Science truly is everywhere, even in your kitchen. As part of the Science on Tap series whose mission is to show how much fun the world of science can be, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is bringing Dr. Scott Paulson, an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at James Madison University to National Mechanics in Old City to present, "The Physics of the Perfect French Fry".
A longtime French fry enthusiast, Dr. Paulson will explore the science behind the seemingly simple act of deep frying a potato. He will discuss what variety of potato works best, if the type of oil used really matters, the interaction between the oil and the water, and high heat vs. low heat cooking techniques.
"By understanding what a potato is made of and how what it is made of interacts, we can control how we cook it to get the perfect French fry. It is kind of frustrating that although fries seem so easy to make, we never seem able to duplicate our favorite kind at home," he explained.
Dr. Paulson realizes that not everyone has the same vision of the perfect fry, so in his talk, he discusses methods that can be used for a variety of textures and flavors.
When asked what his "perfect" French fry is, he shared that he prefers "a thin French fry that gives a lot of crust, but inside is really fluffy with a strong potato flavor." "I really enjoy the contrast of flavors," he added.
The French fry has always been Dr. Paulson's favorite food, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that he began trying to effectively make his own. "I was inspired by a book, How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science by Russ Parson."
"And then one day I was discussing why you use a mix of old and new oil with family members and they suggested I make a presentation of cooking the perfect French fry. That was a couple of years ago, but I am not just now getting around to my first presentation," he said.
Dr. Paulson hopes that his enthusiasm for French fries spreads and that people begin to see cooking as a science, the systematic way of trying different recipes.
The Wagner Free Institute of Science, whose mission is to make science education available to everyone, is the sponsoring organization for this month's Science on Tap.
"We got involved with Science on Tap because it was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with some of the city's best science and cultural institutions. Our mission has always been to make science education free and accessible to all, and Science on Tap fits perfectly with this mission plus it allows us to widen our audience to a new generation of people who are looking for social, interactive experiences outside a museum or lecture hall setting," said Cara Scharf, program and communications manager at the Wagner Free Institute of Science.
"At Science on Tap the goal is to promote enthusiasm for science. Our talks show that scientific principles are at work in everyday situations, such as when you're cooking and/or eating French fries. Most of all, we hope people learn something new and have fun," she added.
This installment of Science on Tap will take place on Monday, December 8 at National Mechanics in Old City. The event is open to the public, but you must be twenty-one or older. Doors will open at 5 p.m. with the presentation starting at 6 p.m.
Science on Tap is a monthly science café that features a brief, informal presentation by a scientist or other expert followed by lively conversation. It is sponsored by a consortium of five Philadelphia institutions: the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Philosophical Society Museum, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.