Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science

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9/10 stars
based on  14 reviews
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Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science

Course Details

Cost

FREE

Upcoming Schedule

  • On demand

Course Provider

edX online courses
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be tau...
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be taught by David J. Malan, a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard University for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But there's not just one professor - you have access to the entire teaching staff, allowing you to receive feedback on assignments straight from the experts. Pursue a Verified Certificate to document your achievements and use your coursework for job and school applications, promotions, and more. EdX also works with top universities to conduct research, allowing them to learn more about learning. Using their findings, edX is able to provide students with the best and most effective courses, constantly enhancing the student experience.

Provider Subject Specialization
Sciences & Technology
Business & Management
22611 reviews

Course Description

During each week of this course, chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations — often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain the science behind the recipe.

Topics will include:

  • Soft matter materials, such as emulsions, illustrated by aioli
  • Elasticity, exemplified by the done-ness of a steak
  • Diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.

You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a cook and a scientist. The lab is certainly one of the most unique components of this course — After all, in what other science course can you eat your experiments?

...

During each week of this course, chefs reveal the secrets behind some of their most famous culinary creations — often right in their own restaurants. Inspired by such cooking mastery, the Harvard team will then explain the science behind the recipe.

Topics will include:

  • Soft matter materials, such as emulsions, illustrated by aioli
  • Elasticity, exemplified by the done-ness of a steak
  • Diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, the culinary technique pioneered by Ferran Adrià.

You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen. By following along with the engaging recipe of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a cook and a scientist. The lab is certainly one of the most unique components of this course — After all, in what other science course can you eat your experiments?



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HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement : http://harvardx.harvard.edu/research-statement to learn more.

Harvard University and HarvardX are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy educational and work environment in which no member of the community is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in our program. All members of the HarvardX community are expected to abide by Harvard policies on nondiscrimination, including sexual harassment, and the edX Terms of Service. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact harvardx@harvard.edu and/or report your experience through the edX contact form : https://www.edx.org/contact-us.

Reviews 9/10 stars
14 Reviews for Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science

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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

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Alison Scott profile image
Alison Scott profile image
7/10 starsCompleted
  • 5 reviews
  • 5 completed
5 years, 6 months ago
Well, this is a right old curate's egg (a culinary term there for you). I think this course was conceived at Harvard as a way of pressing some scientific concepts into non-scientists who don't cook much. The catch is that many of the people taking the MOOC version are keen home cooks with a science background, hoping to apply more science to their cooking. So the material splits into four parts: 1) Amazing videos from a range of professional chefs, and America's Test Kitchen, about preparing specific foods. Some are instructive, some fascinating, some bizarre; every single one is worth watching. The sous vide egg video is worth enrolling for this course alone. 2) Scientific exposition explaining in some detail what the course designers think is going on in the cooking, and introducing an 'equation of the week'. Some of this is good (Harold Magee's audio spots are consistently interesting), some rather dull, and, unfortunately, some i... Well, this is a right old curate's egg (a culinary term there for you). I think this course was conceived at Harvard as a way of pressing some scientific concepts into non-scientists who don't cook much. The catch is that many of the people taking the MOOC version are keen home cooks with a science background, hoping to apply more science to their cooking. So the material splits into four parts: 1) Amazing videos from a range of professional chefs, and America's Test Kitchen, about preparing specific foods. Some are instructive, some fascinating, some bizarre; every single one is worth watching. The sous vide egg video is worth enrolling for this course alone. 2) Scientific exposition explaining in some detail what the course designers think is going on in the cooking, and introducing an 'equation of the week'. Some of this is good (Harold Magee's audio spots are consistently interesting), some rather dull, and, unfortunately, some is are simplistic or misunderstands the cooking techniques being demonstrated. 3) Homework exercises -- mostly very simple arithmetic exercises in dimensional analysis, made harder by using imperial volume measurements instead of SI units. These also have numerous errors, though some of the bugs have been worked out over time. 4) Labs -- where a simple cooking task is undertaken in a scientific fashion. The cooking bit of this has been quite interesting; some of the labs have been better designed than others, but mostly they've illuminated the topic under discussion. On the other hand, writing the 'lab report', self- scoring it against a hidden rubric, re-writing to cover the items in the hidden rubric, and resubmitting, is just plain tedious. Overall, it's worth doing if you're interested, but this is the first course I've done where I think the 'audit' option is likely to be the one to go for for most people. Will it improve my cooking? Maybe; I think knowing the equations for dispersal of marinade and thickening of sauces and emulsions might, yes.
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Student

