Kitchen to plane: How airplane food is really made – 24,000 meals from scratch each day

Flights: Aviation insider discusses food quality control

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Plane food varies depending on what class a passenger is flying but the majority of airplane food is made by in-flight caterer DNATA. Tonight’s Channel 5 programme took a look behind the scenes where 24,000 meals are made from scratch each day for passengers on aeroplanes around the world.

With more than one million passengers in the air at any one time, DNATA provides meals each day to several airlines. 

All meals at DNATA are thought about, cooked and packed at the kitchens near to Heathrow.

Food deliveries to the caterers start at around 6am, where a variety of different foods are delivered including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, onions and leeks.

From delivery to dispatch, the ingredients are made into meals within 12 hours.

The presenter of the show said: “It’s an operation that must run to military precision.

“Every 24 hours, 37,000 meals are made here from scratch and then eaten on planes flying all over the world.”

The process from kitchen to plane involves work from hundreds of chefs who cook the meals each day.

Food items must also pass a strict quality control process before it is allowed to be made into a meal.

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This is so that the items fit onto the trays provided to customers, which is a snug 10cm wide by 15cm long.

Plane food is also “much fresher” than customers first presume.

While it varies from airline-to-airline, the majority of food is freshly prepared before a flight.

According to insiders, United’s meals are prepared fresh globally, meaning the food is made the day of the flight.

Sometimes it can be made up to 72 hours beforehand, after which it is frozen to make sure it is still safe for passengers to consume.

Twitter users were even left shocked at how fresh plane food really is.

One person said: “Channel 5’s programme making plane food look actually appetising, I didn’t realise it was all made from scratch.”

Another wrote: “#Channel5 that plane food is much fresher than I thought.”

“Love to see the chefs getting credit for their hard work, much harder than it looks,” a third commented.

However, food often tastes different while in the air compared to food consumed on the ground.

This is due to several factors including a pressurised cabin as well as dry air.

Both of these factors suppress the ability to taste sweet and salty foods by up to 30 percent.

Airline caterers often have to modify their recipes to accommodate for the loss in taste.

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