Culinary Chemistry
Culinary Chemistry

Culinary Chemistry

Lead Author(s): Meghan Knapp

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

Engage your non-science major chemistry students with applications they can sink their teeth into. This chemistry book is framed around food, cooking, and eating.

Culinary Chemistry: Learning chemistry in the context of food



Chapter 1 Chemicals and food

1.1 How do we know what we know? 

     1.1.1 Science is rational

  •                 Building Evidence
  •                 Theories and Laws
  •                 Models

     1.1.2 Science as inquiry

  •                 Independent Variables
  •                 Dependent Variables
  •          Sample Size            

     1.1.3 Limitations of Science

  • Falsifiability
  • Ethics of Science
  •  Responsibility of Science

1.2 Chemicals 

  • Substances and Mixtures

1.3 Atomic Theory 

       1.3.1 Development of Atomic Theory

  •  Law of Conservation of Mass
  •  Law of Definite Proportions 
  •  Dalton’s Atomic Model
  •  Structure of the Atom and the Periodic Table

1.4 Mixtures 

     1.4.1 Heterogeneous and Homogeneous

     1.4.2 Separating Mixtures

  • Filtering/straining
  • Decanting
  • Chromatography (Box 1.1)

1.5 Chemical and Physical Changes 

1.6 Tools of Science

     1.6.1 Measurement

     1.6.2 Temperature

BOX: Chromatography

Interchapter: A little biology

  • Plant Cells and Animal Cells and Tissues
  • Cells as building blocks
  • Neurons
  • Fast twitch and slow twitch

2 Atomic Structure and the Basic Food Molecules

2.1 Wandering electrons 

2.2 Attraction and bonding

       2.2.1 Electronegativity

       2.2.2 Ions

       2.2.3 Polarity

       2.2.4 Water

       2.2.5 Emulsifiers

2.3 Major Food Molecules

2.4 Carbohydrates

2.4.1 sugars

  • Alcohols
  • Glycemic Load

2.4.2 Oligosaccharides and Polysaccharides

  • Amylose, Glycogen, Cellulose

2.5 Lipids

2.5.1 Oils and Fats

  • Carboxylic acids

2.5.2 Types of Fatty Acids

 2.6. Proteins

 2.6.1 Amino acids

 2.6.2 Poly-peptides and enzymes

 2.6.3 Primary, secondary, and tertiary structure

  • Denaturation and Coagulation

2.7 Eggs and Emulsions 

2.7.1 The Shell

2.7.2 Albumin 

2.7.3 The Yolk

  • Phospholipids

Box: Hydrogen Bonding 

Box: DNA and Proteins 

Box: Cholesterol and Eggs 

Recipes for Learning:

  • Mayonnaise 
  • Meringue 

Interchapter 2 Organic Functional Groups

  • Representations of organic molecules
  • Alcohols
  • Carbonyl
  • Aldehydes and ketones
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Ethers
  • Esters


3 Accounting for Taste

3.1 Big Numbers and Small Molecules 

 3.1.1 Why use a mole?

 3.1.2 Molar mass

3.2 Sugar and Salt

 3.2.1 Solutions

 3.2.2 Concentration

 3.2.3 Saturation

 3.2.4 Crystal Growth

3.3 Sugar and Salt in the Diet 

  • Box 3.3 Diabetes

3.4 Colligative Properties and Preservatives 

 3.4.1 Boiling Point Elevation

  • Freezing point depression

 3.4.2 Sugar and Salt as Preservatives

3.5 Balancing Equations 

 3.5.1 Checking for balance

 3.5.2 Rules and Method for balancing equations

  • Rules
  • Method

3.6 Multiplying Recipes (Stoichiometry)

Recipes for learning: 

  • Rock candy 
  • Sliced Strawberries

Interchapter: Flavor

  • Taste vs. Flavor
  • A little biochemistry: sensors and receptors
  • Types of taste
    • Sour and Salty
    • Sweet
    • Umami and Bitter 
  • How do we perceive flavor?
    •  Taste vs. Scent
    •  Flavor enhancers and flavorants
    •  Esters
    •  Astringency and pungency


