Introduction The use of salt in cooking (1) The use of salt in cooking (2) By how much does salt increase the boiling point of water? Is all salt the same? "Low sodium” salt substitutes What affects the colour and texture of cooked vegetables? Should beans be cooked with the lid on or off? The chemistry of baking powder The structure of ice and water Why do pans stick? Enzymes and jellies The chemistry of flavour Chemical changes during cooking The science of ice cream ‘Asparagus pee’ How hot are chilli peppers?

Chemistry is all around us and affects every aspect of our daily lives, but all too often we overlook the beneficial impact of chemical sciences. This resource sets out some chemistry relevant to the school and college curriculum that is used daily in kitchens both in homes and restaurants, and which makes the food we eat more pleasurable.

The Royal Society of Chemistry is pleased that some chefs are bringing a scientific approach to their kitchen skills and hopes that this work will lead to an increased awareness of the role of science in general, and chemistry in particular, in preparing the food we eat.

Dr Simon Campbell FRSC FRS

President, Royal Society of Chemistry

One of the most exciting things that has happened at my restaurant, The Fat Duck, recently is the Royal Society of Chemistry producing this resource for schools – Kitchen chemistry. It is based on taking a scientific approach to cooking – an activity that has traditionally been regarded as an art, rather than a science. Topics range from the simple (what is the role of salt in cooking vegetables?) to the complex (separating volatile flavour components in foods by gas chromatography mass spectrometry), to the 'just for fun' (breaking the world record for ice cream making by using liquid nitrogen as a coolant). What the RSC has done is to provide flexible material that teachers can 'dip into' that relates the chemistry that goes on in the home or restaurant kitchen to that which students learn about in the school curriculum.

Kitchen chemistry makes chemistry more accessible because it brings together scientific theory and everyday practicality. After all, we all know something about cooking even though we may not do it very often, and children are no different. When I left school I had no scientific background whatsoever. I have taught myself slowly and with much difficulty, so this new initiative is music to my ears. I just wish it had happened a few years earlier.

Heston Blumenthal

Chef and proprietor of The Fat Duck


© RSC 2005