6/10 starsDropped
3 years, 6 months ago
The lessons that I looked at were very interesting. I dropped out after only a few. The computer interactions were very awkward. I did not expect to be asked to post videos,etc. Those processes are not possible with the slow web connection here. The lessons involve a lot of meat cooking. Being a lifelong vegetarian I didn't think how much other people want to cook animals. For the right audience, computer and meat oriented people, it's a very good course. A real college level class that does take quite a lot of time. I did participate nearly 2 years ago, just now looking to sign up for another class and decided to add my experience here.
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 profile image

10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
3 years, 6 months ago
The course is apparently intended to offer a physics course for non science students and a cooking course for science students. I have worked in the restaurant business for years and done some food writing, but most of the content was new for me or went into much more depth than I had previously known. With a graduate degree in languages many years ago I found the physics extremely challenging, but meeting the challenges, which involved refreshing my old math and physics basics, was part of the satisfaction of the course. There were a few moments when I felt the instructors made assumptions about the abilities of the students, but all in all explanations were good. More than introducing me to new concepts , the course dispelled incorrect ideas I had about food science and preparation. The lab assignments were at times frustrating, partially because I did not have the right equipment, but the results were fascinating and often v... The course is apparently intended to offer a physics course for non science students and a cooking course for science students. I have worked in the restaurant business for years and done some food writing, but most of the content was new for me or went into much more depth than I had previously known. With a graduate degree in languages many years ago I found the physics extremely challenging, but meeting the challenges, which involved refreshing my old math and physics basics, was part of the satisfaction of the course. There were a few moments when I felt the instructors made assumptions about the abilities of the students, but all in all explanations were good. More than introducing me to new concepts , the course dispelled incorrect ideas I had about food science and preparation. The lab assignments were at times frustrating, partially because I did not have the right equipment, but the results were fascinating and often very tasty. I highly recommend this course to anyone in the food industry as well as devoted cooks.
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Claudio Felicioli profile image
Claudio Felicioli profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 58 reviews
  • 58 completed
3 years, 9 months ago
The course is great both in the culinary and in the scientific content. Great chefs present the various topics, with a final formal presentation of the physics that makes it possible. The course assignments require you to make culinary experiments and collect data. The main topics are heat transfer, diffusion, emulsion, gelification, Maillard reactions and fermentation. You will get better at cooking without feeling like a witch doctor anymore! It was unexpected and very effective how the only basic knowledge about Maillard reactions could improve even the most simple recipe.. my amatriciana sauce pasta will never be the same :)
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 profile image

2/10 starsDropped
  • 3 reviews
  • 1 completed
3 years, 11 months ago
I found this course very disappointing: Very thin, handwaving, half-explained content wrapped into a flashy, breathless firework of packaging. I have a science background and always wanted to understand why in a cooking recipe you are asked to do one thing and not another, which instructions are crucial to the recipe working, which allow some flexibility and which are just there because of dear habits, but without function. I'd like to understand what substitutes can be used to replace missing ingredients, etc. So the course seemed just what I needed. What I found out is that this is a course which tries to hammer into science-averse people that "science is fun, and look here, you only have to bear with me for one equation per week, and I try to make it as painless as possible and give you cool music and flashy celebrity cook shows as a compensation for being so patient (I know equations suck, but look, it's already gone again... I found this course very disappointing: Very thin, handwaving, half-explained content wrapped into a flashy, breathless firework of packaging. I have a science background and always wanted to understand why in a cooking recipe you are asked to do one thing and not another, which instructions are crucial to the recipe working, which allow some flexibility and which are just there because of dear habits, but without function. I'd like to understand what substitutes can be used to replace missing ingredients, etc. So the course seemed just what I needed. What I found out is that this is a course which tries to hammer into science-averse people that "science is fun, and look here, you only have to bear with me for one equation per week, and I try to make it as painless as possible and give you cool music and flashy celebrity cook shows as a compensation for being so patient (I know equations suck, but look, it's already gone again and there is the cool music)"... To someone actually interested in science, this attitude really bothers, but I wonder if it even has the opposite effect as desired to teach people without any predisposition towards or against science that science is something to be barely tolerated rather than embraced. And it teaches people that they don't understand science, since in this attempt to be apologetic about facts and equations and to keep the exposure "tolerably" low and easy, the explanations are so shallow and handwaving that they leave you with more questions than answers and no real understanding. Similarly, I was disappointed at the cooking videos: They seem mostly a chance for celebrity chefs to show off their style and give a great show with cool music and fast (almost hectic) cuts, but glossed over details and explanations in a way that I could often not follow what the essence of the recipe is or how to produce a similar effect in my own cooking. So, in summary, this course had great potential, but wasted most of it by providing a shiny shell that just shatters into lots of little pieces of glitter and nothing else when you actually try looking for some real content...
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 8 months ago
SPU27x is the best course I've ever taken, both online and in person. The content is fascinating, the instructors are so animated and knowledgeable about their content, and you get to eat the results of your study. I can't recommend this course enough.
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又禎 陳 profile image
又禎 陳 profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
5 years ago
Very useful website, I have learn a lot of from this website. Now I can cook some basic food.
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Ann Schmidt profile image
Ann Schmidt profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 25 reviews
  • 24 completed
5 years, 2 months ago
Such a fun course! Blending science and cooking is a great idea! The science formulas can be tricky and frustrating at times, but the labs make up for it because you get to eat what you make in the lab! I learned so much in this course. I would hope everyone takes it!
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 4 months ago
Excellent course, I will never be cooking again without thinking what is going on at the molecular level.
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student profile image

