Ammonium Bicarbonate (E503) - Formula, Uses, Side Effects, Substitute

Ammonium bicarbonate (E-Number: E503) is a colorless solid that releases ammonia and carbon dioxide gas when the dough temperature reaches 40°C.

Chemical Formula

NH4HCO3

Uses

This chemical is usually added as an ingredient when preparing many different types of baked goods which will have thin crusts or shells, like – flatbreads, puff pastries, some cookies, and crackers. It will not affect the taste of flat baked goods.

In the industry, this substance is typically used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, dyes, pigments, ceramics, catalysts, plastics, fire-retardants, and other products.

Moreover, it is used as a component in the production of fire-extinguishing compounds as well as a basic fertilizer since it is a source of ammonia.

Is It Vegan?

Because it is produced from calcium carbonate and ammonium sulfate, it can be used by vegans and vegetarians.

Side Effects of Ammonium Bicarbonate

It is an irritant to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Short-term adverse effects may occur shortly after exposure to this compound.

Breathing E503 can irritate the throat, nose, and lungs causing wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath.

Long-term exposure to this chemical may cause bronchitis. Symptoms of bronchitis may include:

  • chest discomfort;
  • slight fever and chills;
  • shortness of breath;
  • fatigue;
  • production of mucus (sputum);
  • a cough.

It has also been reported that using this chemical considerably increased acrylamide content in biscuits and gingerbread. Acrylamide is a cumulative neurotoxin.

Based on animal studies, repeated high exposure exceeding the safety limits may substantially decrease fertility. Additionally, prolonged industrial exposure to this toxin may lead to muscle weakness, nerve damage, and impaired muscle coordination.

Allergy

Side effects of acrylamide may also include an allergic reaction with symptoms, like – redness and peeling of the skin.

Cancer

According to some animal studies, high levels of acrylamide are strongly associated with cancer. Currently, there are no conclusive studies regarding acrylamide and cancer in humans.

Ammonium Bicarbonate vs Sodium Bicarbonate – Differences

Sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda in the United States and bicarbonate of soda in Europe and Australia, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3.

Sodium bicarbonate softens water, neutralizes acids, absorbs odors, and provides a mild abrasive for cleaning. Also, it has numerous uses in cooking.

Moreover, baking soda baths can help soothe and heal skin conditions, like – eczema and yeast infections, and it’s effective against acne.

However, too much baking soda can:

Substitute

#1 Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate is an alkaline mineral that’s available in supplement form. It is commonly recommended for people with heart or circulatory problems or people with sodium intake problems.

Also, potassium bicarbonate has a number of nonmedical uses, including:

  • it is used as a fungicide to destroy mildew and fungus;
  • it is used as a flame retardant to combat fire;
  • it improves the taste of bottled water;
  • it aids crop growth;
  • it neutralizes acid in soil;
  • it reduces the acid content in wine;
  • it softens carbonation in soda water;
  • it works as a leavening agent to help the dough rise.

Note – although it isn’t typically available in grocery stores, you can find this food additive in the supplement section of most drugstores since it is occasionally used as a dietary supplement for people with acid reflux and hypertension problems.

#2 Cream of TartarP

Cream of tartar, also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, is produced by taking the froth that forms on the surface of a barrel of grape wine and powdering it. It is typically added to baked products to help activate the alkaline baking soda.

Actually, potassium hydrogen tartrate mixed with baking soda is what gives us baking powder.

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is used as a stabilizing agent and is added:

  • to reduce discoloration of boiled vegetables;
  • to prevent the crystallization of sugar syrups;
  • to help maintain texture and volume of some foods;
  • to stabilize whipped cream;
  • to frostings or candies to give them a creamier texture;
  • to beaten egg whites to increase their volume and stability.

Moreover, potassium hydrogen tartrate makes an effective non-toxic household cleaner all by itself or combined with vinegar or lemon juice. Try these suggestions:

  • all-purpose scrub – add distilled white vinegar in a 4:1 solution. This also cleans stainless steel sinks.
  • porcelain tub, sink, toilet scrub – add distilled white vinegar in a 1:1 solution.
  • copper polish – add lemon juice in a 1:1 mixture.

#3 Yeast

These microscopic organisms excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide and consume sugar. For instance, yeast has been in use for making bread and fermenting alcohol for more than 5,000 years.

It is 100 percent natural and contains 0 percent cholesterol, 27 percent dietary fiber, 50 percent protein as well as some calcium and vitamin C.

When you combine flour, yeast, and water, sugars are released and consumed by the yeast, that in turn releases carbon dioxide. It is this carbon dioxide that is responsible for making bread rise.

#4 Club Soda

Club Soda
Image credit – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:President%27s_Choice_Club_Soda.jpg

It is a carbonated beverage which contains sodium bicarbonate. It also contains additives, like table salt to add a slightly salty flavor. You can use this carbonated beverage in your recipes as a leavening agent.

#5 Self-rising Flour

Self-rising Flour
Image credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/14764053199

It is all-purpose flour with salt and baking powder added. You can use self-rising flour in yeast bread, however, don’t use any salt in the recipe.

Note – self-raising flour will not keep for very long since the baking powder absorbs moisture from the air, that reacts with ingredients in the self-rising flour, negatively affecting its capacity to rise.

References

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/j100001a054?journalCode=jpchax
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC185056/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724896
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0040603180872236