Unless you have no taste buds or standards whatsoever, it is a known fact that airplane food sucks. Not only is it bad quality food, but studies have shown that our ability to detect salty and sweet flavors are diminished by as much as 30% once you’re in the air.
But never fear! There are ways to make your crappy situation better. Here are seven ways to make your food more bearable aside from getting drunk when you’re flying the air.
1. Pick foods with ingredients high in “umami.”
Studies show that it’s easier to taste bitter, sour, and umami (or savory) compared to salty and sweet when you’re up in the air. Below are some popular foods that are high in umami so be sure to watch out for these items when you’re picking your order next time.
Tomatoes (ever wondered why people love drinking tomato juice when flying?)
2. Go for the saucy stuff.
Plane food is usually prepared first, then frozen to be reheated once in the air. Because of the change in cabin pressure, food typically dries out once you hit a certain altitude because of the lack of humidity. When given options, choose the dish with more sauce in it. Dan Pashman of The Sporkful podcast says, “go for saucy pasta dishes over big cuts of meat — they tend to hold up better to the chilling and reheating process.” This also includes stews and curries.
3. Put on earplugs or listen to music.
According to research from the University of Manchester, the sound of the plane’s jet engines actually make it harder to taste sweet and salty flavors. So next time you eat in the air, try putting on earplugs or listen to music to dull the background noise.
4. Add pretzels or peanuts.
In the same study at the University of Manchester, they also found that noise from the jet engine also dulls the feeling of crunchiness. You can fix this by crumbling some pretzels or peanuts on your meal for added texture.
5. Go for meals with a lot of spice.
In a 2010 study done by German airline Lufthansa, they found that your ability to detect spicy flavors were relatively unaffected in the air. So if you like spicy food, don’t be shy the next time you fly!
6. Opt for BBQ items.
BBQ is generally a good choice of food when flying. This is because the meats can be prepared in advanced, stored, and reheated with minor degradation. BBQ also has spice and sour flavors in it, which helps with taste in high altitude.
7. Fly on the right airline.
In recent years, a number of airlines have made a push for giving better food to their passengers. Qatar hired world renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa to prepare their inflight menu and Delta hired restaurateur Danny Meyer to develop better meals. Check out this list by Thrillist on Airlines That Actually Serve Good Food.