February 3, 2016

How Chefs Make Use of Math and Science In The Kitchen

Chefs do more than simply combine ingredients to make delicious meals. Indeed, a great cook has much in common with mathematicians and scientists, as Boston Magazine pointed out. Even if chefs aren’t breaking down Pi or solving an energy crisis, they still rely on key scientific principles to do their job. As much as cooking is about feelings and passion, it’s also about adhering to several key logical concepts. Need more proof? Here are just a few ways that you’ll use math and science to invent culinary masterpieces:

“A great chef has as much in common with scientists.”

Math = cooking
According to Math Central, cooking as a whole exists because of a number of mathematical concepts. But it goes more beyond needing 3/4 cup of sugar, or timing how long to bake a souffle. Rather, math can be used for so much more. For instance, chefs can use equations to help them figure out how many cupcakes can be made with 2.5 cups of milk. Or properly calculate the amount of baking powder in a recipe. Even when you might want to be creative, perhaps by substituting in different ingredients, math is useful to ensure the proper ratios are maintained. Math is also handy when it comes to conversions, like when recipes are listed only in the metric system.

Science plays a huge a part in the overall culinary tradition.

Science plays a huge a part in the overall culinary tradition.

Chemistry is king
You may have attended a culinary arts program, but many cooks could just as easily try their hand at becoming amateur chemists. That’s because, as Chefs Jobs UK pointed out, many kitchen gurus utilize a variety of chemical reactions in their daily work. For instance, though chemicals like Sucro are often used to combine liquids, emulsification is one of the essential chemical reactions. Many chefs have also mastered the process of spherification, in which sodium is used to control how and when a liquid congeals. That’s an important skill in creating textures in most dishes. In fact, the entire tradition of sous vide cooking, which involves using vacuum pressure to cook, involves plenty of chemistry know-how.

Biology abounds in the kitchen
Biology is the study of life itself, and that certainly has implications not only in the culinary world but almost any field or topic. A 2006 study in the journal EMBO Reports found that biology plays an especially huge role in the art of cooking. For example, biology might help us better understand certain food combinations that are the most appealing to a larger group of patrons. Biology is also a huge component of molecular gastronomy, a recent cooking fad that has led to the invention of many new and exciting food types. According to Molecular Recipes, some of those creations include transparent ravioli and ice spheres that contain cocktails. Biology and cooking are so related that Harvard University even taught a science cooking course on both subjects in 2015.