Importance Of Utilizing The Scientific Method Biology Essay


The importance of utilizing the scientific method to understand food properties was recognized as early as in the seventeenth century by Lavoisier and half a century later, e.g., by Brillat-Savarin in his monograph "Physiology of Taste" (1825). Brillat-Savarin defined gastronomy as "the reasoned study of all that is related to man as he nourishes himself." He also gave the field of gastronomy a practical purpose namely, "to keep human kind alive with the best possible food." A scientist who in more recent times emphasized the link between gastronomy and science was Nicholas Kurti, a low-temperature physicist at Oxford University in the UK. In 1969, Kurti held a presentation entitled "The Physicist in the Kitchen", and this was recorded by the British Broadcasting Corporation. A well-known quote of him is "It is a sad reflection that we know better the temperature inside the stars than inside a souffle." A more recent term that invokes the relationship between science and gastronomy is "molecular gastronomy," which has been defined as "a branch of science that studies the physicochemical transformations of edible materials during cooking and the sensory phenomena associated with their consumption". It is interesting to note that the term is an abbreviation of a more extended term "physical and molecular gastronomy." This latter term was the title of the first symposium on the science of gastronomy, organized in 1992 in Erice, Italy, with the involvement of Elisabeth Thomas, Nicholas Kurti, Hervé This, and Harold McGee as an invited guest director. The symposium was meant to bring together scientists and chefs and has been continued every 2 years until 2005. (Herve This, 2002)

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The scientific program of molecular gastronomy has been recently reformulated by Hervé This and is to explore scientifically: (a) the technical part of cooking, i.e., the science behind recipes (applying the concepts of precisions, referring to details in a recipe, and definitions, referring to the main points in a recipe), (b) the artistic component of cooking, and (c) the social component of cooking. This presentation was made at a molecular gastronomy session of the Euro Food Chemistry meeting in Paris, August 2007, which defines the first time that molecular gastronomy was included as a symposium topic at a scientific conference. The technical component refers to craftsmanship (repetition, tradition, well-executed work), whereas the art component refers to more creative aspects (innovation, creativity, expression of beauty). We should stress that craftsmanship also benefits from a better physicochemical understanding of cooking. Hervé This has also stressed the educational potential of molecular gastronomy in its ability to demonstrate the contribution that science makes to society. (Herve This, 2007).

Regarding cooking, one may differentiate between traditional versus creative approaches. Whereas the first is primarily concerned with the lore of cooking and often involves highly specific but often unsubstantiated recipes, which function only in a narrow context, the latter approach is based on innovative and creative ideas. As, however, most chefs lack the basic understanding of the principal physical and chemical transformations during cooking, creative cooking often ends up being implemented by trial-and-error rather than being guided by fundamental insights.

As creative cooking is often dealing with novel combinations of ingredients and preparation methods, it is more open to a scientific approach than traditional cooking is. As any science, the science of cooking should be hypothesis-driven and should focus on fundamental insights and mechanisms specifically relevant for cooking. Another important aspect of a scientific approach to cooking is that its practitioners should aim to understand the vision of chefs on ingredients and food, even though they are usually nonscientific and sometimes irrational, to be able to communicate with the chefs, and to be able to translate scientific concepts into practical guidelines. An excellent example of a hypothesis-driven approach to cooking is described by Harold McGee in his book "The Curious Cook". For example, in this book, it is described how the cooking time of a steak should depend on the thickness of the steak and the form (cube or cylindrical for example), using results of heat-transfer equations, while subsequently, these relations are experimentally tested in the kitchen. (McGee, 1990)


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Molecular gastronomy may be defined as the scientific discipline that deals with the development, creation, and properties of foods normally prepared in a kitchen. It is therefore a subset of the more general field of food science and technology that involves the scientific study of foods and the application of this knowledge to improve foods. The necessity for this subfield was born out of a feeling "that the phenomena that occur during cooking were neglected in Food Science". (Herve This, 2007)

Molecular gastronomy is characterized by the utilization of the scientific method to better understand and control the molecular, physicochemical, and structural changes that occur in foods during their preparation and consumption. The scientific method is characterized by careful observation, hypothesis formation and testing, controlled experimentation, scientific objectivity, and experimental reproducibility. The definition given above is therefore in close agreement with that given by the authors of the original term: "The scientific exploration of culinary, and more generally, gastronomical transformations and phenomena, as described by cooks or by culinary books". (This, Kurti, 1994).


