Food science experiments can be characterized in several different ways. One way is by their purpose. Food science experiments may be performed with the intention of developing new foods, testing the market, creating a new recipe, or uncovering nutritional effects. Food science experiments are also done as science projects or science fair projects to learn about food and to research various aspects of food science.
Food manufacturers do product tests on foods in order to make sure certain nutritional criteria are met or to test their marketability. For example, a manufacturer may experiment with creating a low-fat version of a food that they currently offer or a low-salt version, a version with wheat flour instead of white flour or an organic version. In each case, the manufacturer needs to determine how successful the substitution has been in terms of nutrition as well as taste.
Alternatively, a food manufacturer may wish to taste-test an entirely new product, such as a new flavor of an existing product to make sure it is appealing. This may involve detailed blind tests against competitors or with several possible versions of the product, both within the company and with consumers. Tests may involve not only the eating experience, such as the flavor, texture, and smell, but also the name and packaging.
Recipe testing by individual chefs is another type of food science experiment in which different cooking methods, cooking at different temperatures and different lengths of time, trying different amounts of various ingredients, and/or incorporating ingredients in different orders are all involved. This type of recipe testing is done by restaurant chefs creating new dishes to serve and by cookbook writers preparing an original recipe. Everyday household cooks in their everyday kitchens do food science experiments when they try out some new approach, ingredient, or variation in their cooking and see how their families react.
Food science experiments in the service of research can take a variety of forms. For example, in early 2009, New York Times reporter Harold McGee asked the question, “How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?”—answering in an article of that name his own question about “greening” the cooking of pasta by using less water and less energy. Nutrition-oriented research on the efficacy of a certain diet for a certain purpose, healthfulness of particular regimen, the accuracy of food-labeling, the value of various nutritional supplements, etc., are carried on by food manufacturers, independent researchers, and the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration). School science projects and science fairs provide another milieu for food science experiments of this type.