Chemical reactions in cooking and energy saving cooking discovery
Posted on December 26th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera     London

With the application of heat or in presence of other chemicals, very likely chemical changes take place. In chemistry we come across many chemical reactions where breaking bonds need heat then making bonds give out heat, these are quite common in thermo-chemistry. When there are rice grains in contact with water in a cooking pan, there are chemical reactions taking place but at a slow rate than in the absence of heat. If we left rice in water for a long time, it get soaked due a slow chemical reaction. Once it is heated, the reactions take place quickly.

Even cooking gas, methane needs heat to start that is an endothermic reaction but once started it gives so much heat then the overall reaction is exothermic. When bonds break they are the exothermic reactions and endothermic reactions are where heat is absorbed.

 When we make Sinhala ach charu”, we put all the ingredients and close the lid of the bottle or the pot so the chemicals are in a closed environment then after two or three days, what do you get is the real smell of the pickle due to formation of an ester. In making this pickle the ingredients such as red onions, green chillies and raw papaw are slightly warmed in coconut vinegar to initiate the reaction then they are bottled with some ground mustard, cinnamon, teaspoonful of sugar, a dash of turmeric powder, some lemon grass then with a few cloves and cardamoms. Once those chemicals are in that closed environment, those chemicals react and interact to produce a tasty edible products called, Ach charu”. Very likely these are prepared by Sri Lankans on special occasions such as in Christmas and Sinhalese New Year.

 What happens in cooking rice?

When you need to cook rice, you need to boil rice with water then after forming cooked rice, the smell changes due to the formation of a different chemical that is unforgettable smell of cooked rice. Whether you add or didn’t add water, most food have a large percentage of water but in cooking rice one needs to add water then heat undergo convection currents in supplying heat to rice grains. As we heat the pot of rice on fire, from the bottom of the pot to the top of the pot there is a temperature gradient. If the lid was in a closed position then there would be a time that there is a uniform temperature throughout. Within a matter of minutes, it starts frothing and often it overflows. I have witnessed most Sri Lankan ladies then immediately open until it settles for a matter of minutes then put the lid back, this is an important state of cooking. When we opened the lid, immediately some heat is lost and to me it is a wastage of energy. I have noticed most people open the lid and check the water by inserting a long handle of a wooden spoon called, Polkatu handa” to check whether it is cooked or not. This is somewhat similar to dip stick in a car to check the oil.  In my view if the lid was opened, then even temperature gradient falls, loses some heat and the top layer loses more heat. In some cases then they add some cold water, sometimes stir the rice. Then what happens? The cooked rice get mixed with partially cooked ones, then sometimes it cooks alright but often it goes wrong. The familiar term is Attakuna” or when it goes pear shaped. To my surprise, the servants, Kussi Amma” knew the science of cooking rice, they never knew all these chemical reactions but got it right, it amazes me. How did they knew the science of cooking rice?

If rice got burnt then you get the unmistakable smell of dankuda”, I am sure you know what I mean? This is not uncommon if one cooks rice on firewood stoves because lack of control of the fire. I must admit some people are quite used to cook on firewood stoves, so they get it perfect. Many years ago we also never had gas or electric cookers at home.

Chicken curries

In any food, cooking makes a chemical change. When cooking chicken, fish or any vegetable curry, you add a few spices including salt and some water. All spices have so many aromatic chemicals and the smell is due to some volatile chemicals for example cinnamon has 12 aromatic chemicals and cloves, curry leaves, coriander, chilli have plenty of complicated chemicals in them to name them individually. The watery media helps the reactions, may be it acts as an electrolyte, I never know. The chemicals volatility depends on temperature, quicker you heat by applying more heat, faster they come out so for this reason some spices are added in the coarse form so the release of chemicals is slow. Garcinia Indica or goraka are just added so the chemicals are released quite slowly.  In the presence of heat, spices, meat or in rice some chemicals bonds tend to breaks while some chemical bonds holding the compounds together. Breaking those bonds makes those foods softer, then recombination with other chemicals make easier to chew, gives a palatable taste and easier to digest.

No wonder the servants; kussi amma” reduced the temperature of cooking rice at a certain stage, just by sheer observation, how clever they are? Many science discoveries were made by observation, like the gravitational pull then discovery of density by Archimedes.

Eureka Eureka

When Archimedes got into a bath tub full of water, he noticed some water over flew then he came to conclusion that the weight of water over flew is equal in weight to the body weight. He was so excited, no time even to cover up his dignity, he ran all the way to the palace repeatedly shouting, Eureka”. That means I have found it, the reputed exclamation of Archimedes when he discovered a method of detecting the amount of gold in the crown of the King Syracuse.

Scientific energy saving cooking

For many years, I worked systematically to discover how to save energy wasted in cooking food such as rice, pasta, spaghetti and curries such as chicken, fish or vegetables. I made it clear, my method does not apply to baking and grill cooking. Now I have proved my energy saving discovery to the Sustainable Energy Authority in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Invention Commission also accepted and added my work to their official web site.

Then went on a live cooking demonstration for a full length of time in a famous TV called Sirasa in Sri Lanka and demonstrated to the benefit of millions of viewers. I am quite confident in saving a considerable amount of energy wasted in cooking. My question is why waste energy when some of it can be saved?

My challenge still remains

I still keep my challenge that is if any British yes British energy authority or any gas or electricity company come forward to disprove my energy saving technique then I am prepared to give away that challenged money. I have no more questions with Sri Lanka energy authorities, they have officially accepted and awarded a certificate. I have my challenge of £50,000 yes fifty thousand sterling for any British energy authority to come forward and challenge my discovery. My work is based on science then according to science, Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, I am sure you know what I mean. Any comments please [email protected]

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