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Interesting Properties: Polymeric Emulsification

You know emulsifiers? Work by having one end of a short molecule water-loving, the other end fat-loving. So, one end attaches to water, the other to fat or oil, enabling emulsions to be made.

Now imagine this not as a short molecule with two different ends, but an enormously long chain, like a deep sea fishing line, with little hooks all along it. Some of the hooks are water-loving, some fat-loving. This is a polymeric emulsifier… a polymer that emulsifies all along its backbone but because it is a long chain, it also stabilises the emulsion by thickening the water phase

Some MCs are incredibly good at this, making an emulsion from about 2% oil (which is basically an oily foam) up to about 60% oil, which is a lot like a mayonnaise. The really strange thing about these emulsions, apart from their stability, is that they solidify on heating – see reversible thermalgelation. Interestingly, in the cold, the water and oil trapped in the emulsion does not migrate out very easily – place some on a paper towel and it will hardly penetrate through at all.

The amount of methylcellulose you use affects the thickness and almost jelly like nature of the emulsion. It works from about 0.3% methylcellulose to about 6%. The thermalgelled version at 0.3% will be poor, the 6% rigid…completely rigid.

And yes, it reverses to softer emulsion on cooling.

Methylcellulose: The Properties (2)

Interesting Properties: Unique; reversible thermalgelation Continued

There are basically, at the moment, two types of gelling characteristics available in methylcellulose. The standards (A15, A4C, A4M, A40M, MCE 4000, A16M) and the supergels (MX, SG A16M, MCE 100TS). The differences between the standards and the supergels are the:

  • temperatures at which they dissolve and thermalgel,

  • the strength of the thermalgel

  • the meltback temperatures

  • the behaviour of the gels as they meltback – to liquid or a sort of cohesive jelly like liquid

  • and the amount of syneresis (water leakage) you see when they thermalgel.


For vegan burgers it is best to use types that have enough cold viscosity to bind, 4000 mPas or preferably more, and if you can, use a supergelling type. The supergels are better as they give a stronger bite, better (lower) meltback temperature so that the mouthfeel doesn’t get sticky as it cools a bit, plus syneresis that gives succulence and flavour release as all the water soluble flavours are carried in the water.

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