Food Science

Ever wondered why your broccoli changes colour when it cooks? Ever wondered why your muffins didn't work out? Or just curious to know why a recipe works? Then you're at the right place! Here you can find everything on the science behind food. Food Science explores what happens in food when it's stored, processed, cooked, eaten, etc.

What is food science?

Want a definition of food science? Food science aims to understand food from a science perspective, not necessarily focussed on health, nutrition (but not excluding that either), instead looking into: an apple turning brown (enzymatic browning), an apple turning soft when being cooked (breaking down of cellular structures), but also how to scale up applie pie production. Food science simply involves studying all sorts of processes involved in food, during harvesting, storage, packaging, preparation and consumption!

Physics, chemistry & (micro)biology of food

In school just about everyone becomes familiar with the various types of science. There’s physics (the laws or gravity and movement, still know those?), chemistry (caramelizing sugar), biology (dissecting insects, bacteria, the digestive system) and of course mathematics.

In food science these same disciplines apply: there’s food chemistry, food microbiology (we focus more on the microorganisms in our food than on the actual growing of the plant) and there’s food physics. I’ve never heard of food mathematics, but you do have to do some mathematics of course in the other disciplines.

French fries + mayonnaise = 3x food science

Note sure yet you understand the definition of food science? Let’s use the example of French fries with mayonnaise to demonstrate all these disciplines.

home made french fries
Home made french fries, unfortunately, without mayonnaise.
French fries + mayonnaise are a great example to see how all disciplines can be found in food. Mayonnaise is typical example of food physics. Mayonnaise is an oil-in-water emulsion. These normally split but mayonnaise does not, thanks to a physical phenomenon. The fact that you’re able to store a pot of mayonnaise at room temperature (before opening), has a lot to do with food microbiology. Finally, frying french fries is food chemistry, starches react and your fries turns brown due to the Maillard reaction.

 

Studying food science

You can study food science in school, university or college, but of course, you can always start in your kitchen or in the supermarket. Most products on the market have had food scientists involved somehow. Think about conservation of products (pickling, freezing, drying, pasteurizing, etc.) or think of packaging (vacuum packaging, green bottles for olive oil, multi layer juice drinks packs, etc.). Food science is involved in all of these! I hope that by reading my website you get a good answer to the question 'what is food science'?

On my website you can find many examples of food science. You can find an overview on my science page or you can scroll through my blog posts. Some posts are more sciency than others, but there are enough to choose at least one you like, to name just a few: Kibbeling (Dutch fried fish), beef piesmeringues or french fries...

What about food technology?

You will often find study programs being called ‘food science & technology’, thus mentioning both food science and technology. On this blog the vast majority of posts covers food science. Nevertheless, we write on food technology as well, especially in the posts dedicated to food manufacturers.

Food technology is linked closely to food science. Food science studies the food itself, whereas food technology focusses on the processes and technologies required to make the foods. Food technology will often be oriented more towards factories or industrial production of food.

An example of food technology

It’s interesting to know that you need a certain temperature to make caramel and why. But when you want to make 1000kg of caramel you cannot use a simple stovetop anymore. When making caramel at home it’s no problem to cool your caramel. You can simply do this by placing them on your countertop or in the fridge. However, doing the same for 1000kg of caramel will require some serious rethinking. That is when food technology kicks in!

 

Start exploring

If you have any questions about food science let me know! I’d love to hear your questions and see whether I know or can find the answer.