Science of Cooking

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Trivial Diversions

Science of Cooking

Science of Cooking

Most people cook every day, but few of us realize that when we’re cooking we’re actually performing oft-repeated science experiments. Here’s the science of our food and cooking.

1. When food is baked in a conventional oven it typically turns brown on the skin. While we might imagine it’s thanks to ultraviolet rays or even radiation, it’s actually due to either caramelization or the Maillard reaction, each of which is a chemical reaction with sugars.

2. Both the color and the description of food can change how we taste it. When protein bars are described as soy protein they taste worse, but full fat ice cream tastes more flavorful. In wines, the color will change the adjectives someone uses to describe it, even if the wine has been artificially colored.

3. When you add baking powder or soda to a dough it causes the dough to rise. This happens through sodium bicarbonate that creates tiny carbon dioxide bubbles which expand when heated. That creates the airy texture of baked goods.

4. In order to create butter it has to be churned, but what does the churning actually do? In butter, there are lipoprotein membranes that keep the fat globules from coalescing. When you churn the butter it breaks down the membranes and allows the fat to coalesce into a solid.

5. It is actually possible to increase the temperature of boiling water. There are two ways to do this. One would be to cook at a lower place on Earth, such as the Dead Sea (the lowest point on Earth, water boils at 221 degrees F). The other option is to use a pressure cooker because it heats the water by applying pressure. At higher pressures the boiling point of water increases.

6. Slow cooking can make meat extremely juicy and tender, but what about the process gives it that flavor and texture? During cooking, collagen melts and turns into gelatin, which creates the texture and flavor. That process is a function of both temperature and time, which means that cooking for a long period of time can change the flavor.

7. Boiling eggs is one of the easiest ways to cook an egg, but sometimes an egg will crack. Many eggs actually have a small air bubble at their bottom egg that expands with heat and cracks the shell. In order to prevent cracked eggs you just have to poke a small hole in the bottom of the egg.

8. Simmering is a popular cooking technique today, but it didn’t develop until about 10,000 years ago since it requires an airtight container.

9. If a woman eats spicy foods while pregnant or breast-feeding she can pass along the taste for spice to her children.

10. If you’ve ever cooked meat you know that it needs to rest before you cut and serve it. But why? During cooking, the muscle actually shrinks and loses moisture, so if you cut it immediately you’ll lose the juices. If you wait, the meat soaks up the juice again and you get a moist piece of meat.

 

 

 

 

Related topics cooking, science
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