5 Food Science Ideas for Your Kitchen or Classroom

There’s a saying in my head that food is the essence of life. And since science is the understanding of life, it only makes sense that when you can involve food in your science demonstrations, projects, and experiments, you most definitely should involve food in your science demonstrations.


Just don’t forget to Instagram it!               (Source: Wikimedia)

Whether you call it kitchen science or delicious science or any number of cute and creative culinary catchphrases, you can’t deny food science ideas have a place in  education. So hop aboard this magic cutting board through the marble countertops and linoleum floors of your neighbors’ kitchen (never try this at home, try it at a friend’s home).

5. Homemade Ice Cream

This classic is a huge hit in all kinds of settings. You can find homemade ice cream at barbecues, summer camps, science labs, and during afternoons around the house. Why is homemade ice cream so popular? Simple: it’s way better than any other ice cream you’ve ever tasted.

The first time I made my own ice cream was as a Cub Scout. Whether I was a bruin or dire wolf or feral cat, I can’t remember, but I was after a badge of some sort and making my own ice cream was a surefire way to get that badge. I made the ice cream, but I had no clue as to why I put all of that sidewalk salt in there.

The full scientific answer to why rock salt gets tossed into the homemade ice cream mix is, admittedly, a bit more complicated than my cubby noggin could handle. Still, I didn’t even get that ice made the temperature in the container colder. I just thought it was food magic.

With these rings, you shall soon have lasagna!

With these rings, you shall soon have lasagna!                              (Source: Pixabay)

When Should I Use It?
Ice cream is a year-round treat for many, but making it should probably happen during warm weather stints. Making homemade ice cream in cold weather… it just sounds like a poor life choice.

4. Strawberry DNA
Genetics may seem like a field of science that can’t possibly have a hands-on demonstration using food. That kind of thinking might be a result of my initial mistake. I didn’t know that less complex organisms, in relation to humans, also have DNA. For example, I hadn’t a clue that strawberries have DNA. Did you?

Sorry about your nightmares.

Sorry about your nightmares.     (Source: Pixabay)

Whether you knew or not, there’s a fairly simple demonstration that will walk you through extracting the DNA from a strawberry. Fifteen steps may seem like a book, considering the 4 and 5 step procedures of some activities, but considering you’re extracting the DNA of fruit, it’s fairly simple.

When Should I Use It?
Use it whenever! It’s not like you have to wait for the strawberry to be ripe before killing it, removing it’s DNA, and putting it under a microscope. Heathen.

3. DIY Rock Candy
Rock candy is a county fair tradition. Giant, geometrical crystals of sugar that look like the most delicious creation from Krypton’s version of Willy Wonka’s factory. The looks of rock candy suggest an immaculate amount of craftwork from a sugar artisan. Realistically, it’s probably just a carney named Paul that doesn’t wash his hands.

But who cares if Paul washed his hands?

But who cares if Paul washed his hands? (Source: Wikimedia)

Luckily for you and other purveyors of geological delicacies, you can make your very own rock candy right at home. It really is as simple as heat, sugar, and more patience than a successful doctor. Seriously, you’ll need at least 5 day for a good-sized rock candy delight. That’s because sedimentation, the act of science that creates the rock candy, isn’t really a process that can be rushed.

When Should I Use It?
Homemade rock candy, although frowned upon by the frumpier home owners’ associations, is one of my favorite party favor ideas. The only thing to keep in mind… it is a lot of sugar.

2. Fruit-Powered Battery

When life hands you lemons, you pick four of them, connect them using alligator clips, and create a fruit-powered voltaic battery. Obviously, lemonade would be a tastier end-game for a bushel (gaggle? flock?) of lemons, but we’d love to see lemonade bring an LED to life like this food science idea. (Fun Fact: lemonade can actually conduct electricity and therefore, at least theoretically, could act as the acidic solution in a voltaic battery.)

She's going to have a lackluster day of sales without a juicer for those lemons.

She’s going to have a lackluster day of sales without a juicer for those lemons. (Source: Flickr)

The Fruit-Powered Battery will require a lot of people to go out an find the alligator clips, but these miniature jumper cables really are invaluable when it comes to experiments and demonstrations involving electricity and currents. Aside from that, everyone can get some nails and pennies. Just *send me your address (*don’t). I *will send you a ton of each (*won’t).

When Should I Use It?
This project is best suited for units involving circuits and/or chemistry. While the “wow” factor is pretty awesome, younger scientists may struggle getting more out of it than that.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 3.09.48 PM 1. GAK You Can Eat
Remember the first time you touched slime? Didn’t a tiny little piece of you want to bite into that ooey-gooey mass dripping through your fingers? I did, and whether that makes me weird or not, someone else obviously has, too. Otherwise, how would we have a recipe for perfectly edible slime? Huh? Answer me that one!

I'd eat it.

I’d eat it.                                                                                                            (Source: Wikimedia)

The truth is, this edible slime recipe isn’t the most delicious thing in the world. It is edible in the loosest since of the word. Meaning, that while this slime is edible, digestible, and actually good for you if you’re lacking fiber in your diet, it doesn’t taste very good. That’s why you get to experiment! Try to make your edible slime completely edible! Make it taste good!

When Should I Use It?
Once you’ve perfected your edible slime, making it taste like edible slime should (like unicorn poop, me thinks), it’s perfect for Halloween. I mean… c’mon! Kids eating slime around the most science-filled holiday around? Do it!

You’ve got plenty of food science ideas, now. So… make your lab, home, or classroom a delicious exploration of the world according to science!


541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

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