How are the in-flight meals prepared?

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The most anticipated moment on a long flight is probably when the in-flight meal is served! An in-flight meal, also called “dinner in the sky”, is like a surprise 🎁 for the passengers during the flight. This is because the in-flight meal menu varies depending on the airline and route, making each experience new and exciting. “Chicken or beef?” 🍗 That one question from the flight attendant triggers indecisiveness in all of us! 

This is the 12th edition of the Fun Facts series prepared by Incheon Airport! We’re going to dig up unknown secrets 😋 hidden in the plane’s meals. From the process of preparing the in-flight meals to the secrets behind the taste! We’ll uncover them all, so just keep reading! 

How are the in-flight meals prepared?

First, let’s take a look at the process of making the in-flight meals. Due to safety issues, general cooking is not permitted on the plane. Instead, the food is made in advance at a nearby in-flight meal factory and loaded on the plane ✈.

Before COVID-19, Korean Air made 70,000 in-flight meals a day! That’s an amazing figure. To accommodate this, the in-flight meal factory is packed with equipment for making large amounts of food. From steak to rice, noodles, and even a bakery 🍞, a variety of food are churned out of here every day!

After many people at the factory work together to produce the meals, the finished product goes straight into the freezer. ❄ Why? In-flight meals are all about hygiene! If a passenger experiences food poisoning in the sky, there isn’t much that can be done for them. Therefore, in-flight meals are cooled to less than 5 degrees to prevent microorganisms from breeding after cooking. This ensures food safety while capturing the original taste of the prepared food. Afterwards, the in-flight meal will be plated in containers 🍽 and then loaded onto the plane.

The in-flight meal that has finally arrived on the plane! How does it get to each individual passenger? Here, you’ll learn about the behind-the-scenes hard work of the flight attendants. There’s a space called a galley on the plane! The flight attendants will reheat the cold in-flight meals using an oven here. After all this is when the hot 🔥 in-flight meal is finally ready to serve!

Is it true in-flight meals are high-sodium and high-calorie?

In-flight meals are often known as “salty, high-calorie foods” 🍲. This rumor has something to do with our taste buds.

In general, when we are at high altitudes, our palates tend to become less sensitive 😯 In fact, according to a German study, we taste 20 to 30 percent less saltiness when up at 35,000 feet. It is also said that the loud aircraft noise makes us less receptive to taste. For this reason, passengers have no choice but to eat their food a little saltier in the air than on the ground to enjoy their meals! 🧂 Sweeter and saltier foods also tend to be higher in calories.

But is this rumor true?! Half right ⭕, half wrong ❌! We move less and don’t digest food as well on the plane. To make food more digestible and less burdensome on the passengers’ bodies, in-flight meals can’t just be heavier and higher in calories. 

Instead, in-flight meals should find the best balance of taste so that passengers do not experience bloating while still enjoying their meals! These days, there is a growing demand for low-sodium and low-calorie foods. As a result, more and more airlines are making in-flight meals healthier.

From the ingredients to the recipes! The secret behind the taste of in-flight meals.

In addition, as there are a lot of hurdles for in-flight meals, such as high altitudes and cramped space on the plane, there’s a lot of science that goes into selecting the ingredients used for in-flight meals. In the case of bread served on planes 🍞, less fermentation is used to prevent the bread from getting soggy. Also, each airline undergoes a lot of research just to prevent noodles from sticking during the storage and reheating process.

Finally, the ever-so-popular cup noodles served in-flight! 🍜 I’m sure we’ve all been woken up by the smell of cup noodles on a flight before! Did you know it’s actually difficult to boil water above 100 degrees on the plane. Therefore, it is generally known that in-flight ramyun is not as delicious as on the ground. Regardless, maybe it’s just the experience of being on a plane, most people cannot turn down in-flight cup noodles! 

After learning about the in-flight meal cooking process and the secrets behind the taste, we hope you’ll be able to enjoy them a little more in the future! 👀

How did you feel about the 12th edition of Incheon Airport Fun Facts? With the demand for long-distance overseas travel increasing, the in-flight meal factory has been busy again after a long run of slow operations.💦 From steady sellers, such as Korean Air’s bibimbap and Asiana Airlines’ nutritious ssambap, new menu items such as mukbap (acorn jelly and rice) and curry are also being produced!🌟 We continue to wait for the day when all of our passengers can travel again and enjoy their in-flight meals. That’s all for us this time!

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