How Chemistry Affects Everyday Cooking for Every Joes and Jills

Chemistry is definitely involved in cooking and it’s possible that we just don’t know it. Knowing stuff about the relationship of chemistry and cooking could help you figure out the how’s and why’s of cooking. This is very helpful especially if you are an aspiring chef.

First of all, do you know why food gets spoiled? Whether food is cooked or not, chemical reactions occur and what causes food to spoil are these chemical reactions. A good example would be bananas that turn brown. There is a hormone in these bananas that allows ethylene gas to be released. This goes on until the bananas become overripe since the ripening process is accelerated.

Polyphenol oxidase helps in the ripening process and this happens in potatoes and apples as well. When you leave a banana near an apple, the latter’s ripening process will be accelerated as well. These two chemicals are actually used by companies to fasten the ripening of some fruits.

There are also chemicals which could slow down the process.

Second, do you have an idea of why curries are spicy? It’s all because of the capsaicin. Your mouth has receptors which are sensitive to this chemical which produces a burning sensation. What happens is calcium ions invade the cells. A pain signal is then tripped which in turn, makes you reach for that glass of water. Capsaicin, however, is not very effective in cold water alone. Dairy products such as yogurt and milk are preferred. These dairy products actually contain casein which is effective in combating the effect of capsaicin.

capsaicin-chart

Third would be about what actually happens to meat upon cooking it. Being an animal muscle with almost 75% water, only 20% of it is protein and 5% is fat. It also has minerals, acids, and carbohydrates. When raw meat is cooked, the molecules of the proteins that are initially bonded in coils are broken down.

The water content of the meat goes out and this explains why cooked food tend to be smaller than how big it used to be when raw. Next, the browning of the meat occurs as myoglobin reacts to heat.

Myoglobin is like the hemoglobin. It stores oxygen in the red blood cells. The heat’s role is to trigger the oxidation of iron atoms. These iron atoms lose electrons and this causes the color change from red to brown. As for white meat, they have less myoglobin so it is just pinkish when raw and as it is cooked, it becomes white.

There are a lot more instances explaining how chemistry affects cooking and these are just a few. Chemistry is existent in almost all aspect of our lives and it is our responsibility to learn more about them.