The science of cooking (II)

The science of cooking (II)

Cooking is way more than we think. Whenever we are cooking we are actually doing the same work as any scientist would do in their labs. The recipes may come from a recipe book, or made up in your head, but there will always be a list of ingredients and a set of instructions to mix and cook them in the appropriate way. Once you finish, you  test it by eating it.

Then the results are analysed. Was the meal good? How could it be improved? Then,  the next time you make that dish, you make changes to the recipe to improve it and test and you can continue this until you make suit your tastes. This is similar to what happens in a lab, you have an idea (hypothesis) you test it, you see what happens and you keep trying to improve and better understand if your idea was right or wrong.

In science, you need to understand what is happening in order to be able to do the experiments and get something from the results and while in the case of cooking you could think that you don’t need the knowledge to make it better, the truth is that it might help you improve.

For example the browning of the meat the brown lines that appear when you heat the meat for some time happens because of the molecules known as aminoacids. These aminoacids are the building block of proteins and you can find them in all cells and of course in meat.

What happens when you brown is that those aminoacids in the meat react with a ”sugar” and this gives rise to another molecule that is the one that gives that colour and the particular flavour. Depending on which of the aminoacids is the one that reacts with the sugar you can get different results and with it  different flavours. This process of browning is known as Maillard reaction and it happens only when you have enough heat.

As you can see, even something that may seem as simple as browning meat can have a lot of factors inside. Because whenever we cook we are working with  all the elements of that food and as such we are always working with proteins, sugars and fats and the realm that explains their modifications is science. So by understanding how you are changing the food when you cook it in different ways, you will be able to understand how chemistry and the different changes work.