Scanlon was rushed to Royal Lancaster Infirmary where, in order to save her life, she had to have her stomach surgically removed. The boiling temperature of liquid nitrogen is 321 degrees Fahrenheit and this was the approximate temperature that the drink was consumed. Her stomach had been pierced due to the extreme temperature of the drink.
Oscar’s Wine Bar and Bistro took full responsibility for the incident. They had no scientific standards in place for serving the substance; only a policy of waiting about ten seconds for the nitrogen to boil off. The family-owned bar no longer serves any beverages with liquid nitrogen.
Liquid nitrogen can be used safely in a variety of recipes either to add an exciting reaction to the presentation of beverages or as a functional method of instantly cooling foods. Chefs in restaurants cannot wait hours for things to freeze completely, and other methods for flash freezing, such as using dry ice, are not as effective. Dry ice sublimates (changes from solid to gas) at -109 degrees Fahrenheit and is solid and cannot be dipped into or poured.
Liquid nitrogen has become a relatively common item in more eccentric restaurant kitchens. It is useful for flash freezing meats, berries, cheeses, and herbs. Why is this useful? A steak can be cooked regularly to perfect medium-rare conditions, then flash frozen before being deep fried, creating a crispy crust without overcooking the interior. In order to make faux truffles, Spanish chef Quique Dacosta uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the parmesan foam. The rapid cooling allows delicate structures, such as this foam, to maintain their texture and shape. Blackberries can be split into their tiny individual beads through flash freezing, making them easier to bake with or add to garnish dishes. Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen is smoother and creamier than if frozen conventionally with the small size of the ice crystals within the dessert.
With all of these uses for something as dangerous as liquid nitrogen in the kitchen and the ever accelerating advancement of technology, one can only imagine the future uses for chemistry in cooking. However, the necessary precautions must be taken to ensure that what happened to Scanlon does not happen again.