GELCOOK – The mechanism behind formation of cookable milk gels

Consumers are presently focusing on alternatives to meat, which can be served as part of a main meal. An already existing alternative is paneer, a South Asian dairy product produced by combined heat treatment and acidification. This combined processing promises in terms of producing milk-based alternatives to meat as it appears to enable creation of a good texture that it stable to most cooking techniques. However, there is a lack of basic understanding of the stability and microstructure of paneer and similar products. The purpose of the GELCOOK project is to understand the mechanisms for how a combination of heat treatment and acidification can ensure dairy products with good stability and the possibility of use as an alternative to meat.

By: Grith Mortensen

Initially, the basic aspects of combined heat treatment and acidification of milk are investigated. This is done to clarify what effect the combination of acidification and heat treatment (at 80 degrees) has on protein denaturation and gelation. Following, the scientist will investigate how processing affects the microstructure of cooking stable milk gels. The sensory properties of the milk gels and their functionality are then assessed in relation to further preparations in the kitchen. In this phase, the product's durability and quality are also tested. Finally, the possibilities for scaling up the processes from laboratory scale to pilot scale are investigated.

The GELCOOK-project is an Indian-Danish collaboration, involving University of Copenhagen and the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) in India as well as Arla Foods. The project will provide knowledge that can be used by the dairy companies to develop new, cookable milk gels functioning as attractive meat alternatives.

Project period: January 2020 - December 2023

Budget: 3.768.000 DKK

Financing: Milk Levy Fund, University of Copenhagen, Arla Foods, National Dairy Research Institute

Project manager: Lilia Ahrné

Institution: Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen 

Participants: Dairy Technology Division, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, India


Publications and presentations

Initial article published in Mælkeritidende:

Mælkeritidende 2021 no. 4


Laursen, A. K., Czaja, T. P., Rovers, T. A. M., Ipsen, R., Barone, G., & Ahrné, L. (2023). The effect of acidification temperature and pH on intermolecular protein bonds and water mobility in heat and acid-induced milk gels. International Dairy Journal, 105611.

Laursen, A. K., Rovers, T. A. M., Ipsen, R., & Ahrné, L. (2022). Texture and microstructure of heat and acid-induced gels from buffalo and cow milk: Effect of thermal treatment and fat content of milk. International Dairy Journal, 129, 105299.


The results originating from the project will be published on this page when they become publicly available.

Grith Mælk 1

Grith Mortensen

Chefkonsulent, Branchesekretariat mejeri, Landbrug & Fødevarer/Skejby

Mobil: 40964114