Journal of Food Engineering, Vol.241, 51-57, 2019
Cold plasma pretreatment enhances drying kinetics and quality attributes of chili pepper (Capsicum annuum L.)
Chili pepper is difficult to dry as the outermost surface is covered with an epicuticular wax layer, which hinders moisture transfer. Chemical dipping pretreatments and thermal blanching methods are often employed to enhance its drying process. However, chemical pretreatments hold the issues of chemical additives residue and thermal blanching methods tend to result in a high loss of bioactive compounds. Cold plasma is an ionized gas that contains different electrons, ions, and reactive neutral species. In current work, the feasibility of cold plasma as a non-thermal pretreatment technology for chili pepper drying is explored. The effects of different cold plasma pretreatment time (15, 30, 45, 60 s) on hot air drying kinetics and quality attributes of chili pepper, such as colour, red pigment retention, antioxidant activity, and microstructure were investigated. Results indicate that cold plasma can enhance the drying rate and the exposure time of 30 s achieves the optimum result. Microstructure observations show the existence of micro-holes, which explain how plasma treatment can enhance the drying kinetics. Quality attributes showed that the colour parameters had no significant changes under various treatment times. The retention of red pigment content was improved by plasma treatment of 30 s, whereas longer exposure times had a negative effect. The antioxidant activity of samples increased with the increase of cold plasma exposure time. Results indicate that cold plasma is a promising pretreatment technology for chili peppers as it enhances drying kinetics and quality attributes of chili pepper.