Cover image for Homeschool Cooking Science Elective post showing pieces of bread dough and a rolling pin.

Our Homeschool Cooking Science Elective

We just finished up our first middle school quarterly elective in our homeschool…Cooking Science!  This is the first year we are trying quarterly electives.  We always have so many ideas of fun things we want to do, but then have trouble fitting them all in.  So we decided to work them in as quarterly electives and started the school year with Cooking Science.

Not only is cooking great for learning science as you will see below, but it is great for building so many other skills...fine motor skills, math, reading, following directions, and executive function skills to just name a few!

Below I share the book we used as our spine, how we structured our learning, and a variety of video series that we found helpful.

Pinnable cover image for Homeschool Cooking Science Elective post with layers of different colored liquids in a glass on a counter.

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Kitchen Science Lab for Kids

We used Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: Edible Edition as our spine for our Cooking Science elective.  I had picked it up a few years ago, but had not really used it much so this was the perfect way to utilize it.

The recipes (or labs as they call them) are organized much like a typical cookbook with drinks, snacks, sides, entrees and other similar categories.  Each recipe is designed to teach you a certain scientific concept, which is noted in the Table of Contents.

Not only can you choose recipes/labs by the scientific concept, but you can turn to the recipe itself and see what Challenge Level it is and how much time it will take to help you decide what will work for your family.

Open cookbook showing recipe for a vinaigrette with a bowl of vinaigrette sitting on the page.

Once you pick a recipe/lab, you can read The Science Behind the Food section to see what you will learn.  We also liked to add videos at this point to help us understand the science better.  Below I include our favorite YouTube series for this.

The Ingredients, Equipment, Safety Tips and Hints, and Recipe sections are all nicely laid out and well explained.  Occasionally, there was a hint I wish had been in the book that I had to learn elsewhere.  Like when our meringue would not foam, I learned by posting our failure on Instagram that we should wipe down the beaters with lemon juice to remove any fat.  Fat touching meringue will keep it from foaming…Who knew?…Not me!

There are 52 recipes/labs in the book so we picked the ones we wanted to do for our quarterly elective.  If you did a semester long Cooking Science Class, you could average two recipes a week and work through all of them!

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: EDIBLE EDITION: 52 Mouth-Watering Recipes and the Everyday Science That Makes Them Taste Amazing
  • Heinecke, Liz Lee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 06/11/2019 (Publication Date) - Quarry Books (Publisher)

How We Structured Homeschool Cooking Science

We did two recipes a week, which we picked the weekend before so we could gather the materials we needed and make sure we set aside enough time to complete them.  Planning ahead is key!  There were a few times I realized we needed to be somewhere and had not allotted enough time to complete a recipe.  Then, we had to reschedule it for another day.

We started each “lesson” by reading the science behind it and watching a few videos about the topic.

Then, we read over the recipe and made a plan.  As my son became more comfortable with cooking, he began to read the recipes and get started independently.

This was great, but I realized after he missed some details a few times, that I should also have read the recipe carefully so I could see if he was following it correctly.  It is good for kids to learn from small mistakes, but having to start a recipe over or throw a whole recipe out is not always great for building confidence or the budget.  So trying to catch mistakes earlier and correct them is helpful.

If you have a child that often misses details, showing them how to underline important details in the recipe before getting started would be good.

Boy scooping sugar into a bowl.

Once we finished the recipe and taste tested it, he completed a notebooking page.  Here he wrote what he learned…this could be the science topic we were trying to learn and/or something else he learned related to cooking the recipe.  He also included how he liked the recipe along with a rating.  I encouraged him to include a drawing each time, just to work on his visualization skills.  You can grab the notebooking page here, if you would like to use it in your home kitchen.

Cooking Science Notebooking page with sections to write what you learned, how the recipe turned out, a rating, and a picture.

Cooking Science Video Series We Used

We enjoyed using videos to explain the science and/or culture behind the recipes we were making.  Here are some of our favorite series you could incorporate into a cooking science course.  If you are looking for more of a “how to cook” series of videos to do with your kids, check out Cook with Amber.

What’s The Food by Daniel Delaney

This series of about 180 videos is great for learning about foods that might be slightly exotic.  We found it when we were making bubble tea with tapioca pearls.  Each video is about 2-6 minutes long.

PBS Food: Food – Delicious Science

There are several playlists at the PBS Food channel on YouTube, including some full episodes of No Passport Required.  We discovered their series of short Food – Delicious Science videos when we were learning about the Maillard reaction.  Their Serving Up Science playlist also looks good for questions people often ask about nutrition.

The Maillard reaction browned our pretzels.

Minute Food

We also discovered Minute Food videos when we were learning about the Maillard reaction.  They have several playlists that focus on topics such as kitchen tools, cooking techniques, flavor and food safety.  Their videos are typically 5-6 minutes long.

The Eat Happy Project

This YouTube channel is focused on sustainable farming and farm to fork types of food.  We discovered them when we tried to make fruit leather. (I say “tried” because it never dried out enough.) They have a few videos about preserving foods as well as healthy eating videos for kids and some field trips to farms.

Adam Ragusea: Food Science

Adam Ragusea’s videos are aimed more at adults and I personally learned a lot from them.  But they are also appropriate for middle and high school.  He has several playlists including a Food Science playlist of over 100 videos.  This is where we discovered his video on lacto-fermentation when we preserved carrots.  Note: his videos can be up to 15 minutes long.

Cookbook showing beginning of recipe for Tangy Green Beans and Carrots with a hand stuffing carrot sticks into a mason jar.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.  We had actually watched this as a family before we ever started our Cooking elective.  There are four episodes, each focusing one of the four basic keys to cooking.  Each episode also takes you to a different country. Samin Nosrat, the host of the show, also has a book. 

Other Cooking Resources

This Cooking Science Elective is just one way you could incorporate cooking into your homeschool life.  Jennifer over at The Organized Homeschooler created a Cooking Elective last year for one of her high schoolers, which I watched unfold on her Instagram Stories.  The goal of her cooking elective was to build skills to plan and prepare meals and use a variety of tools and techniques in the kitchen.  Check out her Personalized Homeschool Cooking Curriculum here.

And if you have younger children and the thought of getting in them kitchen with them makes your eye twitch, I hear you!  Here are some tips of how I set us up for success in the kitchen when my boys were younger.  You will see from one of the pictures, that we still made messes some time!

You may find that YOU become more inspired to learn science when you are cooking.  After we finished our elective, I started reading Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking.

Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking
  • Field, Simon Quellen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 11/01/2011 (Publication Date) - Chicago Review Press (Publisher)

How have you used cooking in your homeschool?  Comment below or send us a message.