Hot and Cold: Melting Points for Common Baking Ingredients

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When you think of molasses and honey, you probably think of Memaw’s cookies over clogged pipes and industrial concrete blankets. Well, welcome to Powerblanket, where new applications for our electric blankies pop up like daisies. Customers including…bakeries? There is a long list of common baking ingredients that congeal, harden, thicken, freeze, or crystallize as temperatures drop. Coming from a perspective of manufacturers, packaging, and shipping, this can be a problem. They need heat to keep them liquid and transportable. Check out some of the melting points of common baking ingredients.

Runny Honey: What is Honey Made of?

Honey is made of different complex and simple sugars, water, vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals. These different parts lead it to eventually crystallize, which is an issue in bulk. To help you visualize, imagine having a 55 gallon barrel full of honey you have to bottle and ship out. If that entire honey drum has crystallized due to cold weather, are you going to scoop it out with a spoon and hand-squish it into every bottle? That would be both sticky and inefficient. The same goes for other products that harden or thicken and aren’t liquid enough to be poured or pumped.


Melting Point of Honey, Honey

Honey becomes almost impossible to spread or work with when it crystallizes (you’re probably familiar with the ole’ “pop the honey in the microwave” trick). When honey is crystallized, it’s melting point ranges between 104 and 122 °F (40 and 50 °C). This range accounts for the fact that the chemical makeup of honey will vary due to differences in bees, impurities, climate, flower supply, and geographical location of the particular hive.

Raw vs. Processed

Honey must undergo extremely minimal straining to be considered “raw” by the FDA. This indicates how important it is to heat honey with great care. Processed honey on the other hand, is blasted by high heat (161 ºF and higher!), straining, and pasteurization, which process destroys helpful yeast cells, enzymes, and antioxidants in raw honey.

Overheating honey destroys the properties of honey that are most nutritional for our bodies. Around 200 components, including antibacterial properties, are lost if honey is heated over 98.6 ºF (37 ºC). Higher than 104 ºF (40 ºC) and valuable enzymes are destroyed. In short, the danger of just sticking honey in a manufacturing microwave is denaturing, devaluing, and scorching it. Heating solutions for crystallized honey include generic electric heating blankets. However, these run the risk of scorching the honey, or overheating it. Because of this, it is crucial to heat and decrystallize raw honey carefully.

If you heat honey above 104 ºF (40 ºC), it will caramelize. For those apiarists and manufacturers that want to preserve their raw honey and still be able to bottle it, they need a specialized solution. The BeeBlanket has been engineered to the temperature of a beehive, which preserves the valuable raw aspects of the honey, while warming it enough to liquify it.

Coconut Oil : Put the Heat in the Coconut

Coconut Oil is used for a huge variety of purposes, not just for food. Depending on the makeup of your specific coconut oil, it melts at a temperature between 76-78 ºF (24-25 ºC). The melting point depends on how pure the oil is. Impurities spark crystallization. The purer the oil, the lower the melting point. Overall, at average room temperature and below, coconut oil is solid. Since coconut oil applications range from hair products to treating eczema, it is important that manufacturers package their coconut oil properly and accurately in a liquid state. Luckily, heating coconut oil back into liquid doesn’t affect the oil’s quality at all. The biggest issue is heating it slowly and evenly, so it doesn’t scorch.

Molasses Assets

Memaw and I appreciate molasses for its sweet, smoky flavor. Molasses is usually made from boiled down sugar cane, and can also be made from sugar beet juice, dates, pomegranate, and sorghum. It will crystallize due to lowered temperatures or condensation. Molasses doesn’t freeze in any industrial grade freezer due to the sugar acting as an antifreeze to the water molecules. The water will evaporate out, leaving crystallized, grainy molasses. The key is to keep it at normal temperatures with light heat. Molasses is made primarily from sucrose, depending on the source: sugarcane, sugar beets, and sorghum are all sources from which molasses is made. The more sucrose, the more likely crystallization will occur. Slow, even heat will solve any crystallization problems. After fixing any problems with heat, molasses crystallization is less likely to happen again by adding citric acid or pure fructose.

Melting Point of Vegetable Oil

Believe it or not, oil congeals as it gets colder as well. The melting point of vegetable oil varies greatly depending on the type: sunflower oil and safflower oil (2 ºF, -17 ºC), canola oil (14 ºF, -10 ºC), olive oil and sesame oil (21 ºF, -6 ºC), peanut oil (37 ºF, 3 ºC) are just a few.

One company we work with ships vegetable oil overseas. They said, “in the winter, the oil congeals to a white residue because of the cold temperatures onboard the ship.” Like most problems with heating, they needed a solutions that would “heat the totes gently to get the oil back to its original consistency…” Keyword being gently. Uniform heat is important for warming oils just like other food products as to not scorch them or damage their chemical makeup.

Shortening: The Big Short

Shortening is solidified, hydrogenated vegetable oil. When it comes to shortening (think Crisco), customers we’ve worked with are more concerned with softening it than melting it. With a melting point of 117º F, it is almost always in its solid, fluffy form. However, semi-vehicles will ship the product in cold weather, where it will freeze and become rock hard. In order to get it ready to sell, it needs to be warmed with a slow, uniform heat to about room temperature (68-72 ºF).

Even though all of the products we’ve mentioned are different in composition and chemical makeup, they have something in common: food! To finally get to our table, it is important that manufacturers are able to transport them, and that means finding proper temperature solutions.  

Sources:

Lindberg, Barbara. “The Bee Journal.” Why Does Honey Crystallize? January 01, 1970. Accessed November 19, 2018. http://thebeejournal.blogspot.com/2011/12/heating-and-freezing-honey.html.

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