It’s been 18 years since Jerry and Naomi Hancock figured out how to make instant ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Today, their company, Sub Zero, has 30 franchises, five of which are in their home state of Utah. “We knew nothing about ice cream,” Jerry said. “We just wanted to make something different.”

After his wife showed him an article that featured the use of liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, Jerry started experimenting. A former chemistry major, he spoke with some of his past professors, who told him that while he certainly could make ice cream with the chemical, it wouldn’t necessarily be tasty. However, Jerry wasn’t deterred. He got to work.

After several attempts, he finally came across the right formula to produce perfectly textured ice cream with a taste that was not only pleasant, but delicious. Clocking in at around 30 seconds of production time, the new process was unmatched in efficiency. It also meant that a customer visiting a Sub Zero ice cream shop could watch their order being made in not much more time than it would take to scoop it out of a tub.


A delicious trend

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream: pink soft serve in a cup

After being featured on Shark Tank, Jerry and Naomi fascinated the world with this tasty innovation. While traditional ice cream-making methods involve a slow freezing process, their method was different in that its production was lightning fast and resulted in a velvety smooth and intensely flavorful brand using less time and less labor.

Social media has also played a significant role in liquid nitrogen ice cream’s rising popularity, with videos of the mesmerizing clouds of vapor and the flash-freezing process garnering attention across platforms. Combined with the promise of an ultra-creamy dessert, growing “FOMO” (fear of missing out) among influencers and dessert connoisseurs has made liquid nitrogen ice cream a highly sought-after treat.

But how, exactly, does it get made?


The chilly details

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream: balls of ice cream on a tray

Liquid nitrogen offers a rapid and extreme method of freezing that’s currently being leveraged across several different industries. The process begins with a liquid nitrogen bath, where the ultra-cold substance reaches temperatures as low as -321 degrees Fahrenheit (-196 degrees Celsius). The flash freezing that occurs results in smaller ice crystals than in traditional ice cream, and prevents the growth of large ice crystals. Both of these factors contribute to the texture that distinguishes liquid nitrogen ice cream from traditional ice cream.

You may be wondering whether ice cream production with a component as cold as liquid nitrogen is safe for manufacturers and consumers. It is of utmost importance that ice cream makers using this method adhere to strict safety protocols, considering that the mishandling of such a chemical can lead to severe frostbite. However, from the customer’s side, it is perfectly safe (and tasty!) to consume ice cream made using liquid nitrogen.


Reflections as a food-grade liquid nitrogen provider

Liquid nitrogen ice cream represents a harmonious marriage of science and gastronomy. As this method continues to gain traction, it’s likely to become a staple in the world of frozen desserts, delighting customers with its cool chemistry and delectable flavors. As a long-standing provider of food-grade liquid nitrogen, CalOx is standing by and ready to assist with cool innovations such as this one!