In this family STEM activity, students can use ordinary table sugar to test the accuracy of their oven. Does the temperature inside the oven really match the temperature it shows? Find out with a kitchen science experiment!
The Melting Point of Sugar
When following a recipe, you are typically given both a temperature for the oven and an amount of time that the food should cook. If you have ever pulled out a tray of brownies, a cake, muffins, or cookies only to find they aren't done when the timer goes off, it may be the your oven isn't really reaching the temperature it shows. Using sugar, you can put your oven's temperature setting to the test!
This week, families can test the household oven with a fun hands-on kitchen science activity. Because sugar melts at a specific temperature, you can use sugar to see whether your oven is properly calibrated or not. In this science activity, kids will make simple baking containers from aluminum foil and bake sugar at specific temperatures for set amounts of time. For each test, kids can then compare the baked sugar to unbaked sugar and observe any similarities or differences. What happens to sugar when it is heated but doesn't reach its melting point? What happens to sugar that is heated to its melting point? If the oven is set to a temperature that is greater than the melting point of sugar, and the sugar doesn't melt, what does that tell you about the oven?
After this week's science experiment, you and your kids may be able to tweak your cookie baking for better results!
The following Science Buddies activity on the Scientific American website has all the information you need to do this science activity with your students at home: Making a Sugar Thermometer.
Students interested in science questions related to this week's family science activity or to other kitchen science, baking, and cooking experiments, may also enjoy the following hands-on science project ideas:
- Making Maple Syrup Candy: How Does Temperature Affect It?
- The Sweet Beginnings of Caramelization *
- Abracadabra! Transforming Yogurt into 'Ravioli'
- Great Globs of Gluten! Which Wheat Flour Has The Most?
- How Do You Make the 'Best' Cookie?
- Juice Balls: The Science of Spherification
- Mixing Your Own Marshmallows: Finding the Right Ratio of Sugar to Corn Syrup
- Perfecting Pastries: The Role of Fats in Making a Delicious Pastry
- Processed Cheese, Please! Get Your Grilled Cheese Oooey Gooey Instead of Oily and Gloppy
- The Pasta Puzzle: How Much Water is Required to Cook Pasta?
- Smashing for Mash: The Science of Making Memorable Mashed Potatoes!
- Temper, Temper, Temper! The Science of Tempering Chocolate *
- Tough Beans: Which Cooking Liquids Slow Softening the Most?