Individual Quick Freezing is a method of freezing used in the food processing industry. Typically, the IQF technology is used for products that are cut into small pieces, which can range from fruit, berries, and vegetables to meat, poultry, pasta, cheese, grains, and seafood such as shrimp or small fish. Products that have been frozen using this method are referred to as Individually Quick Frozen.
There are two main IQF technologies: mechanical freezers and cryogenic freezers. Mechanical freezers, such as the OctoFrostTM IQF tunnel freezer, work on the principle of cold air circulation, which flows from underneath the bed plate, with the help of fans. The cold airflow passes through the pieces of product, while the product is also pushed towards the exit.
The design and efficiency of this type of IQF freezers vary among manufacturers, who are trying to find the perfect balance of aerodynamics for an optimal freezing result. This technology has seen impressive developments and improvements during the last 20 years, being suited for an increasing number of products.
Generally, the OctoFrostTM IQF tunnel freezer is seen as the optimal solution for freezing fruit, berries, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, cheese, and grains, since it is very technologically advanced, but also personalized for each processor’s needs and preferred products.
The other IQF technology is represented by the cryogenic IQF freezers. In this case, products are immersed in liquid nitrogen at very low temperatures, freezing them instantly while continuously moving the products, in order to avoid the block or lump formation. This method might show good freezing results, but it leads to higher processing costs per kilogram, due to the large amount of liquid nitrogen required.
What are the benefits of IQF
One of the biggest advantages of this method of freezing food is that the process only takes a few minutes, the exact time depending on the product and the type of IQF freezer. The short freezing time prevents the formation of large ice crystals in the product’s cells, which could destroy the membrane structures at the molecular level. This makes the product preserve its color, shape, taste, and smell after defrost, to a far greater extent.
Another benefit of using the OctoFrostTM IQF tunnel freezer instead of choosing a traditional method of freezing is the ability to separate units of the product during freezing, which produces higher quality product compared to block freezing. This advantage is also important for food sustainability, as the consumer can defrost and use the exact needed quantity.
A growing interest and demand in IQF products are observed at a global level, due to the higher quality of these products and the practical advantages of having separately frozen pieces. IQF is also used as a common pre-treatment for freeze-drying food because both processes preserve the taste, size, and cell structure of the food better than traditional methods such as block freezing, or air drying respectively.