Methylcellulose: Frequently Asked Questions
IIs it safe? As in safe to eat?
Methylcellulose has an E number. It has been passed as safe to eat up to any level within a reasonable diet ‘quantum satis’ – enough to do the job required. What you should know is that ingredients with an E number are regularly re-assessed for safety and that in the most recent assessment, methylcellulose, E461, passed with no queries.
What are its nutritional details ?
Usually 95% soluble fibre/non digested carbohydrate, maximum 1% salt; moisture up to 5%.
How is it labelled?
On labels you will see it either as methylcellulose or methyl cellulose or E461, or some alternative linguistic version, e.g. metilcelulosa. Also take into account spelling mistakes…
Is it the same a carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)?
As to carboxymethylcellulose (technically correctly termed sodium carboxymethylcellulose), this and methylcellulose are completely different. CMC is a thickener, does not form a solid gel when heated, just thins down and thickens again on cooling. It has its uses but they stand no comparison with methylcellulose.
Can you replace methylcellulose with fibres?
Insoluble fibres absorb water both in the cold and hot and as a result, swell. They are very useful for firming up a mix, holding water, making it formable, but are soft eating – they add no bite or firmness.
Soluble fibres dissolve in the water - some add viscosity, some don’t, some bind, some don’t. None of them will add the hot bite and will just leave a wet mushy texture.
So, no, I’ve never replaced methylcellulose with fibres, but I have, very often, added the two together to get a cold formable texture with a succulent hot bite.
Is it acceptable to vegans?
Funnily enough, methylcellulose tends to be more tolerated on packaging by vegans and vegetarian consumers than by omnivores. Some are suspicious of the big business side of it but its functionality totally outweighs any concerns, especially with the developers.
Its major properties in vegan, restructured protein foods are cold binding (it will stick the cold ingredients together) followed by a transition to a firm gel, like a cooked egg, on heating. The gel produces a hot bite that can melt in the mouth, or breaks and releases water; this carries with it flavour and salt, giving succulence. The latter is important but THE most important bit is that hot bite. You cannot get that with any other gums or fibres. You can get it with egg but… a) not vegan, b) it is a dry, not succulent, bite.
And of course it is vegan, no animal products whatsoever in it.
Where to get it?
Use the button below to take you to " Commercial Suppliers".
If you're after very small quantities, you might simply start with a product that's available for chefs and the household. However, such products may not carry the full specification: if in doubt and for technical support, contact me.
The current featured recipe for burgers is a "domestic" variation, primarily using kitchen cupboard ingredients. The use of methylcellulose measn a product can never be clean label, but this is as close as is practically possible. Future recipes will follow the same pattern and will be periodically added to the site.
Am I available for technical support?
Yes, and I will try to be as objective as possible in my recommendations.
Other uses for methylcellulose & hydroxypropyl methylcellulose?
Of course! They are widely used in a range of foods from deep-fried cheese to gluten-free breads. I'm intending to expand on these later, but if you have speciific questions about applications, do get in touch.