Chemistry’s Role in Your Holiday Celebrations
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Gingerbread Man Holiday Scene

The holidays can be an exciting and busy time of the year. Shopping, cooking, traveling and celebrating with friends and family keep people on the go. And all of these activities are connected by chemistry. Below are just a few holiday examples of chemistry in cooking, baking and festive activities.

Brining Your Turkey

You may have heard that a poultry preparation technique called brining can help keep turkey and chicken moist and flavorful. A simple chemical interaction is what makes this process work. Learn about the science behind brining in this American Chemical Society video.

Speaking of turkey…what is the difference between an organic, all natural or antibiotic-free turkey? What about organic cranberries versus non-organic cranberries? We’ve answered your questions about the chemistry of a Thanksgiving feast.

Chemistry of Baking

Bread and other baked goods result from the interaction among a variety of chemical ingredients.

What makes bread rise?

Flour, for example, contains a variety of chemical compounds that give bread its fine texture and support the other ingredients during rising. And when baking soda, or what chemists refer to as pure sodium bicarbonate, is combined with lactose (milk), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing bread and other baked goods to rise.

Food Storage and Longer Shelf Life

A wide variety of holiday staples such as pumpkin, cranberry sauce, corn and many more, come in cans coated with an epoxy resin lining that protects the food inside from contamination and spoilage.

Keeping food fresh

Preservatives added to food fight spoilage caused by bacteria, molds, fungus and yeast. Preservatives also help extend the shelf life of food, which helps consumers determine the amount of food they need to minimize food waste.

Packing leftovers and minimizing food waste

Polycarbonate plastic food storage containers enable leftover food to stay fresh for days after holiday feasts. Plastics in general play a critical role in preventing food and packaging waste. Lightweight plastic packaging also typically uses less material and energy to manufacture than other packaging materials, which results in less packaging waste, less energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Traveling Through the Woods (or Interstate Highways)

Driving long distances to see family and friends? Automobile components made from plastic materials help make cars more lightweight and fuel-efficient, resulting in lower CO2 emissions. Today, plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars, but only 10 percent of the weight.

Inflating Balloons on Parade

The chemical element helium fills the bright balloons floating above the streets in the holiday parades. Other materials made with chemistry play a role in the balloon’s buoyancy. For example, large balloons made from polyurethane ensure a tight seal to encase the approximately 12,000 cubic feet of helium needed to make the balloon float.

Interested in learning more about how chemistry plays a role in the holidays?

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