detrimental, as they deteriorate the membranes and structures.

Defrosting Cold Store Frozen Foods

When you defrost food from cold store freezing, there’s a compromise in taste and nutritional value as well. Not only do they suffer from drip loss while in storage, but once you thaw the foods, they also have a noticeable decrease in quality when it comes to taste and nutrition.

Not only that, but the color quality suffers as well. While the foods may look vibrant at the time of freezing, when you defrost them, they may turn a grayish color.

What Is IQF?

As the name suggests, IQF freezes foods individually instead of all together. This is also known as flash-freezing. Usually, it’s used for smaller food products, like berries, vegetables, pasta, or cheese.

As we’ve pointed out above, with cold store freezing, the process takes quite a bit of time. But with IQF, foods are rapidly frozen to speed up the process. This results in fewer ice crystals, which then boosts the quality of your frozen foods.

How does this happen?

Well, ice crystals usually form between 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit. To perform IQF, you have to use a specialized freezer that can bypass this temperature zone as quickly as possible. The less time the food spends in between 25-30 degrees, the fewer ice crystals can form.

The Benefits of IQF

Below, we’ll compare different aspects of IQF and cold store freezing to show you why IQF is much superior. You’ll get to learn the key differences between these two methods.

Less Time Needed

Cold store freezing takes a lengthy amount of time to do. But IQF utilizes a freezer that has a fluidized bed, which moves the food products in a thermodynamic way. As a result, the foods are frozen to the core much quicker.

Better Retention of Color

As we’ve said above, foods that are cold store frozen tend to take on a grayish look after defrosting, especially meat. This isn’t very appetizing, so efforts to reduce this effect are highly appreciated in the food industry.

At first, it appears that cold store frozen foods are more vibrant in color. But when you defrost them, they’ll quickly lose their hue and go gray.

IQF prevents discoloration since the flash-freezing process preserves the original quality of the product and very little deterioration happens.

Initially, you may be alarmed because IQF foods are a bit pale when they’re frozen. But actually, this is a good sign of quality freezing. When you defrost IQF foods, they’ll take on a more natural shade.

Better Retention of Nutrients

Cold store freezing almost always has ice crystals, and these will alter the molecular structure of foods. In most cases, it’ll destroy the nutrients found. So contrary to popular belief, not all frozen foods are as healthy as fresh.

However, by choosing IQF over cold store freezing, it can be. The original molecular structure of the food will be intact, which means better retention of the nutrients naturally found within it.

Frozen vegetables on cutting board, on napkin, on wooden table background

Better Quality of Food

When you defrost foods from cold storage, the ice crystals cause drip loss. This leaches the moisture from the food and after thawing, it’s lost.

As a result, the food may lose its original texture and quality. Even with expert preparation, the food will still have a subpar quality to it since the original product was compromised in the first place.

No Deformation

When you freeze multiple food items together, the separation of each one can be difficult to do. If you manage to pry them apart, it can end up in damage and/or deformation. This can result in yield losses.

Less Manpower Involved

When dealing with cold store freezing, you need lots of manpower to move boxes and trays around, not to mention, you’ll also need to clean and store these things as well. Plus, you’ll need mechanical separation of the food if they’re frozen together in blocks.

Better Food Safety

IQF foods have practically no exposure to employees, as they need very little handling. In fact, you can even achieve 0 exposure.

Compare that to cold store freezing, where one piece of food many see many hands before it reaches the final customer.

Choose IQF Over Cold Store Freezing

Now you know the answer to the question: what is IQF? This means you have the proper knowledge as to why IQF is much better than traditional cold store freezing.

When you’re looking for a frozen food distributor, it’s important to source food that’s not only high quality but long-lasting as well. The next time you look into suppliers, choose IQF over cold store freezing. It’ll make a world of difference.

Looking for a chain supply company for plant-based foods? Then get in touch with us today!

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