Common Terminology: the Science of Food

science of food

Cooking can be fun if you think of all the science experiments that go on in your kitchen.

As a kid, you may have combined baking soda and vinegar and watched bubbles pour over; this is similar to what happens when baking soda is added to muffin, pancake or biscuit batter.

Understanding a little food science can help improve the results of your recipes…and can be fun!

Some basic terms to keep in your kitchen toolbox:

  • Caramelization is a technique to brown foods and add flavor. Caramelization occurs when sugar is heated until its molecules react to form other colors and flavors. This can occur with the natural sugar in fruits and vegetables or with added sugar. This is why bitter vegetables like turnips (which contain starches – or sugars) turn sweet when roasted.

  • Gelatinization is when protein or carbohydrates turn a liquid into a gelatin or jelly.

  • Denaturation is the process of changing part of the protein’s natural structure by a chemical or physical reaction. Using heat to cook eggs is a great example of denaturation.

  • Emulsification results when two liquids that don’t normally dissolve together – like oil and water – are combined. Oil and water (or vinegar) can be emulsified by mixing but eventually, they will still separate unless you add a binding agent.

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