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In this project, students will select a family recipe, or a favorite recipe to investigate. They will analyze several of the ingredients in order learn more about the chemistry of each one, as well as their purpose in the recipe. Additionally, students will examine several ingredient interactions to learn more about the chemistry of cooking.  

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This project will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


This project gives students an opportunity to:

  • Analyze food ingredients to understand related chemistry topics.
  • Develop a better understanding about chemical interactions that can occur in foods.
  • Research and report on how various chemistry principles make their favorite dish so great.
  • Connect their family or personal interests to topics in chemistry.

Chemistry Topics

This project can support students’ understanding of a variety of topics (depending on the chosen recipe) including:

  • Food Chemistry
  • Chemical Properties
  • Physical Properties
  • Chemical change
  • Physical change
  • Mixtures
  • Molecular Structure
  • Acids and Bases
  • pH
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Percent Composition


Teacher Preparation: Minimal (see Teachers Notes)

Lesson:  ~ 1 hour (Time will vary based on teacher preference. Students may need additional time outside of class)

Teacher Notes

  • To learn more about this project, read the associated article, The Online Summer Food Lab, featured in the March 2022 issue of Chemistry Solutions.
  • This project was originally assigned as the culminating project following a two-week chemistry of cooking summer elective course. Students learned an overview of chemistry of cooking topics that they could apply to this project. It can be adapted to a standard yearlong chemistry class as a unit-accompanying project.
  • The goal of this project is to measure the students’ ability to recognize and explain aspects of the chemistry of cooking or baking. It is helpful for students if teachers can share an example recipe analysis (Tzatziki recipe with notes is included as a download for your reference) and discuss the relevant scientific connections. If you utilize the Tzatziki example provided, little additional teacher preparation is needed for this project.
  • If you are using this as a standalone project (not part of a chemistry of cooking course) you may choose to prepare a lesson about various aspects of chemistry in cooking and baking beforehand.
  • If students don’t have a family recipe available, they could use one from the internet and should be required to cite the source.
  • Students may tend to focus only on molecules related to their dish, push them to find reactions or chemical properties for a deeper understanding.
  • The specific requirements for the project can be modified depending on the time available for the project, as well as student ability level. The goal for asking students to choose a recipe that contains at least 6 ingredients is so that students don’t choose an egg and cheese omelet, resulting in very little to discuss. Similarly, asking students to select 4 of the recipe ingredients to research further for their presentation was done so in an effort to avoid only learning about the simplest ingredients, such as water, salt or oil.
  • Teachers may like to compile a recipe book using the contributions from each student. A sample excerpt from the recipe book we compiled in the summer course is available for your reference. Note that this example includes just a small selection of the “science-based explanation” from the overall recipe presentation—this content was selected by the teacher.
  • If using this project with a large group of students, or multiple sections of a class, we encourage you to diversify the student recipe options. For example, students may find it easiest to choose baked goods but if many do, then there may be a lot of repetition in the presentations and compiled recipe books.
  • Consider having students present in small groups to minimize repetition or have them create a poster instead of slides to allow students to explore everyone’s research.
  • Teachers might consider the extension opportunity as an optional take-home assignment or, as an extra credit possibility.  

For the Student

Analyze a Family Recipe


For this project you will research a recipe of your choice, and present about the chemistry involved in the recipe.


  • Choose a recipe with at least six ingredients that you love, you are interested in trying, or that is special to your family. (The recipes will be added to our course cookbook!)
  • Your presentation should include:
    • A list of the ingredients, including quantities needed for each item.
    • A descriptive step-by-step procedure for making the recipe.  
    • An explanation of why you chose the recipe.
    • A photograph of the final dish/item after it is made.
    • An analysis of the chemistry of at least 4 ingredients. For each ingredient this includes:
      • The chemical name of the ingredient (or a main component of the ingredient)
        • The chemical formula and structure (if applicable) of the ingredient (label structure)
        • An important physical or chemical property related to the ingredient
        • An explanation of the purpose of the ingredient in this recipe (examples: it could be related to flavor, texture, a reaction, etc.)
      • A science-based explanation ofat least two ingredient interactions.
        • Example:in a Tzatziki recipe it calls for a tablespoon of lemon juice and a clove of garlic. When making the recipe, the acidity of the lemon juice denatures the alliinase enzyme in garlic, which produces the flavor compound allicin, making the garlic flavor less potent and more enjoyable in the final dish. 
      • Citations of any images used, and for the recipe (if relevant).

    Extension Opportunity (optional)

    You can choose to make the recipe at home, with parent permission and supervision. If you do this, please include several photographs documenting several steps in your experience!