4 If you Can’t Stand the Heat

4.1 What is heat

 4.1.1 Definitions of Energy

 4.1.2 Units of Heat

4.2 Energy Diagrams

 4.2.1 Energy changes in chemical reactions

4.3 Quantifying heat

 4.3.1 Heat capacity and cooking utensils

 4.3.2 First Law of Thermodynamics

 4.3.3 Coffee cup calorimetry

  • Food Calories

4.4 Phase changes

 4.4.1 Flash points and Smoke points

 4.4.2 Vaporization and Fusion

  • Solutions, Boiling, and Interparticle forces

4.5 Effect of Temperature on Flavor

4.6 Colligative properties revisited

 —Freezing Point Depression

4.7 Cooking with Heat—Heat Transfer

 4.7.1 Conduction—From pan to food

 4.7.2 Convection—Mixing it up

 4.7.3 Radiation

Recipe for learning: 

  • Frozen Dessert Shell

5 Common chemical reactions in food

5.1 Browning Reactions

5.1.1 Caramelization

5.1.2 Maillard Reactions

5.1.3 Enzymatic Browning

5.2 Oxidation

5.2.1 Oxidation Numbers

5.2.2 Oxidation of metals

5.2.3 Organic Oxidation

  • Oxidation of fats

5.2.4 Antioxidants

  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Resveratrol

5.2.5 Flavonoids

5.3 Reactions involving Sulfur

5.3.1 Hard Boiled Egg Yolks

5.3.2 Onions

5.4 Chemical Preservatives

  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene

5.5 Reactions to Wake You Up

5.5.1 Caffeine

5.5.2 Chocolate

5.6 Reactions to Slow You Down

5.6.1 Melatonin 

5.6.2 Turkey and Warm Milk?

5.6.3 Alcohol

BOX 5.1 Food Safety

Recipes for Learning

  • Caramelized Onions

Interchapter 4 Food Allergies and Intolerances

Common Food Allergies
Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

6 Kinetics- When Can We Cook?

6.1 Rushing to Cook

6.2 Temperature

6.3 Concentration

6.4 Surface Area

6.5 Catalysts and Enzymes

6.6 Reaction orders and half lives

7 Sweet and Sour and Bitter

7.1 Characteristics of Acids and Bases

7.1.1 Definitions of Acids

  • Arrhenius
  • Bronsted-Lowry
  • Lewis Acids

7.1.2 pH scale: Quantifying acids and bases

7.1.3 Acid Anhydrides-- Just Add Water

7.2 Fruits and Acids

7.3 Acid/Base indicators

7.3.1 Conjugated double bonds

7.3.2 Anthocyanins

7.4 Using properties of acids and bases

7.4.1 Cleaning power

7.4.2 Proteins and acids (Eggs, Milk)

Recipes for Learning 

  • Blueberry syrup

8 The little extras—Micronutrients and Spices

8.1 Historical look at nutrition of micronutrients

  • Sugar
  • Grains

8.2 Vitamins

8.2.1 Fat Soluble vitamins

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

8.2.2 Water soluble vitamins

  • The B-complex Vitamins
  • Vitamin C

8.3 Minerals and Nucleotides

  • Macrominerals
  • Trace Elements
  • Nucleotides
  • Power packed Foods

8.4 Spices and Flavorings

8.4.1 Isomers

8.4.2 Spicy Hot

  • Piperine
  • Capsaicin
  • Gingerol and Zingerone
  • The Scoville Scale

Interchapter 5 Examining Your Own Diet

  • Nutrition
  • Economy
  • Environmental Impact
  • Religious and Ethical Choices

Interchapter 6 Eat a rainbow—food, colors, and plant dyes

Return to light

Natural Plant dyes

Appendix 1 A deeper understanding of experiments

  • Complex Studies
  • Sample Size
  • Other Factors
  •  “Proof”

Appendix 2: Measurement and Conversion

  • Mass
  • Volume
  • Temperature
  • Significant figures
  • Certainty

Recipes for Learning

Throughout this book you will find simple recipes that use the concepts discussed in the text. These should be accessible to anyone with access to a standard kitchen and kitchen utensils.