Cooking Chemistry: Additional Resources

It is the holiday season, and here in Colorado, it is finally starting to feel like winter with a storm predicted for this afternoon! With holiday baking coming up, what better way to prepare than writing about more food chemistry? In my last post, I described how I developed my cooking chemistry elective. I also provided a ton of resources that I used. Today, I would like to highlight a few additional resources. Even if you don’t have space for an elective, I found many of these resources fit into what I was already teaching (e.g., gas laws and leaveners in food). I hope that you find similar inspiration!

MIT’s Kitchen Chemistry Course:

Dr. Patricia Christie of MIT developed this seminar for the spring of 2009 (with a 2006 version available as well). I love how she has organized the course: each week is centered around a food product. She provides readings from McGee’s “On Food and Cooking” in addition to literature articles that are related to ingredients or chemical processes related to the food. Other topics include “Cookie- Death by chocolate”, “Pancakes”, “Bread”, “Cheese”, and “Ice Cream.”

When I taught my own elective, I modified her week 1 work on guacamole, salsa, and quesadillas. My students used some of the readings from McGee’s in a jigsaw puzzle activity to describe why onions make you cry, etc. I quickly learned that the reading level of the McGee text was not awesome for my students (oops), but the heart of Dr. Christie’s work can be easily tailored with resources that I have learned about since then that I will highlight below. If you are reading this Dr. Christie, thank you for your willingness to share your creative work!

NBC Chemistry Now:

These videos can be accessed in many different ways, but I shared the link that provides the themes. These videos are very well done and some get deep. Themes include “Chemistry of Chocolate”, “Chemistry of Soaps and Detergents”, and “Cheeseburger Chemistry”, which is split up into subthemes such as the “bun”, “tomato”, “condiments”, etc. These videos are 4-7 minutes long. As you can see, many of these topics overlap with the topics in the MIT course listed above. Also, the level of depth is likely more accessible for your students.

Compound Chem:

I wish that I had known of this site before I taught my cooking chemistry course. The ACS has tapped into Andy Brunning’s stunning work on a variety of platforms, so I would be surprised if you did not already know about it. However, it is worth a mention. Here’s a link to the infographic index.

ACS Reactions Youtube Channel:

Once again, you maybe know about this, but it’s worth a mention. With topics like “Why are avocados so awesome?” and “Why do hot peppers cause pain?”, these resources were also very accessible to my students. I wish I had these videos for the guacamole lesson I did in cooking chemistry!

As I investigated these videos, I started incorporating them into my general chemistry classes on a consistent basis. After teaching cooking chemistry, I instituted a “We Wonder Wednesday” warm up in my general chemistry courses. It is exactly what it sounds like. The warm up for the day was a video (sometimes I chose, sometimes students would email me a video). The video had to be chemistry related. Sometimes it was related to what we were learning in class, sometimes not. If you are a time stickler like me and think “5 min week * 25 weeks= 125 minutes aka way too much time”, I would like to impress upon you that my students would remember some of these videos the next school year. Students looked forward to this and would extend the conversation with their parents!

Whether you knew of any or all of these resources before of not, I hope my review brings fresh inspiration as to how you may use them in your own courses.

Thanks for reading, and have a safe and restful holiday season!