Food-grade nitrous oxide: common uses and effects

Food-grade nitrous oxide is used in kitchens worldwide, but N2O has a wide field of application. Discover the most common uses and effects on Smartwhip.

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What’s one thing that a dentist, an astronaut, a chef and a race car driver will all use in their profession? You guessed it from the title – it’s nitrous oxide. Though the gas will be used for entirely different purposes by each professional, it goes without saying that nitrous oxide has a far and wide-reaching field of application.

Inflammable nitrous air was one of the first terms coined for what we now commonly refer to as food-grade nitrous oxide. Synthesised by an English chemist in the late 1700s, its potential use in the medical field was quickly recognised, though it took another 40-plus years before patients were finally relieved from their suffering. In the meantime, the British bourgeoisie – having discovered the euphoric effects of inhaling the so-called ‘laughing gas’ – hosted outrageously lavish and utterly intoxicated ‘laughing gas parties’.

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Today, demand from the automotive, electronics, medical and food and beverages industry is stimulating market growth at a rapidly increasing scale. As such, we’re going to dive deeper into the usage and effects associated with food-grade nitrous oxide to get to the bottom of what makes this gas so in-demand.

Applications of nitrous oxide

As we’ve already established, nitrous oxide gas is used in one form or another across various industries. So let’s dig deeper into some of the most common fields of usage.

Food-grade nitrous oxide

Food-grade nitrous oxide is probably the most conventional form of nitrous oxide available on the market. Commonly delivered as a liquid – in single-use cartridges of 8-16 grams, or as a complete system with 615 grams of food-grade nitrous oxide – the gas acts as a propellant to create whipped cream, culinary foams, delicate sauces, marinades and exotic cocktails. As distributors of nitrous oxide cream chargers for the food and beverages industry ourselves, we have seen a spike in demand for food-grade nitrous oxide as chefs and baristas become more and more daring in their practice.

tequila passionfruit cocktail

Medical-grade nitrous oxide

Employing it for what it was initially intended for, doctors – conventionally dentists – use medical-grade nitrous oxide as a conscious sedative to help manage patients’ pain and anxiety during minor surgical procedures. Unlike food-grade nitrous oxide, medical-grade nitrous oxide is inhaled by patients in combination with oxygen. This tried and tested form of sedation has elevated the dreaded experience of a dentist’s visit for many, and continues to be used as a safe and effective method for managing the anxiety that often comes hand-in-hand with a tooth-ache.

Technical-grade nitrous oxide


It’s strange to think that something used for anxiety management can also launch a spacecraft into space, but at least technically, nitrous oxide really can. Employing nitrous oxide as an oxidiser, work on hybrid rocket engines has significantly advanced since the 1930s and could very well set a rocket into space. Because of nitrous oxide’s stability at room temperature, it is easier to store and comparatively safe to carry on a flight. As such, hybrid engines are said to offer more safety and simplicity over fluid-bipropellant rocket engines, plus they emit fewer toxins.

mauricio gutierrez

Race cars

Finally, we have the internal combustion engine (ICE) – maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but it gives race car drivers a major advantage on the racetrack. In essence, in an ICE, the ignition and combustion of fuel occurs within the engine itself. This means that using auto-grade nitrous oxide will allow the engine to burn more fuel by providing significantly more oxygen during combustion, allowing for a higher injection of fuel, and ultimately giving the engine more power.

Effects of food-grade nitrous oxide

The effect of food-grade nitrous oxide on foods and beverages varies greatly, allowing you to make everything from a herb-infused oil or alcohol to a lightweight classic (such as this light spin on the traditional prawn cocktail) with the same tool.

rosemary oil infusion

But the effects of food-grade nitrous oxide can also impact the body and mind, leading some to misuse the gas for recreational purposes. It’s the woozy, euphoric high, sporadic eruptions of laughter, spatial and temporal disorientation and reduced pain sensitivity that draws users to the gas, commonly sold at festivals and underground parties.

Though we do not condone the abuse of food-grade nitrous oxide – for frequent misuse of nitrous oxide can have serious adverse health effects, including, amongst others: a permanent vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause brain and nerve damage; incontinence; numbness and limb spasms; as well as other long-term effects – its use for recreational purposes has soared in recent years.

We say: be bold, experiment, and let your creativity run wild with Smartwhip. Ready to take the plunge? Shop Smartwhip here and bring the revolutionary Smartwhip cream charger into your kitchen.