Culinary Chemist Guest ChemSoc Lecture

Dr Stuart Archer demonstrating the practical chemistry of cookingThe first guest ChemSoc lecture of 2017 featured Sheffield chemistry department postdoctoral researcher and 2016 MasterChef finalist Dr Stuart Archer who served up some details on the chemistry of cooking.

Stuart entertained and informed throughout the lecture providing information on the history of food, how food in restaurants can be shaped and moulded, and finally the promising future of artificially building food from molecular building blocks. In many respects the skills of cooking and experimental chemistry are similar, both involve precision measurements, time management and the correct time for reactions, or cooking, to occur.

Equipment and facilities that are common place in a chemistry department are now making their ways into the kitchen. Examples are famously brought to light by Heston Blumenthal for his typical wacky recipes. Specifically, meat can be vacuum packed and cooked in water baths due to their precise cooking temperature. Another is the use of liquid nitrogen for rapid cooling.

Dr Stuart Archer making ice cream using liquid nitrogenThe lecture also provided a chance for Stuart to demonstrate his creativity with samples of some of the creations. These included a Chocolate mousse, a yoghurt, honey and green mango sphere; spiced apple fluid gel, typically seen smeared on plates in restaurants; and a caramelised gel that had been shaped into flexible rectangles.

The highlight of the lecture was of course the ice cream. This was made with an ice cream mix, provided by Our Cow Molly, and cooled using liquid nitrogen. The rapid cooling and constant mixing meant that a smooth ice cream could be made in a matter of minutes. The smooth texture of the ice cream is the result of the rapid cooling leading to the formation of small ice crystals compared to conventional cooling methods.

For future events, including the upcoming ChemSoc guest lectures and the Charles Stirling lecture series, keep an eye on the department’s events page.
To find out more information on Stuart’s cooking career visit his website, the Culinary Chemist. Further images of the event can be found on the Department of Chemistry's facebook page.

Written By
Joe Clarke

With thanks and contribution from Hannah Fowler and Stuart Archer