Home > About Ice cream > Stabilizer in ice cream – Do we need it?

Stabilizer in ice cream – Do we need it?

More than a year ago, there was a Straits Times article that mentioned about this particular coffee joint selling incredible ice cream that does not melt. Straits Times even went a step further to sought comments from ice cream makers and food science academics as to what are the factors that can cause ice cream not to melt.

Purpose of stabilizer 

Stabilizer as the name suggest stabilizes the whole ice cream structures and helps to keep the ice cream in shape for a longer period of time. At the same time, it also helps to prevent formulation of large water crystal in ice cream. The “economical brand” ice creams are the one that requires stabilizer the most because it generally contain inadequate butterfat and a lot of air.

It is common knowledge that fat and water to do mix and usually separate from each other, forming two layers. If you try to stir them together, you can disperse them temporary, but once you leave it untouched, separation occurs.

Stabilizer does not help bind the 2 immiscible products. To perform this task, you will need something called emulsifier. (I will discuss about emulsifier later) Stabilizer basically works as a thickening agent and therefore makes it harder for the dispersed water particle in ice cream to congregate.  In addition ice cream contains air and air would definitely cause ice cream to be even less stable.

Ice cream is a complex structure containing air, water and oil.  It is thermodynamically unstable and its desired form can only be achieve at low stable temperature coupled with precise balance of each of the required ingredient.

Types of stabilizer 

Common stabilizers used in making ice cream today are xanthan gum, guar gum and locust bean gum. It is common for retailers to use more than one type of stabilizer. It is important to note that these stabilizers are very strong thickener. They have this remarkable ability to produce a large increase in the viscosity of a liquid by adding a very small quantity, usually 0.5% – 1% of the whole mixture.

Stabilizers are actually also found in most cream based product, like whipping cream, cream cheese. If you take a closer look at some of the food label of some of the cream based product, you may see “E numbers”. These number codes are for food additives that have been assessed for use within the European Union. E400-E499 codes for stabilizers.

Health benefit of stabilizer

Seriously, I can’t think of any health benefit. But I reckon stabilizer in low amount should have no adverse impact on our body either.

Can we do without stabilizer in commercial ice cream? 

The answer to this is YES. Our ice cream contains no added stabilizer. Haagen Daz has done it too, so has Tom palette.

The key to not using stabilizer is to really understand the complex multiphase structure of ice cream. To compensate the absence of stabilizer, we add egg yolk to our ice cream, (Egg yolk is a natural emulsifier) whip less air into the ice cream (you get a denser ice cream) and use adequate butterfat. For those who may not know the use of egg yolk to make ice cream is known as  “French custard style ice cream”.

If you are making ice cream at home, there is absolutely no need to use any stabilizer. All you need to do is add a little bit more cream to increase the butterfat. Alternatively, you can add a little bit of skim milk powder to give your ice cream more “body”.

Anyway ice cream is supposed to melt. The key is to enjoy it before it melts!

Valrhona chocolate ice cream made with only pure valrhona cocoa and no stabilizer. it has a lasting intense chocolate flavour

Enjoy before it melts!

Categories: About Ice cream
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