Is there a technology that performs the reverse of a microwave oven?

Let’s say I have cooked a meal but I want to freeze it for later. For whatever reason, I need it frozen solid ‘right now’.

Is there any technology or machine that would let me place, say, a piping-hot casserole inside, press a couple buttons, and ‘presto’, a few minutes later it’s frozen solid?

The best my tiny brain can ‘imagine up’ is some sort of freezing chamber where its exterior is exposed to flowing liquid nitrogen that is allowed to boil off as it sucks the heat out of the chamber and its contents…

You’re close.

The process you’re referring to is called “flash freezing”. It’s used in the packaged foods industry to make those frozen dinners that you then put in the microwave. The process seals in flavor and maintains the consistency of the food.

The machinery that does this, however, is considerably larger than the average microwave.

Here’s an example. You can either have a big cabinet that you put food into and then remove it once it’s frozen, or you can have a “tunnel” that you run a conveyor belt through. Prepared food goes in one end, frozen food comes out the other end.

I appreciate the thought process that went into the OP but then I have to ask, is there any need for technology like this on an individual level? In how many circumstances would a household or restaurant need to freeze or chill something suddenly? I guess if such an appliance was readilly available then beer and soda could be sold warm.

Now back to the freezing mavens, if there was such a need how adaptable would the technology be at the household level?

The guy that invents the home reverse microwave will become so rich, he will make Bill Gates look like a piker.
Place a warm beer in unit, push button, 1 minute later you remove a frosty cold one.
It would not get any better than that.

Two words: liquid nitrogen.

(When do I start collecting royalties?)

Thank you all for your posts and links, very interesting.

You reminded me of how things work where I live. Alcoholic beverages to take home are only sold by government owned “Liquor Stores” and privately owned “Cold Beer Stores”. It’s not like the US where you can get beer at the 7-11 or the grocery store.

From what I understand, the gov’t stores are not allowed to sell cold beer from a fridge/cooler (something to do with the risk of drinking and driving) but they do provide in-store “water chiller” units: a shallow tank that circulates almost-frozen water over your cans or bottles for however long you wish…

What a wacky provincial (BC) government we have…

I’m inclined to think that as you cool the beer, the solubility constant of the CO2 dissolved in it would go down. So as you cool it, the CO2 will come out of solution, and go off into the air.

Congratulations - you now have a perfectly chilled and utterly flat beer. :stuck_out_tongue:

Are you sure about this? I don’t have my references with me, but I would have thought that the vapor pressure would decrease faster than the solubility constant, resulting in the CO2 remaining in solution.

I’m not, and it’s been a long time since I’ve taken physical chemistry. But I would assume that the beer is open, rather than closed, so there will be no constant-volume equilibrium formed.

This might work for freezing things, but I see major problems if your goal is to merely get them cold. Let’s take the already-discussed beer cans. My guess is that if you dip it liquid nitrogen, the outer few millimeters will freeze, while the inner beer will still be liquid, and maybe even still warm. You’ll need some method of controlled cooling. And keep in mind that shaking a beer can is a Bad Idea, even if for purposes of convection cooling.

The Anti Griddle

Here ya go!

I haven’t used this device, but I’ve done the ‘swirl a can of beer in an ice bucket’ method and it actually does work.

They already have these. It’s basically a tub of ice with a little motorized can holder on top that spins around. You stick the beer on top and it rotates the can around for about a minute so that it rapidly transfers the heat out of the beer can and into the icewater.

Then there’s this: Jet powered beer cooler: The jet powered beer cooler

And, now apparently there are self cooling beer cans:

Vortex tubes are used in industrial settings to cool things down really quick. The only problem with vortex tubes for home use is that they are annoyingly loud.

The true opposite of a microwave is almost certainly impossible - it’s a bit like asking for something that is the opposite of a light bulb - that, when switched on, will make the room darker.

I stand corrected! Wow! I am impressed by these gadgets! Thanks!

I built a dark bulb once. It had three diodes and four capacitors in the base, and when switched on sucked all the light out of a 8 by 10 by 12 foot room. Well, it was actually a conventional light bulb painted flat black, but conceptually it was the same.

Whatever happened to the old “spray your can of beer from the CO2 fire extinguiser for 30 seconds or until the beer is cold” trick? The administration used to think we had a lot of fires in our dorm in college.

Well, there’s laser cooling, but you will be cooling that beer one atom at a time.

“I’m inclined to think that as you cool the beer, the solubility constant of the CO2 dissolved in it would go down. So as you cool it, the CO2 will come out of solution, and go off into the air. Congratulations - you now have a perfectly chilled and utterly flat beer.”

That doesn’t seem to make sense.

I’m no chemist, but I homebrew and keg my own beer. The method for force-carbonating a keg is to chill it and then shake the crap out of it under pressure from a co2 tank. This forces the co2 into suspension. It works better with a cold keg than a warm one.