Science in the Kitchen course outline

New York City College of Technology,

Department of Physics

PHYS1010 Syllabus 

Science in the Kitchen





Office:____________ Office Hrs: ____________________


Number of hours, credits: 4 hours/week, 3 hours lecture+1 hours laboratory (2 hour lab meeting biweekly), 3 credits

Course Description: This interdisciplinary course is designed to introduce the physical concepts that are behind food cooking processes to non-science majors. The use of mathematics is limited to simple calculations. Laboratory work complements the course to gain hands-on experience and make use of the physical concepts in the kitchen for the students. Laboratory exercises are performed to explain  the scientific method and to allow students to learn  how to perform experiments and compose a lab report.   

Pre/Co-requisites: MATH 1175 or higher

Recommended texts: Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, (2004). A lab manual that will be provided by the Physics Department in your lab section.

Assessment: Students will be evaluated though lab reports and exams. The final grade will be based on a weighted average of the grades from the lab reports and exam as follows: Midterm Exams 1 and 2: 50%, Final Exam: 25%, Labs: 25%

College Policy on Absence/Lateness College academic integrity policy: Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion.

College Policy on Absence/Lateness : A student maybe absent without penalty for10% of the number of scheduled class meetings during the semester as follows:

Class Meets                  Allowable Absences

1 time/week                  2 classes

2 times/week                3 classes

3 times/week                  4 classes


Course Outline:

Week Lecture Lab Reading
1 HMGT: History of cooking,

Safety in the kitchen.

Pages 218-225
2  What is food made of: atoms, molecules. Chemical bonds. Food in different phases: solid, liquid and gas. Density.


Density measurements. Pages 1178-1186


3 Phase transitions. Changing

the boiling and freezing temperatures by additives. Cooking under pressure.


Pages 1186-1187
4 Mixtures: solutions (sugar water), suspensions (milk), emulsions (cream), foams (bread),

gels (fruit jellies). Water hard-

ness. Solutions.

Solutions. Pages 1187-1189


5 Physics of heat generation and

transfer: history, overview.


Pages 1133-1134


6 Heat transfer: thermal conductivity, radiation, convection. Thermal insulation. Browning/Maillard reaction and taste,

Toast vs. Bread


Pages 1134-1135


7 Materials for cooking:

Cookware, cooking vessels: (stainless steel, aluminum, copper, Teflon, etc.) Glass vs. Pyrex.

Pages 1144-1148


8 Heating using different physical principles: ovens, microwave ovens. Calorimetry and heat capacity. Calorimetry. Pages 1137-1142


9 Fuels for cooking. Heat of combustion Pages 1137


10 Energy content of the food: calories.


Calories calculation. Pages 11, 53


11 Acidity, pH scale. Pages 59,63
12 Archimedes’ principle. Archimedes’ law Egg flotation: fresh or not. Pages 66-67


13 Physics of smell propagation: diffusion, air convection. Pages 174,187


14 Boiling eggs and whipping foam: physics of proteins structure change Eggs boiling Pages 415-420


15 Optical properties, transparency, colors mixing for decoration.


Pages 475-478