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Chemical Engineering in Cooking
Science deals with the study of why things happen and how
things work. Science is applicable to many activities in every day life.
Science is involved in activities such as taking a shower, cleaning the
house, putting on lipstick, and cooking a meal. These webpages will look
at the science, more specifically the chemical engineering, concepts
involved in different aspects of cooking.
Through common examples, we will intrigue your minds with the amount
of chemical engineering you already know and use in your everyday
Almost everyone has had some experience with cooking, whether it is as
simple as heating water in a microwave or as difficult as creating a
gourmet meal. Therefore, almost everyone has experienced chemical
engineering at work. How many times have you boiled water to make hot
chocolate, grilled chicken, made Kool-Aid, or drank a beer?
Have you ever received your food on a warm plate in a restaurant, seen
milk spoil on the counter, or cooked an egg for breakfast?
Chemical engineering theories explain why and how things heat up or cool down, how things mix,
why food goes "bad", and many other concepts that people take for granted
when in the kitchen. Everyone knows how to boil water; set it on a hot
surface until it bubbles. The question we are addressing here is, 'Why
does water boil?'
You have probably noticed when you turn on the stove, it gets hot.
Likewise, when you set a pot of water on the stove, it also gets hot. The
stove is transferring heat from the coils of the
stove, to the pot of water. Water boils because the heat from the stove
is transferred to the pot and then to the water. The water then
spontaneously mixes, this is called diffusion,
so that the bottom of the pot of water is not hot while the top is still
ice cold. This fluid flow allows heat
transfer throughout the pot of water. The speed at which the water
boils depends on the kinetics of the process. The
water then boils because it reaches its vapor-liquid equilibrium,
which forces the liquid water to turn into steam. That is why water
Concepts such as kinetics (or how fast does a reaction happen), heat
transfer, diffusion, and equilibrium will all be discussed, along with
many others, in the following chapters of The Chemical Engineering of
Cooking. Select an area of chemical engineering below to learn
more. Each topic area will give a general explination of the chemical
engineering principal, and then using common examples, look in more detail
at the theoretical equations and proof of the concepts involved.
Heat Transfer |
Mass Transfer |
This project was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and
is advised by Dr. Masel and
Dr. Blowers at the
University of Illinois.
By Valerie Fisher and Nathan Pace. Previous
work by Sheetal Khedkar, Brooke
Patterson, and Kelly Provost.