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The Science of Gastronomy

This course will introduce you to some of the science behind food preparation, cooking methods, and generally, the enjoyment of food. The ultimate goal is to inspire you to apply scientific principles in your everyday cooking, including the principles of manipulating the human perception of food.

About the Course

This course introduces a number of basic scientific principles underpinning the methodology of cooking, food preparation and the enjoyment of food. All topics covered have a strong basis in biology, chemistry, and physics application. Among others, they include the consumption of cooked food, the physiological and evolutionary implication of the senses, geographic and cultural influences on food, and the rationale behind food preparation. We will also discuss issues such as coupling of senses to improve sense stimulation; altering flavor by chemical means; and modification of the coloration to improve the appearance of dishes. Following the video demonstrations of the scientific principles of cooking, you will learn to recognize the key ingredients and their combinations for preparing good healthy food. At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. appreciate the scientific basis of various recipes;
  2. develop your own recipes by integrating some of the scientific principles into new dishes;
  3. recognize the influence of the material world on human perception from the different senses;
  4. appreciate the art of integrating science into cooking and dining.

Important Note: This course is not designed for people with special dietary needs such as vegetarian, diabetic, and gluten-free diets. If you feel uncomfortable with any part of the assignments or activities of this course, you can substitute some of the ingredients or ask friends and family members to help with the tasting of your assignments. Alternatively, you may skip that specific assignment provided that you have fulfilled all other qualifying requirement to pass the course.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: 
1. Energy Transfer 
2. Hunger and Satiety

Week 2: 
3. The Sense of Taste
4. The Sense of Smell

Week 3: 
5. The Sense of Sight
6. The Sense of Touch

Week 4: 
7. Fruits and Vegetables
8. A Perfect Steak

Week 5: 
8. A Perfect Steak (continued)
9. Sauces

Week 6: 
9. Sauces (continued)
10. Dessert

Week 7: 

Recommended Background

High school level science is assumed.

Course Format

The course consists of short lecture videos of different length. Throughout the course, video demonstrations and audio commentaries are included to illustrate specific scientific principles of cooking techniques and food preparation. You will be asked to try out and practice specific cooking principles at home. Then, you will be able to analyze and make comparisons of your experiences through the weekly assignments.


  • What resources will I need for this class?

  • For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, copies of the course handout (most of which can be downloaded), and the time to read and discuss. Most important of all, you have to practice the various cooking techniques and try them out in your own kitchen. Of course, you can also enjoy the results of your experiments.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

  • You will be able to creatively prepare new dishes at home by applying the knowledge acquired in this course. You will be a part of a thriving community of learners that shares their experience by posting photos, videos, and explanations of all the scientific principles behind the creative process of cooking.