Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
Food science experiments can be characterized in several different ways. One way is by their purpose. Food science experiments may be performed with the intention of developing new foods, testing the market, creating a new recipe, or uncovering nutritional effects. Food science experiments are also done as science projects or science fair projects to learn about food and to research various aspects of food science.
Food manufacturers do product tests on foods in order to make sure certain nutritional criteria are met or to test their marketability. For example, a manufacturer may experiment with creating a low-fat version of a food that they currently offer or a low-salt version, a version with wheat flour instead of white flour or an organic version. In each case, the manufacturer needs to determine how successful the substitution has been in terms of nutrition as well as taste.
Alternatively, a food manufacturer may wish to taste-test an entirely new product, such as a new flavor of an existing product to make sure it is appealing. This may involve detailed blind tests against competitors or with several possible versions of the product, both within the company and with consumers. Tests may involve not only the eating experience, such as the flavor, texture, and smell, but also the name and packaging.
Recipe testing by individual chefs is another type of food science experiment in which different cooking methods, cooking at different temperatures and different lengths of time, trying different amounts of various ingredients, and/or incorporating ingredients in different orders are all involved. This type of recipe testing is done by restaurant chefs creating new dishes to serve and by cookbook writers preparing an original recipe. Everyday household cooks in their everyday kitchens do food science experiments when they try out some new approach, ingredient, or variation in their cooking and see how their families react.
Food science experiments in the service of research can take a variety of forms. For example, in early 2009, New York Times reporter Harold McGee asked the question, “How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?”—answering in an article of that name his own question about “greening” the cooking of pasta by using less water and less energy. Nutrition-oriented research on the efficacy of a certain diet for a certain purpose, healthfulness of particular regimen, the accuracy of food-labeling, the value of various nutritional supplements, etc., are carried on by food manufacturers, independent researchers, and the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration). School science projects and science fairs provide another milieu for food science experiments of this type.
@Mor - It is really important to get kids involved in science on a level that they can understand. The scientific method is a great way of teaching them about looking at the world in a critical way, and this world could do with more people who were capable of that.
Actually, I think that one of the things that needs more experimental research is keeping insects for food. I know this isn't a popular idea at the moment, particularly in developed countries, but if insects could be made more popular, they would be able to quickly solve a bunch of food supply problems.
I was reading an article on this the other day. There are quite a few scientists who
think that we will soon be forced to rely on insects on protein, no matter what, and certain countries should be doing it already. But, there is a great lack of knowledge on how to raise and prepare them. What needs to be done is a lot of work on teaching the world how to do this.
@croydon - It's also one of the easiest aspects of science to explain to kids. They might not understand the theories of physics or chemistry, but they understand trying different ingredients to find the right one.
In fact, testing a recipe is a really great way of teaching them the scientific method in and organic way. Explain to them that you want to see what happens when you add things like different essences to cookie dough. Explain why you need to have multiple batches and controls.
Then, when they have to come up with a fun science experiment in school, they'll intuitively understand the process.
Also, one of my favorite "experiments" when I was a kid involved adding baking soda to hot golden syrup and watching the resulting "volcano". The best part of this experiment and all experiments as a kid was eating the results!
Food science is definitely one of the more exciting fields to go into at the moment. There is such a big need to deal with multiple problems that can be traced back to food consumption or lack there of.
Like the scientists who managed to develop rice with natural vitamin A in order to combat blindness in poor children of developing countries. They must have run experiments with geneticists until they found a strain that was consistent and easy to grow and that wouldn't do the people any harm.
And there are other scientists who develop foods that are meant to lower calorie consumption. They might experiment with making traditional foods from low calorie ingredients. These kinds of experiments may
be the main way we combat the obesity epidemic, as quite a few studies have shown you can't stop people from eating without putting them under quite a lot of duress. Modifying the foods they have available to them is a much better solution.
Science experiments involving food are easily shown to have an application in the real world and I don't think anyone who studies food science would have trouble finding a job in the future.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!