About this courseSkip About this course
In this course, which investigates physical transformations in food, we will be visited by world-famous chefs who use a number of different styles and techniques in their cooking. Each chef will demonstrate how he or she prepares delicious and interesting creations, and we will explore how fundamental scientific principles make them possible.
Topics will include:
- How cooking changes food texture
- Making emulsions and foams
- Phase changes in cooking
You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen! By following along with the recipes of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a chef and a scientist. This practice will prepare you for the final project, when you will design and perform an experiment to analyze a recipe of your choice from a scientific perspective.
The lab is certainly one of the most unique components of this course — after all, in what other science course can you eat your experiments?
What you'll learnSkip What you'll learn
- The chemical and physical principles that underlie everyday cooking and haute cuisine techniques
- How chefs can use enzymes to make foods that would otherwise be impossible
- How to use the scientific method to learn how a recipe works, and find ways you could improve it
- How to think like a chef AND a scientist.
How do we describe food texture? In the first module of the course, we will explore the scientific concept of elasticity, which influences the texture of food, and how it changes during cooking. Discussions with Bill Yosses and Mark Ladner will address the role of gluten in dough and the challenges of working with gluten-free varieties.
Module 2: Viscosity
How can we make liquid foods more appealing? Just as solid foods can have different textures, so can liquids, largely determined by their viscosity, or thickness. Scientific discussions about what determines viscosity and demonstrations of different ways to change the viscosities of foods will allow us to explore this topic from different perspectives. We will hear from Harvard’s own Martin Breslin, Director for Culinary Operations, and Carles Tejedor, from Oillab and By restaurant in Barcelona.
Module 3: Emulsions and Foams
Emulsions and foams are some of the most interesting foods to think about from a scientific perspective, and we will investigate the physical principles that control their formation. Nandu Jubany will demonstrate how he uses emulsions and foams for a twist on traditional Catalan cuisine at his restaurant, Can Jubany. In the lab you can compete with other learners to see whose emulsion and foam rises the highest!
Module 4: Advanced Phase Behavior
The preparation of chocolate and frozen desserts such as ice cream are great illustrations of how chefs manipulate phase changes such as crystallization (freezing). In this module, we will discuss such concepts as nucleation of crystals and freezing point depression, and see how they can be used for chocolate tempering and making ice cream, which you will make yourself in the lab!
Module 5: Enzymes
The activity of enzymes can provide both benefits and challenges in the kitchen. After discussing the diverse roles that enzymes can play, we will investigate strategies to both restrict and exploit enzyme activity in cooking. Ted Russin and Wylie Dufresne will showcase some of their creative dishes that are only possible because of enzymes.
Module 6: Baking
To conclude the course, we will see how many of the topics that we have discussed come together in a popular cooking technique – baking! Joanne Chang and Christina Tosi will show us how to make delicious cakes, cookies, pies, and bread, and we will see how science makes it possible!
Meet your instructors
Pursue a Verified Certificate to highlight the knowledge and skills you gain$169.00
Official and Verified
Receive an instructor-signed certificate with the institution's logo to verify your achievement and increase your job prospects
Add the certificate to your CV or resume, or post it directly on LinkedIn
Give yourself an additional incentive to complete the course
Support our Mission
EdX, a non-profit, relies on verified certificates to help fund free education for everyone globally
- Former Student
“You have done a great job of introducing complex processes in an entertaining manner. It was exactly what I wanted!”
- Former Student
“It was great to delve back into science and math, and a lot of fun to combine it with cooking. I really enjoyed the content, and the exercise that my brain got in the homework!”
- Former Student
Frequently asked questions
Not at all - while some familiarity with these subjects could be helpful, we start each module thinking about how we experience food, then use that to explore the science behind it. The scientific principles are discussed in the videos, and practice problems give you an opportunity to apply them. If you have a desire to understand how physics and chemistry affect food and a willingness to think, you'll learn all the physics and chemistry that you need in the course.
What background knowledge is assumed?
We provide review materials that discuss some fundamental principles in math and science, and familiarity with arithmetic and high-school algebra is assumed.
HarvardX requires individuals who enroll in its courses on edX to abide by the terms of the edX honor code. HarvardX will take appropriate corrective action in response to violations of the edX honor code, which may include dismissal from the HarvardX course; revocation of any certificates received for the HarvardX course; or other remedies as circumstances warrant. No refunds will be issued in the case of corrective action for such violations. Enrollees who are taking HarvardX courses as part of another program will also be governed by the academic policies of those programs.
By registering as an online learner in our open online courses, you are also participating in research intended to enhance HarvardX's instructional offerings as well as the quality of learning and related sciences worldwide. In the interest of research, you may be exposed to some variations in the course materials. HarvardX does not use learner data for any purpose beyond the University's stated missions of education and research. For purposes of research, we may share information we collect from online learning activities, including Personally Identifiable Information, with researchers beyond Harvard. However, your Personally Identifiable Information will only be shared as permitted by applicable law, will be limited to what is necessary to perform the research, and will be subject to an agreement to protect the data. We may also share with the public or third parties aggregated information that does not personally identify you. Similarly, any research findings will be reported at the aggregate level and will not expose your personal identity.
Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Statement
Harvard University and HarvardX are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy educational and work environment in which no member of the community is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in our program. All members of the HarvardX community are expected to abide by Harvard policies on nondiscrimination, including sexual harassment, and the edX Terms of Service. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com and/or report your experience through the edX contact form.