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Cut To Taste

Cut To Taste

Food's preparation affects its taste.

Cut to Taste

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 19:15

Karin Heineman, ISTV Executive Producer

No matter how you slice it, a carrot will always taste the same, right? This seemingly safe assumption actually might not be accurate according to an engineer in Pennsylvania.

It turns out that how food is  prepared can greatly affect the taste of the final product.

For example, a carrot cut with a sharp knife tastes different than one cut with a dull blade.

"It has to do with the microstructure of the actual carrot itself and how it breaks out,” said Phillip LeDuc, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

In other words, sharp cuts create different textures and release different compounds from the carrot. These compounds affect the taste of the carrot after it is cut.

The taste of ketchup is greatly affected by the processing of the tomatoes used to make the ketchup.  

“Based upon how you mash tomatoes up and how you flow them through the pipes, you actually can change whether people like or dislike ketchup based up on that alone,” said LeDuc.

In LeDuc's culinary mechanics class at Carnegie Mellon, students learn how cutting, chopping and mixing have different effects on the taste and texture of food. In one class project, students made ice cream simply by using the standard ingredients and about five minutes of vigorous shaking.

“That’s mechanics being added to the system which changes the end result from a liquid to something like a butter or ice cream,” said LeDuc.

For the class’s final project, the students must create their own food, with a few stipulations: They must make a food that no one has seen before and it must involve mechanics.

Previous students in the class came up with "pancakes on-the-go": a portable pancake with a capsule of syrup cooked in. The pancakes are dry until you bite into them and release the syrup.

The students love the class, and the results.

Get Inside The Science:

CMU Breaking Ground With Culinary Mechanics

Center for the Mechanics and Engineering of Cellular Systems - Carnegie Mellon University

Phillip R. LeDuc, Carnegie Mellon University

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Karin Heineman

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.