Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Harvard University

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (chemistry)

Harvard University via edX


During each module of this course, chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations — often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain the science behind the recipe.

Topics will include:

  • How molecules influence flavor
  • The role of heat in cooking
  • Diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.

You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a cook and a scientist. 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?

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.

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement: to learn more.

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 and/or report your experience through the edX contact form:


Module 1: Molecules, moles, flavor, and pH
Includes a discussion by Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in NYC on flavor, pH, and the secret to his famous duck sauce, and scientific discussions on the major macromolecules of food, as well as flavor, moles, and pH. Module 2: Energy, temperature, and heat
Includes a welcome drink by Dave Arnold of Booker and Dax in NYC to toast the course, and a scientific discussion of how to cook a perfect egg. This module will focus on one of the most commons ways to cook - adding energy in the form of heat to increase the temperature of a food and thereby change its internal structure. Module 3: Phase transitions
Joan and Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, recently voted the best restaurant in the world, will explain how they manipulate phase transitions when cooking by using techniques such as sous vide and rotovapping. The scientific discussion will focus on what causes phase transitions in foods from a macroscopic and microscopic perspective.  Module 4: Diffusion and Spherification
José Andrés, chef and owner of minibar, Jaleo, and The Bazaar, will introduce us to the remarkable dishes he creates with gelling agents. Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Fransisco will make carrot jerky, and America's Test Kitchen will show us their secrets to making excellent scrambled eggs and coleslaw. Scientific discussions in this module will include gelation, modernist thickeners, and diffusion, which make some remarkable dishes possible. Module 5: Heat Transfer
Carme Ruscalleda, chef and owner of restaurant Sant Pau, will cook steak and other culinary specialties that illustrate the special attention chefs pay to heat diffusion when cooking food. Nathan Myhrvold will share his method for cooking the perfect burger, and America’s Test Kitchen will show us their secret to cooking perfect French fries. The scientific discussion in this module is about heat transfer, and explaining why it is so hard to cook a perfect steak from both a microscopic and macroscopic perspective. We will also explore heat-dependent chemical reactions, and how they impact food taste and texture. Module 6: Candy
In the final module we will discuss solubility and the science of candy and chocolate. Joanne Chang, from Flour bakery, will talk about the stages of sugar, and Enric Rovira from Xocolaters de Barcelona in Spain will show us some marvelous chocolate creations and we will discuss the underlying science of chocolate tempering and the different phases of chocolate.

Taught by

Michael Brenner, David Weitz and Pia Sörensen


4.9 rating, based on 15 reviews

Start your review of Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (chemistry)

  • Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course gives you a chemistry background for cooking. You'll learn how to properly marinate, and connect it with the diffusion equation, you'll learn how is the best chocolate made, how the Maillard reactions occur and why we coat dough with yolk...
  • Profile image for Fabio Luis Negrão Ferreira
    Fabio Luis Negrão Ferreira
    Me chamo Fábio Ferreira,36 anos e um grande amor pela cozinha ,entre os cheiros,temperos e sabores.

    Acredito que por meio da ciência e do conhecimento podemos dar mais riqueza a arte da gastronomia, será uma grande honra ter privilégio de receber a certificação de um curso da universidade mais respeitada do mundo.
  • Ashlynn Pai completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    I love this course! I'm a pretty bad cook and took it for inspiration in learning to cook but I also found myself interested in relearning some basic chemistry that faded from my memory long ago. I was so excited to watch every video and even do the homework. The labs were pretty fun although I never really liked lab work very much. The only bad thing is I broke a crystal glass in an experiment that I really liked since it was Czech.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Enjoyed it a lot, intersting combination of cooking and physics. Be aware: Knowing about units and their conversion helps to answer the questions in the "Homework" part.
  • Carlos Simplício Gonçalves Gomes
    É uma oportunidade única, para quem quer conhecimento profundo na sua área desejada. E também porque nesse momento ingressa no curso online em uma das universidades mas conceituada do mundo, é um sonho realizado.
  • Profile image for Sonia Pires Vieira
    Sonia Pires Vieira
    Godmorning. Gostaria muito de poder entrar nesse curso pois amo fazer o que sempre faço de melhor cozinhar.quero aprender técnicas de um bom chefe de cozinha.tenho curiosidades de saber algo que vai além da culinária.por isso que estou me escrevendo neste cursa espero ser aceita .obrigado.
  • Wellington Costa Da Paz
    Como estrema importância para todos aqueles que sonham em fazer parte de uma culinária internacional....
  • Hale Terzi is taking this course right now.

    Can you please add subtitles in different languages? I really really want to learn something from this site but can't do that literally
  • Elena

    Elena is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

  • Philipp Straub

    Philipp Straub is taking this course right now.

  • Sandra Montisci completed this course.

  • Riya Banerjee is taking this course right now.

  • Colin Khein completed this course.

  • Vostok Turkmen completed this course.

  • Tan Qian Hui

    Tan Qian Hui completed this course.

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.