Chemistry of Cooking

One thing I love about Alton Brown - whom I have not watched much of lately because, sadly, I was a little put off by his sudden weight loss (it falls under my “never trust a skinny chef” mantra) – is the fact that he digs into the whys and hows of cooking. I appreciate knowing the science behind why yeast makes my bread rise and how vinegar “cooks” seafood and more. Much to my delight, I was recently made aware MIT – yes, that MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) – has hundreds of FREE online courses ranging from Multivariable Calculus to German and…Kitchen Chemistry.

Kitchen Chemistry, complete with fourteen assignments, is described as the following:

“This seminar is designed to be an experimental and hands-on approach to applied chemistry (as seen in cooking). Cooking may be the oldest and most widespread application of chemistry and recipes may be the oldest practical result of chemical research. We shall do some cooking experiments to illustrate some chemical principles, including extraction, denaturation, and phase changes.”

Sounds boring? Difficult? Nerdy?! Maybe to some, but how can they go wrong with lectures like “Cookie - death by chocolate,” “Scones and coffee,” and “Pasta, meatballs, and crème brulee.”

Each lecture has associated recipe(s), lessons and assignments though the questions are not your run-of-the-mill school stuff. Take the first lecture, for example. In “Guacamole, salsa, make your own hot sauce, and quesadillas” serious cooking issues are addressed including the following:

Why do onions make us cry?  What makes peppers taste hot?  How do you make tortillas?  Why does guacamole turn brown?

Fascinating!  Maybe I AM a nerd, but I’m certainly looking forward to learning more of the hows and whys and chemistry of the kitchen and writing about it here…and, I feel inspired to set up a few Alton Browns to record again.

Kitchen Chemistry:
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