Dairy Queen Blizzards are a magical thing. Not only do they taste pretty epic, but they also appear to defy gravity. DQ is still on a mission to prove to the world, once and for all, that the chain is "committed to offering the thickest, most delicious treat experience there is," by requiring employees to serve each Blizzard upside down.
How is that possible? Is the trick in the ingredients? The cup design? Pure magic?
I spoke with a fellow USask student and foodie, Mark Tan, who is majoring in Food and Bioproduct Sciences. His knowledge of food additives and storage techniques explained the science behind the magic. This article also gave our Spoon team an excuse to meet at DQ and eat ice cream, which is always a bonus.
According to the FAQ section, DQ soft serve is technically classified as "ice milk." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a minimum 10% butterfat content in ice cream, but DQ soft serve only has a 5% content.
We also need to consider the difference between ice cream and soft serve. During the freezing process, air is added to soft serve to enhance the creaminess and lightness of the final product. If you've ever compared how quickly a Blizzard melts compared to hard ice cream, you'll have noticed that Blizzards become liquidy much faster. This trait can be attributed to the soft serve's air content. In contrast, ice cream without added air tastes denser and melts slower.
If adding air makes it melt faster, then how can it be turned upside down? Doesn't this contradict the whole anti-gravity thing? That is an excellent question. In addition to increasing the total volume, the amount of 3D space the ice cream occupies, the air also decreases the total weight of the Blizzard. I'm guessing it took some trial and error to find the right air-weight ratio.
Temperature and Agitation are Key
Have you ever noticed how pliable DQ soft serve is? With that classic red spoon, you have the ability to shape your ice milk into peaks and valleys. A bowl of hard ice cream, on the other hand, is a solid block. Constant agitation and movement of the soft serve prevent it from freezing into a solid, inflexible mass. The same idea is used in slushie machines; the slushie mix is continually being stirred and mixed to prevent it from settling.
To allow for movement, DQ soft serve is stored specifically at -5°C (23°F) to ensure the perfect flavor, texture, and consistency. Hard ice cream is stored at much colder temperatures, usually around -17°C (0°F) making it significantly more solid.
I've never been a fan of physics, but I'll make an exception when ice cream (er...milk?) is involved. Viscosity measures the fluidity of a substance. Something like water, which pours no problem, has a low viscosity. Things like ketchup and molasses have a high viscosity because they are resistant to flow. DQ soft serve has a high viscosity because the emulsifiers, ingredients that stop the soft serve from separating into separate components, hold onto the introduced air.
After adding all the brownie goodness, cookie dough bits, and cheesecake chunks, the Blizzard is mixed one final time to add even more air and increase the overall adhesion.
DQ Blizzards can be held upside down, proving once again how awesome science is. If you happen to be served a Blizzard right-side up, there is a possibility that you could receive your next Blizzard for free.
The next time someone questions the rationality of 'Blizzard flipping,' impress them with your knowledge of science.