Extrusion cooking is a technique that makes it possible to create prepared foods within a very short period of time. A number of packaged food products are manufactured using this method, including various types of cereals, textured vegetable protein or TVP products, and a variety of different types of snack foods. Extruded products are found in just about every kitchen pantry today.
The actual process of extrusion cooking is very simple. Essentially, the food product is heated under a high degree of pressure, then slowly forced through a series of pores into another cooking chamber. As this process takes place, the moisture content of the food is reduced significantly, leaving behind a product that is thoroughly cooked and dried. The remaining extruded product is then ready for inclusion in dry mixes or further processing to produce many of the packaged products that many consumers rely upon today.
A wide range of packaged foods are prepared by using high tech extrusion cooking techniques. Many of the salty snacks found in supermarkets are prepared using this cooking method. Even breakfast bars made and similar types of healthy foods made with cereal are created using ingredients prepared with this type of cooking. The manufactured foods created using this process are not limited to grains. Soybeans are often prepared using extrusion cooking, with the resulting product forming the basis for a number of vegetarian products.
Because extrusion cooking is a process that combines exposure to high temperatures in a very short period of time, it is possible to produce large quantities of finished products in a very short period of time. Opponents to this process claim that the process robs the food of essential vitamins and nutrients, while proponents of the process understand that with certain foods, extrusion techniques actually lock in essential minerals and vitamins. In any case, extrusion cooking provides many of us with the convenience foods that are part of our daily diet, and are very likely to be with us for many years to come.