French Fries on Jupiter

Viktor Fischer

ScienceShot: French Fries on Jupiter

Lizzie is Science's Latin America correspondent, based in Mexico City.

Today in questions no one has ever asked: What would french fries taste like if you made them on Jupiter? Luckily, the European Space Agency is on the case. Hoping that studying deep frying in different gravitational conditions will help them improve space food for future astronauts, scientists chopped potatoes into thin sticks and deep fried them in extra-virgin olive oil, one side at a time, in a spinning centrifuge that created conditions of up to nine times Earth’s gravity. Higher gravity levels significantly increased the heat transfer between the hot oil and the potato, shortening frying time and resulting in thick, crispy crusts, the team reports next month in Food Research International. In fact, the scientists may have discovered the ideal gravitational condition for creating crunchy fries: The crust reached its maximum thickness when the potato was fried at three times Earth’s gravity; any further increase in gravity levels did not improve the fry’s crispiness. But before you patent your idea for a hypergravity deep fryer, here’s the bad news: The bottoms of the fries were insulated from the oil by a layer of water vapor rushing out of the potato’s pores, resulting in a soggy-bottomed fry no matter what the gravity level. Perhaps the team’s upcoming experiments with deep frying in microgravity will finally create the perfect space fry.

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Posted in Physics, Space