Use Chemistry in Cooking: 5 Ideas

This article talks about five ideas on how to use chemistry in cooking. Cooking itself is a series of chemical reactions and processes. The aroma of foods is nothing but the smell of volatile hydrocarbons. Here are a few instances where chemistry is used in cooking. Some of these instances are handed down from mothers and grandmothers and others are well publicized facts.

  1. While stir-frying greens, add a dash of sugar: Sugar preserves the bright green of the greens. It also helps retain the shape of vegetables as they are being cooked. Heat shrinks the plant cells, they start to leak and deform. Sugar acts as a glue that holds their cell walls intact, in turn keeping them crisp and in shape. Once again chemistry comes to rescue in cooking.
  2. Caramelizing fun: Creme brulee is far from a product of chemistry in cooking. It is, however, a highly chemical process where simple sugars in equal parts of water break down as heat is applied and form several interesting delicacies depending on time and temperature. Caramel candy is one good example.
  3. Boiled peas and soda: If you want your peas to look green and less wrinkled after they've been boiled, use the two chemistry techniques in your cooking: one, add a pinch of baking soda and two, use a couple of copper pennies while boiling. Adding a pinch of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which is a base, neutralizes some of the acids that are released in cooking, allowing the chlorophyll to retain its magnesium atoms, and resulting in greener peas! Adding the copper coins results in dissolution of copper atoms into the water which replace the magnesium atoms in the chlorophyll.
  4. Liquid nitrogen, solid ice cream: This experiment of chemistry in cooking involves pouring a bunch of liquid nitrogen into the liquid ice cream mix (sugar, heavy and light cream, flavors, etc.) which quickly absorbs the heat from the cream and evaporates, leaving a fluffy, but soft, ice cream.
  5. From milk to yogurt: The yummy yogurt actually comes from a not so pleasant fermentation process involving a culture bacteria called Lactobacillus. Milk is taken through a heating cycle to kill undesirable bacteria and then cooled so the added culture can survive and carry out the curdling process, which can take several hours depending on the temperature and the quality of culture. So the breakdown and conversion of milk protein is very much a chemical process in your cooking.
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