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This article on heating honey delves into the longstanding use of honey in various societies for food and medicinal purposes and its contemporary significance in numerous industries. Honey’s value lies in its beneficial components like antioxidants, vitamins, and enzymes, specifically its antibiotic properties.
Does heating affect honey’s ingredients and efficacy? Studies show heating alters honey’s chemical makeup, weakening its ingredients and diminishing its health benefits. Excessive filtration also reduces honey’s potency, as it removes beneficial pollen grains and organic materials. While beehive temperatures suggest moderate heat doesn’t harm honey, excessive heat during cooking can degrade its beneficial enzymes and flavor. It is best to consume honey in its natural state to retain its health benefits.
The Ins and Outs of Heating Honey
Honey has been in use for the longest time imaginable. Early societies across the globe consumed honey as raw food in addition to using it for medicinal purposes. Honey was highly priced and was even used as a medium of exchange way back then. Currently, it forms a major part of almost all products in most industries. One of the things that makes honey highly valued is its beneficial components. Honey is composed of antioxidants, vitamins, probiotics, amino acids, minerals, and enzymes. Honey is particularly known for its antibiotic properties which make it an excellent medicinal product. But does heating honey have any effect on its ingredients or its efficacy? Well, that is a question that most people cripple with and shall be covered in this article.
1. Is honey toxic when heated?
This is perhaps the biggest concern for everyone who uses honey. Studies have proven that heating honey will alter its chemical composition. Fortunately, the heat does not make honey toxic such that it can harm you. The makeup of honey changes when heated and the ingredients are weakened and rendered ineffective. Heat has a negative effect on enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and other components. It however does not make these components poisonous or result in any disease. It is therefore prudent to keep honey in its natural, raw state and consume it raw. Heating honey also destroys its texture and color.
Aside from heating honey, most people tend to filter honey to extreme levels. Ultra-finely filtered honey will never be as beneficial as raw honey subjected to little refining. Remember, honey contains pollen grains and other organic materials that are beneficial to the body. When these are lost, then it means the honey has lost some of its health benefits. Refined honey may look attractive in the bottle and will also slow down crystallization. However, it lacks the potent properties of raw honey. In fact, an easier way to tell if honey is raw is by simply checking out for crystallization. Raw honey is prone to crystallization whereas processed honey remains in a liquid state for an extended period.
2. Does heating honey destroy its properties/nutrients?
The temperature levels within the beehive can go up to approximately 95 ºF (35 ºC) and that means a little heat will not affect the ingredients in honey. It is however not wise to subject honey to excessive temperatures since this affects the potent properties of its key nutrients. Too much heat damages these nutrients and thus affects their nutritional benefits. This will certainly depend on how much heat the honey is subjected to and the duration.
Heating crystallized honey helps liquefy the honey and makes it easier to handle it. The heat applied however is not much and this helps prevent the natural ingredients from dissipating. As a general rule, ensure the amount of heat applied does not go too far from the 95 ºF (35 ºC) limit. Applying gentle warmth to crystallized honey can help to liquefy it.
How about cooking with honey? This can be more detrimental than helpful. Prolonged exposure of honey to high temperatures completely changes everything. Whether you use a grill, microwave or any other cooking vessel, excessive heat will definitely degrade the beneficial enzymes and also affect the flavor. The original taste of raw honey is completely lost when all its components are destroyed or altered.
Heat affects the properties of honey in various ways:
- Loss of antimicrobial and antibacterial capabilities – enzymes such as invertase and diastase are destroyed when honey is heated excessively. These enzymes help in the digestion and breakdown of sugar. Glucose oxidase available in honey is also lost through heating. This enzyme helps the body fight bacteria and viruses by producing hydrogen peroxide which acts as a disinfectant.
- Loss of antioxidant properties – honey is rich in antioxidants that help neutralize the effect of harmful radicals in the body. These free radicals are the sole cause of chronic diseases and infections. Cells are also damaged by free radicals. One of the antioxidants found in honey is polyphenols which is an anticancer agent. These substances also help prevent inflammation. Heat destroys this substance.
Heating Honey Safely: Best Practices
As you now know, too much heat affects honey negatively. Heating honey rapidly over direct heat should be avoided. Remember, the hotter the heat the higher the loss of honey’s nutritional value. Therefore, in order to safely warm honey, employ any of these methods:
1. Warming Honey with Boiled Water Technique
This is one of the safest methods of warming up honey. Boil the water first but do not boil the water with the honey in it. Once the water has boiled, place it aside and let the water cool down a bit. You can then take the jar containing the honey and place it inside the warm water.
2. Using a Slow Cooker to Warm Honey
This is another effective method of warming honey. Place a container into the slow cooker and fill it with water to the ¾ mark. This will prevent water from getting into the honey. Turn the slow cooker to the minimum setting and place the container with the honey in the water. A plastic or glass container will suffice in this case. The lowest temperature should not be more than 120 ºF (48.9 ºC). It should get the water warm for up to 115 ºF (46.1 ºC) to 16 ºF (46.7 ºC). You can use a thermometer if doing this for the first time. The container should never be covered with a lid when doing this.
