Geeky treats #5: The Science of Cooking

by Stephanie Chasteen on December 10, 2010

Did you know that when you whip egg whites, you’re not just beating in air but you’re actually unfolding, or denaturing, the proteins in the eggs? The same thing happens when you heat up eggs, but as you heat them the unfolded proteins make bonds with other proteins, which is what makes them firm up. Cook them too long and they get rubbery because too many bonds have formed. But when you whip the eggs, you’re putting in air bubbles, that makes the hydrophobic parts of the protein stick into the air bubble and the hydrophilic parts stick into the water. The egg whites get stiff because these uncurled proteins bond with each other, making a scaffold that holds the air bubbles in place. There are a bunch of wonderful books on food science (as well as the Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking page).

Also take a look at 100 Cool Food Science Experiments for Kids and Cooks. Includes the classic (and beautiful) milk + food coloring + soap experiment (I can play with this for hours), naked eggs (dissolve the shell of an uncooked egg to get a peek inside), and a vegetable oil lava lamp. A very nice set of activities indeed!

Sadly, we just missed it, but the American Chemical Society just hosted a Kitchen Chemistry webinar. You can view the recording, though!  If you teach chemistry, check out their webinar series. They host webinars on a variety of chemistry topics.

And check out this very nice clip on YouTube about how bacteria help create cheese, sourdough bread, and milk.

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