One important role of molecular gastronomy may be its ability to help bridge the gap between art, craftsmanship, and science. The kitchen is a meeting place where chefs, who are normally characterized by their artistry, creativity, and craft, can interact with scientists who are normally characterized by their empiricism, rationality, and adherence to the scientific method. The overlap of science, craftsmanship, and art within foods may help to begin about a conversation between these traditionally different disciplines. This will help educate the public about the importance of adopting an integrated and holistic approach to human knowledge and experience.

Creative cooking and food science are different human endeavors, with one being characterized primarily by its creativity and artisanal character and the other by its rationalism. At the same time, successful scientists and chefs are united by their passion for achieving excellence in their chosen field. Scientists have a passion for discovering how things work at the most fundamental levels, whereas chefs have a passion for creating novel and delicious foods

The chefs involved in developing innovative foods are usually characterized primarily by their creativity-their ability to imaginatively utilize traditional and nontraditional ingredients and processing tools to create new food forms, combinations, and tastes. The scientists involved in studying the molecular and physicochemical changes that occur in foods are usually characterized primarily by their rationality-their ability to systematically breakdown a complex system into simpler parts whose behavior can be understood within the prevailing scientific framework. We want to stress at this point that a successful scientist requires a great deal of imagination to decide what to look at, what is the best way of accurately describing a complex system, which hypotheses or theoretical frameworks are the most suitable, and which analytical techniques or tests are most appropriate.

Both chefs and food scientists are passionate about foods, the former regarding the preparation of excellent food and the latter regarding the understanding of the food and being the first in elucidating important and novel physicochemical mechanisms.

Many food scientists and technologists use their understanding of fundamental scientific principles to design and fabricate novel structures within foods to provide functional properties, such as stability, taste, texture, appearance, or flavor. For example, food scientists often create tiny hydrogel beads within foods to encapsulate flavor components. These hydrogel beads have inspired some experimental chefs to develop innovative dishes, e.g., artificial caviar beads produced by controlled gelation of hydrocolloids. For example, Chef Ferrán Adriá of el Bulli in Spain has produced "apple caviar" by gelling small beads of apple juice/alginate solution using calcium, the general procedure originally being developed by physical chemists. Reversely, scientists are inspired by straightforward problems regarding food in everyday life, such as the stability of an alcoholic beverage like Pernod, upon dilution in water (E. Scholten, E. van der Linden, H. This, 2008).

Food scientists often test the properties of the materials that they produce using a variety of sophisticated analytical tools, including microscopy and scattering techniques to measure structure and appearance, rheometers to measure texture, and gas chromatography to measure the concentration of flavor compounds. Scientists ideally do these measurements to confirm or refute theories and hypotheses and to construct relations between properties of ingredients and macroscopically relevant properties of the food matrix. Chefs are interested in many of the same properties, but they analyze them by probing the properties with their eyes, nose, mouth, and touch, and they are interested in these properties to know whether the food is ready for being taken to the next preparation step or to be consumed. Having said this, the final arbiter of food quality is always the human sensory system, and so the food industry also relies heavily on sensory testing of its products by either trained or untrained panelists. One area where highly trained sensory scientists are widely used in the food industry is in flavor houses, where trained individuals (so-called noses) help with the formulation, refinement, and testing of complex flavor mixtures. Trained chefs, who have a highly developed sense of the appearance, texture, and mouth feel of foods, can play a similar role in the development of new products within the food industry. Sometimes, a fast route toward the solution of a problem is by applying intuition and experience and not by data-crunching activities or theoretical analysis. Hence, a chef's intuition and experience of the influence of specific ingredients on taste and texture will be a worthwhile asset for product development.