3. The Honey Warming Bee Blanket Method
The Honey Warming Bee Blanket is one of the best products for warming up honey. The blanket provides and maintains temperature levels similar to that within a hive. The sophisticated device features inbuilt thermostats that regulate the temperature. The main advantage of the honey-warming bee blanket is the fact that it does not require your presence in order to keep the honey warm. It does not overheat and pro models have thermostat regulators that help the user better manage temperature levels.
Removing Crystals from Honey
It is common to find crystals in honey especially if you rarely consume plenty of honey in your home. The granules that form in honey are never harmful and therefore should not worry anyone. It is however possible to eliminate these crystals in honey and restore it to its natural liquid state. One of the advantages that honey has over other food products is the fact that it never goes bad, one of the reasons it is widely used as a preservative. The taste of honey may change if it is kept for more than 2 years.
The granules that form honey do not imply that the product has expired or is no longer safe. In fact, some people love these crystals. They melt in the mouth when ingested. One of the reasons honey crystallizes is the fact that glucose contained in honey loses its water content as a result of heat and prolonged storage. This converts the glucose into glucose monohydrate that exists as crystals. Lots of these crystals form a lattice which then results in a suspension all over the honey giving it a semi-solid state. You can freeze honey as one of the ways of curbing crystallization.
Understanding Honey Crystallization
The crystallization of honey may happen unpredictably since the rate of crystallization depends on various factors. These include storage temperature, honey components, and the availability of particles in honey. The components that make up honey in this case largely depend on the kind of plants foraged.
It is important to appreciate the fact that sugars come in many forms. As for nectar, it is rich in fructose and glucose and may have some traces of maltose and sucrose. The main sugar types that affect crystallization are fructose and glucose. Honey that has more fructose than glucose will not crystallize easily. The type with higher glucose levels than fructose on the other hand will granulate within a short time.
Honeybees that forage on clover, dandelion, alfalfa, lavender, and oilseed rape produce honey that easily solidifies. Tree nectar is rich in fructose and thus slower to crystallize. Some of the plants that help produce honey that does not easily granulate include gallberry, sourwood, tupelo, avocado, acacia, sourwood, black locust, and maple. This list is however not restrictive. It is difficult to predict the speed of crystallization since bees forage on almost every plant within an area.
Methods to Liquify Crystallized Honey
- Place the jar containing honey inside a pot of hot water then stir it continuously until all the crystals dissolve. You can also place the jar containing the honey in a pot of hot water then leave it out to dissolve on its own.
- A second way of removing crystals is the use of the microwave, though this is not optimal. Heat it for at least 30 seconds, remove it, and stir it well. Let the honey cool, then place it once more in the microwave and heat it for another 30 seconds if you can still see some crystals. Repeat the process of stirring the mixture until all the crystals dissolve.
- You can also slow the rate of crystallization by keeping the honey in a warm environment. Freezing honey will also help slow the process of crystallization.
- Particles such as pollen grains act as catalysts for the crystallization process. Other impurities also help facilitate granulation. Therefore micro-filtration of honey will help decrease the rate of crystallization. Nonetheless, most beekeepers do not recommend micro-filtration since this is the sure way of identifying the geographic source of honey.
Safe Heating Temperatures for Honey
Honey should not be subjected to temperature levels above room temperature. Anything above the recommended limit destroys the beneficial ingredients found in honey. For instance, when you heat honey to about 98.6 ºF (35 ºC), about 200 of its beneficial nutrients dissipate. At temperatures of 104 ºF (40 ºC ) and above, the beneficial invertase enzyme found in honey is lost and if you continue heating to 122 ºF (50 ºC) and above for at least 48 hours, honey transforms to caramel sugar. Too much heat not only affects the health properties of honey but it also affects its taste.
Raw honey is the best form of honey and is usually 98% pure. It is rich in all potent ingredients and cannot be compared to processed honey. The recommended heat level for honey whenever required is room temperature or 95º F (35 ºC). This level is similar to the level of temperature within the beehive.
Microwave Heating of Honey: Is It Safe?
It is very tempting to use a microwave to remove crystals from honey. But is it really safe or effective? Well, it is effective since it will get the job done. Unfortunately, this is not a good way of eliminating crystals in honey. The microwave usually boils and explodes the water molecules in any product placed inside it. No wonder you are always advised to add some water if you need to cook anything using the microwave.
The use of the microwave as a way of decrystallizing honey has a negative effect on the product. The microwave will destroy all the beneficial enzymes found in honey and ultimately destroy the properties of honey needless to say it alters its flavor as well. The ultimate product will be a liquid sweetener that is far from raw honey. Therefore, the microwave should be your no-go zone if you want to eliminate crystals in honey. Choose other methods of warming honey so that you will enjoy its benefits.
Final Thoughts: To Heat or Not to Heat Honey
Getting back to our question, should one therefore heat honey or not? Well, the answer to that is a sure YES when you understand exactly how to heat it. Remember the honey within a hive never crystallizes since it is kept within the right temperatures thanks to the bees who naturally understand temperature regulation. The same can be emulated by using the Powerblanket Honey Warming Bee Blanket. This product helps keep honey within a temperature level similar to that within a bee hive. This product is easy to use and comes with low-heating thermostats that ensure the honey is never overheated. You will also find it easy to use it since it fits well with most of the containers used for honey storage. The bee blanket is certainly the best solution for heating honey.
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