Student’s from the Hun School of Princeton were puzzled at first when their chemistry teacher, Alex Lloyd, picked up his laptop and went into his kitchen to begin preparing himself a meal in the middle of their Zoom class.
As Lloyd put a sandwich bun in the toaster oven and started browning butter to sear some leftover chicken, he began explaining to students all of the chemical reactions that were occurring, starting with the Maillard Reaction.
It was then that student’s realized that they weren’t simply watching their teacher prepare lunch, they were learning the chemistry of cooking.
Next, Lloyd made an organic Sriracha barbecue sauce reduction and assembled his sandwich, topping it with pickled peppers. He explained that by reducing the sauce, the water evaporated from the mixture, which concentrated the flavor.
And the pickled peppers he topped his sandwich with? They were stored in salt and vinegar—preserving their texture and encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria.
To top off his tasty lunch, Lloyd cracked open a can of seltzer water to enjoy alongside his sandwich. By opening the can, he reduced the pressure on the water and shifted the equilibrium, forcing the dissolved carbon dioxide to form bubbles.
“The chemistry of cooking is not something I would typically include in my curriculum, but I had to pivot my Marking Period 4 plans since going virtual because it was so laboratory heavy,” Lloyd said.
“It was tricky at first, but it was important for me to enrich my classes with student-centered content that would excite them,” he added. “I expected that students would have standard kitchen items and cleaning supplies at home, which serve as a nice foundation for some easy at-home chemistry.”
Lloyd created the lab with the belief that chemistry is most relatable and enjoyable when students are able to find the chemistry in their everyday lives, and selfishly, he was also able to incorporate his passion for food into his teaching.
Following Lloyd’s demonstration, he asked his students to create short TikTok-style videos of their culinary reactions.
“The students had fun with this assignment, they really leaned into the TikTok format with adding music and visual effects,” Lloyd said. “They really pulled it off and incorporated great science as well as creativity and their own personal style.”
Sydney Isaacson ’22 created a TikTok video (above) demonstrating the chemical reactions that occur in her favorite snack, an apple with peanut butter.
“I really enjoyed the creativity that this assignment allowed me to show,” she said. “TikTok is a really popular app that I use all the time, so it was special that Dr. Lloyd was able to turn it into a learning tool.