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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?


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 tohis famous duck sauce, and scientific discussions on the major molecules of food, 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 andthus change its internal structure.
Module 3: Phase transitions
Joan and Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, recently voted thebest restaurant in the world, will explain how they manipulate phase transitions when cookingthrough techniqueslike 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 secret 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 14 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at edX based on 21 ratings

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

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

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