The Truth About Plane Food
The thought of flying, the excitement associated with going away to some new and exotic destination means that we often overlook the less attractive aspects associated with this mode of travel, assuming that all is well because it is essentially “time off”. On my part, I’ve always idly wondered why food served from those petite plastic trays usually doesn’t taste quite right, or else has some unexpected flavour that I don't recognise from my day-to-day experience. The resulting taste can be somewhat off-putting, as if the meals have had their true potential obscured.
Having spoken to aircrew and a friend who knows someone who provides catering services to airlines, I have found out that these meals are in fact prepped long in advance of their being served to passengers. They are prepared en masse in industrial kitchens which can churn out around 20,000 meals every day. Whether you travel in economy or business class, all your meals come from these same kitchens. Most airline foods are cooked (partially or fully) 5 days before being served, being kept frozen in the interim.
Timing is everything for airline companies - meals must be able to be reheated at very high temperatures as rapidly as possible, as cabin crew typically have very little time they can dedicate to more extensive preparations. One result of this process is that the intensity of the heat causes nutrients from the food to be lost. The levels of salt and sugars used are also significantly increased when compared to the food we cook in the kitchen at home. This is done in an effort to compensate for the high air pressure in the cabin reducing the ability to taste salty and sweet flavours. As if all this was not already bad enough, the meals are also packed with chemical preservatives to make sure they endure long enough to be served on your flight. Airlines only refrain from these practices when it comes to treating certain special passengers to fresh dishes (i.e. in the first class section). Some airlines keep a sample of fresh food on the plane just in case there is a bout of food poisoning and an inspection is needed. Coming on top of feeling tired and dehydrated miles above the ground in a cramped cabin, the less than ideal experience of consuming these dishes is unlikely to help improve your mood.
It is difficult to say who should be responsible for this situation because the logistics of serving quality food up-high are difficult in terms of both practicality and cost. The best solution is simple... pack your own lunch/dinner! This can be food from home, or you can grab something at the airport. If you have access to the lounge, stuff your face as much as you can before boarding. Unless you are a ready-meal fan, it is okay to say no to bad food. Try making something from our recipes instead!"