student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 6 months ago
I have to do this course again. It was so inspiring and I had to try out many of the techniques. I bought an isi whipper, a sous vide and a set to create spheres. I didn't have time to do the course home work but I enjoyed the lessons and spent a lot of happy hours in the kitchen. I can hardly wait for the new start in October.
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Gordon Haff profile image
Gordon Haff profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 6 reviews
  • 5 completed
5 years, 8 months ago
There was a lot to like about this course including a wide range of fascinating videos from chefs, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Dan Sousa (Cooks Illustrated), and others. The instructors were engaging as well and I found much of the chemistry interesting. I also found the approach to self-grading of non-numeric questions against a detailed rubric a rather sensible approach. A lot of online classes tie themselves in knots with peer-grading that doesn't add a lot of value but annoys and even angers a lot of people. One could question re-submitting for a better grade against the answer which you've now seen but I view it as this course providing grades and a certificate as motivating factors while not taking them too seriously. So why not five stars? I guess because I ultimately wanted to like and get involved with the class more than I actually did. This isn't so much a science and cooking class as it is a sort of applied chemistry c... There was a lot to like about this course including a wide range of fascinating videos from chefs, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Dan Sousa (Cooks Illustrated), and others. The instructors were engaging as well and I found much of the chemistry interesting. I also found the approach to self-grading of non-numeric questions against a detailed rubric a rather sensible approach. A lot of online classes tie themselves in knots with peer-grading that doesn't add a lot of value but annoys and even angers a lot of people. One could question re-submitting for a better grade against the answer which you've now seen but I view it as this course providing grades and a certificate as motivating factors while not taking them too seriously. So why not five stars? I guess because I ultimately wanted to like and get involved with the class more than I actually did. This isn't so much a science and cooking class as it is a sort of applied chemistry class against the background of cooking in general and modernist cuisine in particular. That's not necessarily a failing but some of the topics were taught better than others. And, in any case, expect lots of number crunching involving moles, dimensional analysis, and very large and small numbers. I found most of this straightforward enough, if often a bit tedious, but I can see it being very challenging for folks not comfortable with solving equations, working with exponents, and working with various types of dimensions. In general, I find the less math-heavy "science of cooking" as communicated by folks like Cooks Illustrated more interesting and more practical than the equation-heavy approach taken here. (As another reviewer noted--and I agree--I think the issue here is that this is effectively a Harvard undergrad chemistry course for non-science majors (?) and the approach to the material reflects that. If one were to design a Science and Cooking class for adults interested in cooking from scratch, I suspect you'd take a more conceptual approach even if the broad topics were the same.)
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WB profile image
WB profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 14 reviews
  • 14 completed
5 years, 9 months ago
This course makes one think while cooking. What size should the meatball be ? How long do I cook the steak ? Which ingredient should I add first and next when baking a cake ? How do I avoid soggy coleslaw ? It really explains to you why you should take a certain step first and the effect. I felt like I spent the last 3 months with a group of really smart and talented people. I like this course because it sharpens my mind and I enjoy watching the videos of the tops chefs in action (especially Joan Roca, Dan Souza and Joanne Chang). You will have a good of grasp of Maths, Physics and Chemistry before you could do the calculations in each assignment. Be prepared to invest time to complete the course, it is worth it. The course certainly sparked off interesting conversations with my friends and deepened my love for cooking with understanding.
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Jeff Winchell profile image
Jeff Winchell profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 91 reviews
  • 66 completed
4 years, 9 months ago
They have many of the top chefs in the world in this class with some of the top food scientists. What a great way to learn science. I hated chemistry in college, but now I have a reason to learn about it. Great fun! My hard rating is only because I never really learned chemistry before, and now want to understand fully what they are doing, which makes the chemistry part of the course hard. If you are good at chemistry, I would rank this as easy.
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Llewellyn Mann profile image
Llewellyn Mann profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 11 months ago
Fantastic course introducing basic science concepts applied to cooking. Great from a science perspective (they don't shy away from teaching basic physics & chemistry concepts) but also from a cooking perspective (with some of the world great chefs involved). Recommend to anyone with an interest in science and cooking.
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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.