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The end goal of food technologists and chefs is often the same: the consistent creation of high-quality foods. Nevertheless, the goals and constraints are different. A chef is interested in producing a relatively small quantity of food for a small number of people in a well-controlled setting, whereas a food technologist is usually interested in mass producing large quantities of food for a large number of people who are distributed over a wide geographical area. Both parties are interested in delivering maximum quality but for different audiences and purposes, and, in addition, the attainable standards are quite different. However, food technologists could still learn a lot from the passion of chefs in their quest for the ultimate food quality and experience.

Chefs are involved in many of the same procedures and activities as scientists and technologists but with a different orientation. They carry out experiments in the kitchen with different ingredients, processing tools, and preparation procedures (e.g., temperatures, times, effect of agitation and stirring, and changes in composition) and carefully observe what kind of material is produced, what its properties are, and how reproducibly it can be produced. The chefs use a rational approach in selecting appropriate ingredients and techniques. This rational approach is, however, based on previous knowledge and experience and, as argued, not so much on a deep understanding of the fundamental properties of the ingredients and preparation methods. Scientists conversely use a rational approach that is based on generic and fundamental understanding of how matter behaves. In addition, a chef wants in the end to prepare (excellent) food, whereas a scientist is generally satisfied when he or she understands some fundamental aspect of a food. Consequently, whereas there are some similarities between the motivation and passions of chefs and scientists, the focus and approaches of both are therefore completely different. However, it is increasingly becoming clear that the combination can be highly synergistic and can stimulate culinary innovation. This is a clear example of something that has been pointed by Donald Stokes in general, i.e., that combining curiosity-driven research with user-inspired research stimulates innovation. (D.E. Stokes, 1997)


There is a distinct difference between the perception of chefs who are involved in progressive and traditional cooking, between the artist and the artisan. The paying customer in a restaurant serving traditional food is expecting the chef to prepare a meal that meets certain predefined expectations. The customer is in charge; they actively order a particular meal and expect it to conform to a specific expectation-if it is not, they may complain. On the other hand, the customer in a restaurant that focuses on innovative cooking is expecting to be challenged and entertained, with novel sensory experiences being at the center. Food preparation has become a form of art-with the meal acting as the medium of communication. Furthermore, science can help in realizing such art. Nevertheless, one has to be careful not to give all experimental cuisine the same label. Just as modern art comes in many different flavors (pointillism, expressionism, impressionism, surrealism, Dadaism, Pop-Art, postmodernism, etc.), so does experimental cuisine. Each meal should be appreciated and judged in its own right, and aspects of originality, quality, and relation to the origins and meaning of the food should be part of this. Nevertheless, the criteria for judging experimental cuisine are different than those for judging a traditional meal; in addition to desirable appearance, aroma, taste, and texture, there are also be other attributes such as creativity, surprise, and novelty. We note that most of the high-level and innovative restaurants blend innovation with tradition, art, and artisanal ways of preparing food. (van der Linden, McClements, Ubbink, 2008)


A CDS (complex disperse system) formalism was introduced in 2002 for the description of the "material" from which the parts of dishes are made. As with other formulated products such as paints, cosmetics, or drugs, dishes often include colloids, that is, material systems that contain molecules or molecular associations in which one dimension is on the order of 1 nm to 1 μm or systems that include discontinuities with distances of this order of magnitude. Such systems are frequent in food, in particular because plant and animal tissues are formally gels, because they are made of cells whose smallest dimension is on the order of 1 μm; most sauces are also colloids. (Israelachvili, 1994)

When complex systems are considered (for example, multiple emulsions), physics generally focused on the interface, that is, local descriptions of macroscopic systems, or on some thermodynamic properties. However this has two main disadvantages. First the global description of the systems is lost. Then, in more complex but familiar systems, the denominations are rather complex. For example, potatoes are mainly "suspensions dispersed in gels", since amyloplasts (solid starch granules of less than 20 μm) are dispersed in the cytoplasm. of cells (water or gel, depending on the description level), this phase being itself dispersed in the network of cell walls responsible for the "solid" behavior of the whole potato. The same usefulness applies to the CDS formalism,18 but the physical nature rather than the chemical composition is considered. For food, symbols G, O, W, and S, respectively, stand for "gas", "oil", "water", and "solid". The distribution of the various phases can be described by operators. As recommended by the IUPAC, the "@" symbol describes inclusion: for example, O@W applies to some oil phase included into a water phase. Physical chemistry also uses traditionally the symbol "/" to describe the random dispersion of a large number of structures of one phase into another phase, such as in W/O (emulsion). And because many phases can be dispersed into another, the "+" symbol is needed, such as in (G+O)/W for describing aerated emulsions, with gas, G, and oil, O, dispersed in the continuous water phase, W.

