Science in practical cookery

It is often said that science and practical skills are two separate entities within food as a taught subject. The curriculum tends to fall easily into the theory of how science works in food, and then the practical (considered less academic) capability of producing food and designs.

In reality the two work very closely together. Some of the most modern, inventive and unique dish and menu designs in the world today rely on science in food to manipulate and create new structures. Food design is ever changing and evolving. Some of the most successful restaurants in the world use food science as a basis for their menu development. We only have to look at The Fat Duck and El Bulli for inspiration and with modern molecular gastronomy techniques including textures and sous vide. Food design has become cutting edge and exciting. Food Technology, design and science are therefore not just present in the very successful British food manufacturing industry – but in all industries that encompass and enhance food as a subject; including agriculture, biotechnology, GM, nanotechnology, restaurants, hotels, hospitality, management, education, journalism, photography, art, geography etc…

Within our food classrooms both food teachers and students are encompassing ways to enhance this. Science is as equally taught in Hospitality and Catering as it is in Food Technology. Looking at how modern developments in food science can help to create unique and different dishes that manipulate ingredients.

Within the classroom we have been practising experiments and techniques that help us to understand how science works in food so that we can manipulate it to create our own designs.

So far under the A level Food Technology specification we have explored:

1. Smart materials – how modified starch, pre gelatinised starch, waxy maize starch work in foods to create new concepts – looking at retrogradation and synerisis

2. Texturas and molecular gastronomy – how to create spherification to manipulate gels and foams from acidic mixtures using an emulsifier

3. How pH levels effect different proteins – how an acid pH can cook and break down protein (denaturation) in sushi and gravalax and how salt – alkaline pH – can act as a cure and preserve food

4. Gels and setting looking at viscosity – differences in leaf and powdered gelatine and vege gel

5. Gelatinisation and the different methods used to thicken viscosity – how a roux, cornflour, modified starch and gellan can be used to thicken white sauces

6. How pH levels effect gelatinisation and setting – an acid pH can have the opposite effect on setting a mixture using gelatine as its a protein and it breaks down the fibres / denatures them – we made a Schloer strawberry jelly – set using leaf gelatine as its clear, a pannacotta set using powdered gelatine as its cloudy and the mixture is white in colour, a blueberry jam using pectin and discussed how to manipulate fructose in the fruit using acid and a chocolate mousse set using eggs

7. The effects of mechanical action on eggs – coagulation of proteins to set mixtures – eggs baked in a quiche or egg custard, eggs used as an emulsifier in salad dressings, eggs used to create a foam to make structures flexible, eggs used as a suspension to thicken viscosity in sauces for era smoke custards.

We have only just started as a class explored these practical experiments within food science and have many more to do. As a unique and different teaching method for demonstrating how to understand the science in food students are achieving learning success as well as creative coursework designs.

Lets celebrate how science helps us to create practically and equally how practical exploration helps us to understand science more than just theoretical concepts.

For more information and resources on this please see examples on my TES Resources account – srhmdd2

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