At some point, after you have experienced flying for a couple of times or more, you’ll ask yourself, Why does airline food taste bad?
Well, apparently, it’s your fault.
No matter what you serve – pasta, fish, chicken, and even bacon – every in-flight meal will taste bad. And food nor preparation is not the problem.
The reason behind this is that when you reach around 35,000 feet, your sense of taste goes dull. The Fraunhofer Institute of Germany proved this by recreating in-flight conditions using a mock cabin.
It revealed that at around 8,000 feet, with cool, dry cabin air starts to numb your senses, like we have a cold. In fact, as you go higher, your taste perception drops, having saltiness and sweetness go first.
What makes this worse for your cravings is that humidity is decreasing thus, drying out your nose and olfactory senses.
Related: This dryness of the nose, together with pressurization makes you thirsty (that’s why most flyers want to drink water, or more preferably, alcohol).
When you can’t smell, you probably can’t taste either.
Although this is the main cause of the problem, we can put a bit of blame into the preparation of the food too. According to Harold McGee, a scientist and author, the food is chilled and stored from a truck on to the plane, and all of these are done when the food is already cooked hours prior to serving time and they are just reheated.
Reheating will not help either as it breaks the food because once you cross a certain threshold, the food will be dry and tough.
According to Lufthansa executive chef Grant Mickels, the best fix to this problem is to increase salt and spices. In fact, it is found that Umami is the best taste for airline food because it doesn’t dull off even at 35,000 feet (both smell and taste). Umami can be found in foods like MSG, fish sauce, and Tomatoes.