Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in chemistry, physics, and engineering. Learn about food molecules and how chemical reactions can affect food texture and flavor.
About this course on Science of Cooking
During each module of this course, chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain the science behind the recipe.
Topics will include:
- How molecules influence the flavor
- The role of heat in the cooking
- Diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.
You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a cook and a scientist. The lab is certainly one of the most unique components of this course after all, in what other science course can you eat your experiments?
What you will learn from the Science of Cooking course?
- The scientific concepts that underlie everyday cooking and haute cuisine techniques.
- How to apply principles of physics, engineering, and chemistry to cooking.
- How to become an experimental scientist in your own kitchen.
- To think like a chef AND a scientist.
- Basic mathematics concepts (arithmetic, algebra, geometry)
Syllabus on Science of Cooking:
1. Course Introduction
2. Module 1 – Molecules, Moles, Flavor, and pH
- A discussion by Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York on flavor, pH, and the secret to his famous duck sauce.
- A visit to Joann Chang’s bakery, Flour, to learn how she makes the perfect yellow birthday cake.
- Science discussions on the major macromolecules of food, as well as flavor, moles, pH, and chemical reactions.
3. Module 2 – Energy, Temperature, and Heat
- A discussion with Dave Arnold about how to cook a perfect egg.
- Science discussions on one of the most common ways to cook, adding energy in the form of heat.
- This increases the temperature of food and changes its internal structure.
4. Module 3 – Phase Transitions
- Dave Arnold will talk about what happens when you shake cocktails over ice to make them so cold.
- Joan and Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, which has been voted the best restaurant in the world, will demonstrate how they manipulate phase transitions when cooking by using techniques such as sous vide and rotovapping.
- Science discussions on what causes phase transitions in foods from a macroscopic and microscopic perspective.
5. Module 4 – Diffusion and Spherification
- A discussion with José Andrés, founder of ThinkFood Group, and chef and owner of several restaurants including minibar, Jaleo, and The Bazaar, about gelling agents and the remarkable ways that he uses them in his cooking.
- A visit by Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Fransisco, who will make carrot jerky.
- A visit to America’s Test Kitchen, to learn the secret to making coleslaw that doesn’t get soggy.
- Science discussions on gelation, and how the unique properties of proteins and modernist thickeners make it possible.
- We will also discuss the idea of the random walk, which is the underlying principle for diffusion, and how it affects spherification, dehydration, and osmosis.
6. Module 5 – Heat Transfer
- Demonstrations by Carme Ruscalleda, chef and owner of restaurant Sant Pau, located both in Spain and Tokyo, about how to cook steak, paella, and crema Catalana, all of which illustrate the special attention chefs pay to the diffusion of heat when cooking food.
- A discussion with Nathan Myhrvold about other ways to cook meats, including sous vide and deep-frying.
- America’s Test Kitchen will show us their secret to cooking perfect french fries.
- Science discussions on the effect of heat and heat transfer on food, including browning reactions and why it’s so hard to cook a perfect steak. We will try to understand heat transfer from both a microscopic and a macroscopic perspective.
7. Module 6 – Candy and Chocolate!
- Scientific discussions on the solubility of sugar, and how it is affected by temperature
- A demonstration by Joanne Chang about the stages of sugar, and how she uses caramel to make the dessert Croquembouche
- A demonstration by Bill Yosses of how he makes lemon sorbet with hibiscus sauce
- Demonstration by Enric Rovira of how he tempers chocolate, and a scientific discussion of chocolate tempering, and why working with chocolate can be a challenge.
8. Review Materials
9. Advanced Materials
In this section of the website, we will post videos, problems, and other activities that require more background knowledge or go beyond the ideas that we cover in the main lessons for the class in each module. These activities are entirely optional, and may require you to use what you’ve learned in previous science courses or to do some internet research to understand them.
For highly motivated students, we think that these are a fun and interesting way to stretch your brain and think about more advanced concepts, but if you’re having trouble with these more advanced activities, don’t worry – there’s still lots to learn in the course’s “official” lessons!
Note: Your review matters
If you have already done this course, kindly drop your review in our reviews section. It would help others to get useful information and better insight into the course offered.
- Harvard University
- Online Course
- 3+ Months
- Free Course (Affordable Certificate)
- Cooking Food Science