In 1995, a new dish named "Chantilly chocolate" was based on a generalization of whipped cream. Milk cream is primarily made of fat droplets dispersed in a water phase (with an appropriate size cutoff; micelles of caseins are not taken into account in this description). It is sometimes described as "oil-in-water emulsion resulting from the concentration of milk", but this is wrong, because part of the fat is solid at room temperature; hence a formula such as f(O,S)/W should be preferred to O/W, the expression f(O,S) being as yet unknown, because it is not established whether f(O,S) is equal to S@O or to O/S. Anyway, the making of whipped cream can be described by the equation f(O,S) ⁄W+ Gf [G + f(O,S)] ⁄W (6) Looking for formulas is an invitation to changes. O, it was said, can be any liquid fat, W any aqueous solution, and G any gas. This is why "Chantilly chocolate" is obtained when, starting from a chocolate emulsion, whipping is performed while cooling below 34 °C. Alternatively Chantilly foie gras, Chantilly cheese, or even "Chantilly olive oil" can be made when cooling is sufficient to make oil crystallize around air bubbles. In practice, making such products is easy. For example, with chocolate: first make a chocolate emulsion, O/W, by heating chocolate into a water phase (the proportion of chocolate and water has to be chosen so that the final fat/water ratio is about the same as the fat/water ratio in ordinary cream). Then whip (+G) at room temperature while the emulsion is cooled: after some time (some minutes, depending of the efficiency of the cooling), a "chocolate mousse" [G + f(O,S)]/W is obtained. This mousse needs no eggs, contrary to traditional chocolate mousse, and the texture can be the same as in whipped cream. As whipped cream is called "Chantilly cream" when sugar is present, the name "Chantilly chocolate" was given to the new dish. (Herve This, 2009)


Concerning the chemical analyses of culinary transformations, much work was done by food science or even by organic chemistry, but the situation is strange, because while the Maillard reactions are the focus of regular international meetings and while odorant molecules formation are extensively studied, simple culinary questions remain unanswered. For example, when a carrot stock is prepared by heating slices of carrot roots in water at 100 °C, glucose, fructose, and sucrose are extracted. Sucrose is hydrolyzed in the stock, but is it also hydrolyzed in the plant tissue, where the environment is comparable (aqueous medium, same temperature after some minutes).

In order to ask the right "molecular gastronomy" chemical questions, one has to consider that most dishes are produced from plant and animal tissues. Indeed, we eat either such tissues after thermal processing or liquids prepared from them, including aqueous solutions obtained by thermal processing of plant or animal tissues in water ("stocks", "sauces", etc.). Accordingly, the chemical component of molecular gastronomy should focus on the chemical modifications observed during the processing of these "culinary reactants", either directly inside the living tissues, at their surface, or in aqueous solutions. Protein denaturation has been extensively studied. This explains the important difference in consistency between an egg heated until thermal equilibrium (about 1 h) at 65 °C or at 73 °C, the second coagulation generates a very different result, because a second network is created inside the first, so that the hardness of the formed gel increases (it is possible that the two protein networks are independent, because the thiol groups from ovotransferrin should be all engaged in disulfide bridges when ovomucoid denatures, but it would be interesting to know whether the two networks link through rearrangement of these disulfide bridges when the chemical conditions are favorable). (Herve This, 2009)


A large number of techniques are used for molecular gastronomy. These produce amazing flavours and textures. Some of them are as follows:

Sous vide (under vacuum): A pan filled with water is taken and the temperature is raised depending in the food to be cooked. For example, for meat, the temperature is raised to 60C. Then the meat is placed inside the plastic bag along with seasonings. The plastic bag is then kept in the hot water bath. The meat is cooked slowly for about 30 minutes and the plastic bag helps in retaining the moisture. After 30 minutes, the meat is removed and it is then placed on a hot frying pan. When the meat is cut, it has been seen that the meat is still juicy, tender and delicious.

