Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad – The celebrity chef everyone loves to hate, Gordan Ramsay, once famously said that there’s one place he would never eat and that’s on planes, except he used the more colorful language of course. Ramsay followed that by saying, “I worked for airlines for ten years, so I know where this food’s been and where it goes, and how long it took before it got on board”.
If you’ve eaten on planes you’ll know that everything in those boxes seems to taste, well, just kind of not how it’s supposed to taste. Scrambled eggs, for instance, seem to be missing their… egginess; something just feels wrong. The dearly departed chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain said the same, that he refuses to eat on planes and would rather go hungry than risk eating in the skies. So, what’s the deal; why is airline food so awful?
First of all, Ramsay actually worked with an airline to help them with their food. He introduced dishes that sounded like they came from a five-star restaurant and he’snot the first chef that has been hired by airlines. The names of the dishes on many airlines sound pretty enticing.
Who wouldn’t want to try the “Red Wine Braised Beef with Polenta” that was served Air New Zealand? And surely Austrian Airlines couldn’t make a mess of their “Vienne se Schnitzel”. When Virgin America introduced their Spanish Tapas you’d think most folks would not turn their nose up at that. Is Ramsay just a snob? Was Bourdain too picky? The answer is probably no.
Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad
We should say that flying for a lot of people is a novel thing and they can’t wait to chow down on free food. We guess a lot of you don’t mind what you are given, but we very much doubt any of you would say the stuff you got on the plane wouldn’t be better than if you got the same dish ina restaurant.
We can guarantee you that the Viennese Schnitzel is better in Vienna than it is 30,000 feet up in the air, and there are a handful of good reasons for that. One of the obvious reasons why airplane food is not so good is the fact that it’s not served to you fresh from the kitchen. It’s made in bulk at someplace not far from the airport.
Travel and Leisure magazine investigated this and so went to Dubai to see where Emirates made their food. They have a huge facility near the airport where thousands of dishes are prepared each day for its own airline as well as many others. The dishes the facility is told to make have been thought over for a long time. We might recall how American Airlines famously saved $40,000 a year by removing one olive from their salads.
Ok, so once the dishes have been decided and the budgets figured out, the factory-style restaurant gets down to business. It’s really not a restaurant at all and is what you might call a food processing plant. The folks preparing the food are made to wear hairnets and in Dubai at least have an air shower before they go near any food so nothing will fall into the dishes.
What we are saying is that plane food is at least probably clean food. When it comes to making the dishes those that will be heated up are made and then they are frozen to specific temperatures. When you get them hot that’s because they’ve been heated in the plane’s convection ovens. According to Travel and Leisure, “Chefs will prepare meals eight hours before a flight, with hot food items having a shelf life of 72 hours, though the team typically works within a 43-hour time period”.
Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad
When it comes to meats, chicken might be cooked just 60 percent, frozen, and then finished on the plane, while beef steak might be cooked only 30 percent, frozen, and then finished on the plane. Generally, if the food has been put on the plane and the plane is delayed and it just sits there, it will have to be taken off and dumped.
Airlines will take no risks because if people get sick there will be big trouble. There was once a famous case on Aerolineas Argentinas when 76 people got sick and one died after eating shrimp that had gone bad. Anyway, so the food is not fresh and it’s not been made with loving care.
It’s mass-produced stuff and while made with safety in mind and often using quality ingredients, it’s hardly as good as something you’ll get in a restaurant. But that’s not the only reason this kind of food isn’t very good. There’s a much bigger reason, well, there are a few reasons.
The food on planes dries out easily and that’s just because of how it got to you. Time magazine tells us that with the food being reheated and thus drying out, in the economy many of the dishes are served with lots of sauce, but even then sometimes by the time it gets to you, it’s dry. This cannot be avoided.
One person who flew with British Airways called an egg sandwich in a review, “literally pointless”. That’s what we meant at the start when we said eggs lack “egginess” in the air. But let’s say you are traveling in the first class and are looking forward to your lobster and lamb chops.
The food has been prepared with more attention and it gets to you fast before it can really dry out. You taste it and it is still bad. What’s going on? What a lot of people don’t know is that when we fly our taste buds are affected and that goes for economy travelers and first-class travelers.
Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad
The cabin pressure in the plane actually affects the palate. We are told that this pressure numbs our taste buds and having a dry nose doesn’t help either as the smell is a big part of the tasting. On top of that, it’s said that the constant loud noise you hear on a plane affects how your tongue receives food.
In one study it was found that sound can affect a person’s taste buds by 10 to 15 percent, with the conclusion being that it’s something to do with the sensory interactions from the noise and nerves in people’s ears. Low air pressure and all those loud noises literally prevent us from picking up on sweet and salty tastes.
When the airline Lufthansa studied this it found that people’s ability to taste saltines sand sweetness can drop as much as 30 percent. Airlines have at least started to realize this after having scientists conduct studies. Some airlines have started to add more spices and make foods sweeter or saltier, to make the food taste stronger.
It was found that some ingredients work in the air while others are compromised, so it’snot easy to make all foods taste better. The proof of the pudding is those horrible eggs. Then some airlines just started adding foods that already have really strong flavors. Since we can hardly taste anything in the air there isn’t much point in having a bland cheese up there, but use blue cheese and people might taste that.
The problem, though, is a lot of people won’t eat blue cheese. Some airlines have been trying new stuff, though. We quite like the fact that Cathay Pacific a while back knew normal beer wasn’t working well and so they introduced a beer brewed with honey and long a fruit. The wine tastes different up there too, according to some people.
They say it’s more acidic in the sky, and that’s because of the environment it’s served in. Maybe next time you fly have half a glass up there and then try a bit when you land and see if you can tell the difference. We don’t advise you try this with eggs, it could get messy. What do you think of airplane food? Have you ever experienced something good in mid-air? Tell us in the comments. – Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad