The Chemistry of Cooking

Science & Technology
Course Code
Chem 1100
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will use the science of chemistry to understand what is happening when we cook food. The course covers basic nutrition, cooking meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and breads. The production of chocolate, beer, wine and distilled spirits will also be studied. In the lab, students will practice cooking and carry out experiments to illustrate and understand cooking practices. Students may have the opportunity to taste foods during the course, but are never required to eat anything. This course is a first year university level lab science course for non-science majors.
Course Content



Basic nutrition and the chemical structures and properties of water, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Types of heat transfer during different cooking methods. The difference between taste and smell. Measurement and scaling recipes up and down.


Eggs and Meats

 The composition of amino acids and proteins with regards to their water solubility and the consequence for structure and denaturation during cooking. Cooking meat and the effects of heat on muscle fiber and connective tissue and the Maillard reactions. The formation of egg foams and the effect of fats and ions on their stability.


Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices

 The composition of the chemicals that give plants their colour (chlorophyll, carotenoids and anthocanins) and the effect of cooking and pH on colour. The structure of amylose and amylopectin and the formation of pectin gels. Essential oils in herbs and spices. Processing tea and coffee.


Legumes and Grains

 Legumes and essential amino acids as well as the relationship between oligosaccharides and flatulence.

 The production of flour and the differences between hard and soft wheat and the structure of protein and starch granules in flour. The production of gluten in bread vs pastry and the role of baking powder in quick breads.


Chocolate and Confections

The production of chocolate, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Tempering of chocolate and crystal structure. Caramelization reactions.


Alcohol and Vinegar

The production of wine and beer by the transformation of carbohydrates into ethanol. The chemicals that produce aromas and mouth feel of beer and wine. Pot and column distillation to make spirits. Ethanol as a food and drug. The Orleans and modern methods for producing acetic acid from ethanol.


Optional Topics:

The chemistry of cooking materials

 A comparison of the materials used to make modern cooking utensils such as copper, steel and cast iron pots and pans. Teflon coated frying pans, plastic and wooden cutting boards, ceramic casserole dishes.

Current topics in the chemistry of cooking

Items of interest from current news stories will be critically discussed. These might include organic vs. non-organic foods, preservatives in foods, BPA in plastic food containers, the formation of acrylamide during cooking, juice cleanses, and adulterated food. 


Laboratory Content:

Experiments will be selected from the following list and new experiments will be introduced:


Introduction to measurement


Basic calorimetry: determining the heat produced by burning food


Heat transfer: scrambled egg whites vs omelettes


Heating with microwaves


Egg foams


Formation of gelatin


Effect of radius on cooking time of potatoes


Cooking time and colour of green vegetables


Project: How to avoid green blueberry pancakes


Making jams and jellies


Isolating essential oils


Measuring caffeine in tea and coffee


The effects of using multiple leavening agents in making drop biscuits


Vodka pie dough


From vinaigrette to mayonnaise


Crystal size: rock candy and tempering chocolate


Freezing point depression: making ice cream


Boiling point elevation: sugar structures


Extraction of essential oils with ethanol


Fermentation, distillation and oxidation: production of vinegar


Field trip to a Brewery


Food Safety


Poster Presentations


Term Project


The grand cookie experiment


Chemical leavening agents and pancakes


Effects of using gluten free flour mixtures

Learning Activities

The course will be presented using lectures, classroom demonstrations, problem sessions, videos, class discussions and guest lectures where possible. The laboratory course will be used to illustrate the practical aspects of the course material. Close coordination will be maintained between laboratory and classroom work whenever possible. 

Means of Assessment

The final grade assigned for the course will be based upon the following components: 

Lecture Material (75%)

  • Two or three in-class tests will be given during the semester (20% to 30%)
  • A final exam covering the entire semester’s work will be given during the final examination period (30%)
  • Classroom activities and homework such as: problem assignments, tutorials quizzes, presentations, class participation [5% maximum] (15%  to 25%) 

Laboratory 25%

  •  Each experiment will be evaluated either by submission of a report sheet, a poster or a formal lab report and up to two of the experiments may be evaluated by students submitting a brief report of their results followed by an oral interview.