Spherification: Liquid filled beads are produced using this technique. It makes use of the gelling interaction between Calcium Chloride and Sodium Alginate. For example, in order to make liquid olives, first, Calcium chloride and green olive juice is mixed. Then the mixture is added dropwise to the sodium alginate solution. Alginate polymers get cross linked to calcium chloride and it leads to the formation of beads.

Flash freezing: Fluid filled fare is produced using this technique. The food is exposed to extremely low temperatures and it leads to the formation of a frozen surface and leaves the liquid in the center. It is mostly used to make semi frozen desserts which have a crunchy outer layer and liquid, creamy center.


Tools form an important part of molecular gastronomy.

Digital Scale: A digital scale is very important; it is used to measure the ingredients in the proper amount.

Hypodermic syringe: A syringe is very helpful because it is very widely used in the technique of spherification to add drops. It is also used to inject meat with liquids in order to enhance flavour along with texture.

Vacuum machine: This tool is used in the technique of sous vide. A good vacuum machine will evacuate air from the plastic bags and then it is tightly sealed.

Liquid Nitrogen: It has a temperature of -196C and it instantly flash freezes any type of food it touches and leaves the inner part liquid. However it is difficult to handle and it can be dangerous if it touches the skin. Alternatively, Anti-Griddle technique is used.

Anti-Griddle: It has been developed by PolyScience and it looks like a cookpot. However it has a surface temperature of -30C and performs the function of Flash freezing.

Gastrovac: International Cooking concepts have manufactured Gastrovac. It consists of three tools: a crock pot, a vacuum pump and a heating plate. Due to the presence of low pressure and oxygen free atmosphere, the food is cooked faster and also maintains its color, texture and nutrients. It is known to have a sponge effect which means that as the pressure is restored, the liquid is rushed back in the food, thereby giving it intense flavours.


If molecular gastronomy is to continue to grow as a serious endeavor, then it must have strong advocates within a variety of communities, including scientists, chefs, the public, and the food industry. We list some ways that support of molecular gastronomy could benefit these diverse communities below:

Scientists: The complexity, diversity, and dynamism of the natural and manufactured worlds by necessity mean that scientists must often focus on an extremely narrow field of study. A scientist may spend his or her whole live studying the properties of a single molecule or the characteristics of a particular chemical reaction. Molecular gastronomy brings science back into the real world, with all its complexity and subtlety. It forces scientists to put their specialist work into a broader context and helps them appreciate the wider importance of what they are doing. It fosters collaboration, communication, integration, and an appreciation of the limits of reductionism. It reveals questions and problems for further study that may otherwise not have become apparent. In addition, it encourages creative thought and thoughtful creation and respect for the origin and quality of foods. As one scientist during the meeting puts it: "It is so nice to see what the impact of science can be in such a direct way, to immediately see the benefit, instead of hearing about why a certain idea cannot be practically applied because of cost reasons for instance". (van der Linden, McClements, Ubbink, 2007)

Molecular gastronomy provides a new focus for scientific research on foods-understanding the basis of quality in all its forms and using knowledge to produce quality, instead of focusing only on cost reduction. This provides interesting new challenges and topics to investigate. It also helps to foster an interest by the general public in scientific principles.

Food industry: The food industry could use the knowledge gained from molecular gastronomy to mass produce high-quality food for the general public at a reasonable cost together with a focus on originality and origin of foods and on added value. This perhaps could inspire the industry to look for interesting new developments on high-quality food grown and manufactured in a sustainable way. A new focus on food quality, sensory experience, and aspects of sustainability may also convince the consumer that it is worth paying a bit more for their food than they nowadays do, which could help to bring the negative spiral to an end of decreasing prices, shrinking profit margins for the industry, falling farmer incomes, and finally a drop in the quality of food products.

