What is Jell-O, exactly?

Welcome to Burning Questions, The Takeout’s video series in which we answer all your culinary quandaries and ponderings.

When you think of Jell-O, you might picture a midcentury American kitchen with a giant Jell-O bundt mold on the pastel countertops, or maybe you’re transported back to a technicolor ’80s childhood full of Jell-O jigglers. But the product we know as Jell-O actually came along a lot earlier, and the process of making gelatin stretches back hundreds of years earlier than that. In the video above, we provide a brief history of Jell-O and all the food science therein. For the full investigation, head here.


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Back in the 1980s one of the options on our restaurant’s banquet menu was a whole salmon covered in tomato aspic. Watching the executive chef make it turned me off to gelatin of any kind.