A student who misses three or more laboratory experiments will earn a maximum P grade.

A student who achieves less than 50% in either the lecture or laboratory portion of the course will earn a maximum P grade.


Learning Outcomes
  1. Calculate the number of calories in a sample of food.
  2. Calculate the number of calories needed on a daily basis and the amount of calories provided by food intake.
  3. Evaluate the quality of a food in terms of calories, vitamins and minerals provided.
  4. If provided with a Kekule structure, be able to identify the molecule as a saturated or unsaturated fat, a carbohydrate or an amino acid.
  5. Explain the relationship between chemical structure and solubility in water and oils.
  6. Explain the consequences of vitamin deficiency to overall health.
  7. Explain how conduction, convection and radiation are involved in various cooking processes.
  8. Distinguish between taste and smell.
  9. Recognize the role of volatile chemicals involved in smell.
  10. Distinguish between volume and mass measurements.
  11. Convert between units and use density to convert between mass and volume.
  12. Change the scale of recipes, including non-metric units such as teaspoons and tablespoons.
  13. If provided with a Kekule structure, be able to identify an amino acid as hydrophobic or hydrophilic.
  14. Explain how proteins are denatured by high temperatures.
  15. Relate the browning of meat (Maillard reactions) to flavor.
  16. Explain how and why cooking time increases with the square of a roasts radius.
  17. Describe the structure of an egg foam.
  18. Describe the effect of heat on collagen and its transformation into gelatin and the structure of the resulting gel.
  19. Explain how cooking changes the colour of green vegetables.
  20. Explain how pH changes the colour of some foods, such as berries.
  21. Describe the structure of a pectin gel.
  22. Discuss how essential oils in herbs and spices contribute to taste and smell.
  23. Identify how processing changes the taste and smell of tea and coffee.
  24. Discuss the consequences of essential amino acid deficiency.
  25. Explain the connection between oligiosaccharides and flatulence.
  26. Describe the production of flour, including chemical aging.
  27. Describe gluten formation in producing bread and relate protein structure to the plasticity and elasticity of breads.
  28. Describe the role of fats in the production of pastry.
  29. Explain how chemical leavening agents are used to produce quick breads and batters.
  30. Describe the process used to produce cocoa butter, cocoa powder, Dutch cocoa powder and various types of chocolate (white, milk and dark).
  31. Explain how chocolate's crystal structure relates to its glossy appearance and brittleness.
  32. Discuss the caramelization reactions carbohydrates undergo when cooked.
  33. Describe the process used to make and age wine.
  34. Explain how and why grain is malted to make beer.
  35. Describe how chemicals produce the aroma and mouth feel of wine and beer.
  36. Discuss how ethanol content is increased by distillation.
  37. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of pot and column distillation.
  38. Calculate the amount of ethanol in a particular sample of beer, wine or spirits.
  39. Describe the negative effects of short and long term over consumption of ethanol.
  40. Explain how vinegar is made from ethanol.
Textbook Materials

The current edition of McGee, H. On Food And Cooking, Scribner, Toronto or equivalent textbook as selected by the instructor.

Douglas College, Chemistry 1100 Laboratory Manual.



One of the following:

MATU 0410 C or better

Precalculus 11 C- or better

Precalculus 12 with a C- or better

Foundations of Math 11 with a C- or better

Foundations of Math 12 with a C- or better





Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for CHEM 1100
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX CHEM 1XX (4)
Athabasca University (AU) AU CHEM 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU CHEM 130 (4)
College of New Caledonia (CNC) No credit
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR CHEM 1XX (3)
Columbia College (COLU) COLU CHEM 1st (4)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU CHEM 1101 (4)
Langara College (LANG) LANG CHEM 1XXX (4)
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) No credit
North Island College (NIC) NIC CHE 1XX (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) No credit
Okanagan College (OC) No credit
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CHEM 1XX (4)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU CHEM 1XXX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW SCIE 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO SCIE 1st (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV FNH 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC CHEM 110 (3) & UNBC CHEM 1XX (1)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC SCIE 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU CHEM 1st (4)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023

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CHEM 1100 001 - Lab is already included.

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Tue Thu
New Westminster - South Bldg.
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