Sodium Hydroxide

Where to Buy Sodium Hydroxide?

Locally/In-Stores

You can buy food grade Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), also known as “lye” or “caustic soda”, locally in many Homebrew stores (where it’s sold for use in cleaning beer brewing equipment). It’s also used in making soap, so check out local craft/specialty stores – but make sure you are buying food grade product.

Online

Buying Sodium Hydroxide online is probably your best bet if you don’t need it right away – it can be purchased in both large and small quantities.

What is Sodium Hydroxide?

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) more commonly known as caustic soda or lye, is a highly basic, or caustic, compound . It can be purchased in several forms, commonly as white pellets or flakes. It is very soluble in water.

Uses of Sodium Hydroxide in Food

This compound is used in the food industry and household cooking in a few processes related to fruits and vegetables, grains, baked goods, and pasta.

  • One common use of NaOH includes the peeling of fruits and vegetables, it is popularly known as lye peeling, where the solution is at a higher temperature.
  • Hominy is made by cooking dried maize (corn) kernels in a lye solution (or another alkali). This process, called Nixtamalization, softens the kernels (making it easier to grind into flour), kills toxins that may be present, prevents the stored grain from sprouting, improves flavor, and adds nutritional value.
  • Sodium Hydroxide is the chemical agent that causes gelling of egg whites in the processing of century eggs, a Chinese delicacy.
  • Traditional German pretzels are dipped in a lye bath before baking, giving them a chewier outside texture and better flavor. It also functions as a browning agent, giving them their dark golden color after baking.
  • Likewise, it’s used in making Chinese noodles crispier and gives them a yellow color (which commonly makes people mistakenly assume the noodles contain egg).
  • Another very common and a popular use is the curing of olives, where raw green olives are soaked in a lye solution.

Sodium Hydroxide and Health

Since NaOH is highly caustic (basic), it can be hazardous if mishandled. Lye, which is commonly used to clean drains, will burn your skin if you come in contact with it, or nasal passages if inhaled. For this reason, it should well-labeled and kept away from children.

Use only food-grade sodium hydroxide if you’re making something intended for human consumption – and even then, be sure you are taking proper safety precautions and following recipe directions closely.

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