Food Science

Developing a Cooking Chemistry Elective

To squash any misconceptions, I would like to say first and foremost I am not a great cook. My husband graciously does most of the cooking in our house. However, as a chemist, I am fascinated by the complex reactions involved in everyday life. Pair this curiosity with the requirement to teach an elective, and the Chemistry of Cooking elective was born.

Calories - Who's Counting?

In this Activity, students determine how many calories are released per gram when marshmallows and cashews burn and then compare the quantity of energy available from carbohydrates versus fats. Students burn the food items beneath a metal soft drink can containing water and measure the resulting change in temperature of the water.

A Magnetic Meal

In this Activity, students make slurries of breakfast cereal and water and use a magnetic wand to collect elemental iron filings that are present in some cereals. They determine the mass of iron collected and then calculate the "recommended daily allowance" (RDA) in each cereal. An extension uses qualitative tests to confirm that the material collected is actually iron.

Popcorn: What's in the Bag?

In this Activity, students investigate microwave popcorn, the process of microwave-promoted popping, and the materials involved: water, vegetable oils, starch, and special packaging materials. This Activity supports discussion of thermal and electromagnetic energy, phase changes, intermolecular forces, patterns of solubility, and the structure of fats, oils and starches.

Testing for Iodide in Table Salt

In this Activity, students use supermarket chemicals to test samples of table salt for the presence of iodine, an essential micronutrient added as iodide ion. The presence of iodide in the salt is made apparent by the appearance of a blue color.

I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for Phenolics

In this Activity, students use a colorimetric visualization test to screen grape juice for phenolic content. Students use the test to examine differences in phenolic content of juices prepared with different processing methods. Most of the materials are readily available at the supermarket.

Apple Fool! An Introduction to Artificial Flavors

In this Activity, students investigate flavorings by making artificial "cooked apples" from a mixture of crackers, sugar, cream of tartar, and water, as is done for the filling in recipes for Mock Apple Pie. This Activity focuses on consumer chemistry, and can be used to introduce natural and artificial flavors or lab experiments that make esters.

Soup or Salad? Investigating the Action of Enzymes in Fruit on Gelatin

In this Activity, students observe gelatin samples treated with substances that may or may not have an enzymatic effect on the protein in the gelatin. Substances used are fresh pineapple, canned pineapple, fresh pineapple that has been frozen and microwaved, and meat tenderizer.