Society: The intersection of molecular gastronomy and the culinary arts is a natural meeting place of the "two cultures": scientific rationalism and the creative arts. Food is a subject that everyone is familiar with and that everyone can relate to. On the other hand, few in the general public understand the scientific basis of food or are able to prepare artistic food creations. The intersection of human understanding and creativity in foods may help promote support for the general public for the arts and sciences in general. In addition, consumption of good food may be good for health and could help to reintroduce cooking skills now largely lost by most of the population. Whatever important trend regarding foods is relevant (reducing salt, sugar, and fat or providing enough food for the world using alterative protein sources, etc.) one always has the constraint that the taste should be good. Moreover, special foods are necessary for certain target groups that are going to play a growing role in society, such as kids, the elderly, and the ill. Food for these target groups does have special needs but always with the condition that it should taste good (which is now not always the case, in particular in the case of clinical nutrition). Interaction between chefs and scientists is probably essential for meeting the target of healthy food for each group together with the constraint of optimal taste. At the same time, due to the collaboration between chefs and scientists on healthy food, the results of such collaborations will be, almost automatically, effectively communicated in a way that is easily understandable by the main public. Yet, another important issue regarding the societal impact was put forward by another scientist: "It is a great opportunity for the dissemination of scientific understanding to the main public, which is one of the reasons universities are around in the first place". (van der Linden, McClements, Ubbink, 2007)

Students: Programs get more focused on food as a whole and reemphasize the holistic aspects of food in studies, which up to now are heavily focused at purely rational and scientific approaches to food. Furthermore, students get more exposure to real problems related to foods. Provided that the balance between science and practical solutions is maintained, very interesting thesis subjects arise and stimulate the students. In certain cases, students may follow internships at places like Alicia


The future of molecular gastronomy will stand or fall with its ability to prove that it is a relevant scientific discipline or eventually a subdiscipline of food science. To prove this (and we as authors of this article are convinced that molecular gastronomy has a long-term scientific merit), a stimulus should be given to scientists to focus on food and food ingredients, with the aim of elucidating the basic physicochemical mechanisms of cooking. The results of these studies should serve several aims. First, as with all scientific investigation, its results should be communicated to fellow scientists by means of publications, conference presentations, and seminars and should be intellectually scrutinized by these fellow scientists. Second, a professional working relation should be built up with chefs, chef schools, and training organizations, and the scientific results should be translated in basic concepts and recommendations, which chefs are able to appreciate and master. Third, molecular gastronomy should prove its merit via its interaction with the general public and emphasize the importance of food and its preparation in the overall quality of life.

The traditional model of doing scientific research involves obtaining financial support for a particular project from government agencies or industry, carrying out the research, and then publishing the results in scientific journals. A scientist's reputation is built on the quality, relevance, and quantity of their research output. At present, there are few places for scientists to obtain external funding for molecular gastronomy research or to publish the findings of their research. Further development of molecular gastronomy by food scientists would therefore greatly benefit from having mechanisms to provide financial support and to have specific journals to publish the findings of this research. Otherwise, progress in this area will be limited to those scientists who are passionate about molecular gastronomy and are willing to dedicate their time, energy, and resources to fund this research, to those chefs who are able to set up there own experimental cuisine laboratories, and to those food companies that have in-house chefs to work on particular food products. The dissemination of the results of this research will then be highly restricted to a small number of scientists.

The combination of science and gastronomy will enable educational developments on all levels, from primary education to academia. The combination will be inspiring and will add value to the current educational programs, perhaps even increasing the interest of students for the exact sciences and/or increasing the public interest in health-related food issues in general.

At present, the food industry is largely focusing its research efforts on the development and economic production of foods that promote human health and wellness, e.g., foods with lower salt levels, lower sugar levels, high protein contents, or foods that are fortified with bioactive components, such as calcium, phytosterols, and ω-3 fatty acids. Nevertheless, these foods must also be acceptable and desirable to the food consumer; that is, they should have good appearance, texture, and flavor. A better scientific understanding of what precisely makes a food look and taste delicious may help in the mass production of high-quality, safe, healthy, and nutritious foods.