What Are You Printing For Dinner?

3d printed food

Peter Callahan, a celebrity caterer credited by Martha Stewart with inventing the bite-sized slider, bought his first 3-D plastics printer two years ago to wow guests at a holiday party. Today, he has his sights trained on printing the food itself. He imagined drumsticks with edible bones; could they be made of celery? Blue cheese? Hot sauce? Callahan already makes an edible cracker spoon to use with caviar, but he envisions an entire line of cutlery, plates and menus that could be printed and consumed at parties. He sees mini-milk cartons made of chocolate and Asian-style takeout boxes formed from wontons.

“People like new,” he says. But when it comes to food, most of us still cook like cavemen, over fire. Kitchens are “the most primitive thing in our house,” says Hod Lipson, an Israeli engineering professor at Columbia University, who was a pioneer in the field of 3D printing, and food printing in particular. But soon, Lipson claims, we’ll be able to download and print dinner.

Food printers use powders (mostly sugar) or pastes (cooked or uncooked pureed meat, vegetables, grains). The most advanced models have multiple syringes, like printer cartridges, each containing a different ingredient. The syringes extrude the ingredients layer by layer, allowing the printers to build elaborate, computer-generated shapes that would be difficult, if not impossible, to shape by hand or mold. Currently, the food needs to be cooked either before or after printing. But scientists, including Lipson, are working on a printer that cooks as it prints.

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