Use of Thermal Energy in Cooking

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Thermal energy is present everywhere we look. From cooking, construction, roadwork, and heating and cooling our homes, it is present. Thermal energy is energy that is transferred from one object to another as a result of a temperature difference between the items (Pg 124). Kinetic energy assists in this process as the molecules within an object heat up during movement. There are three laws when looking at thermal energy. The first law states that the gain or loss of thermal energy is equivalent to the amount of heat transferred (Pg 126).

The second law states that heat will never spontaneously flow from a hotter to a cooler surface (Pg 126). The third law states that no object will reach absolute 0 (Pg 127). As we look closely at daily living, we see these laws in action.

When cooking, thermal energy is used to heat food. In some cases radiation from a microwave is used. In other cases, a convection oven may be used. Both sources will heat the food, but in different ways.

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Radiation uses waves to heat the food. The convection oven forces hot air around the food items to cook them. One fact that I found interesting is that different food items, or even different components of food hold varying amounts of heat. The method used to cook the food can also contribute to the amount of heat that is absorbed into the food item.

An example of food components retaining varying amounts of heat is a pie. If you were to try to eat a slice of pie straight out of the oven, part of it would likely burn you.

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An interesting insight is the crust is cooler than the pie filling. Previously I would have thought that both the crust and the pie filling would be the same temperature. However, due to liquids allowing for more movement of molecules, the amount of heat absorbed is greater (Pg 129).

Thermal energy must be considered by construction workers that tend to roadways. Heat is known to make objects expand, while cold temperatures cause objects to shrink. One example I am familiar with is roadwork. When a pothole is filled, the asphalt used to fill it appears to shrink in the Winter months. The patches used must be able to expand and contract along with the surrounding roadway in order to keep the holes filled.

Throughout the years growing up, it has always been said that hot air rises. This is important to understand when heating a home. The flooring inside a home typically feels cooler than the air above it. This is partly due to the fact that flooring surfaces retain varying amounts of heat. Tile and wood flooring typically feel cooler than carpet does. Day to day we do not actively realize that this is based on thermal energy. We just come to know that smoother surfaces tend to be cooler. One thing I have learned as an adult is to run the ceiling fan pointing downward when running the heat in my home. As the hot air rises to the ceiling, the ceiling fan can be helpful in pushing the heat down and back around the room to warm it entirely.

In our daily lives, we tend to take science for granted. While we actively cook, clean, and heat our homes, thermal energy is present all around us. When cooking, many of us use different forms of thermal energy such as radiation in microwaves, or convection in ovens. In the cleaning process, thermal energy is present when wiping surfaces as well as in chemical reactions. Washing and drying laundry uses thermal energy as water is heated and the air is heated within the dryer allowing the clothing to dry. When heating our homes, the warm air expands and rises allowing rooms to be filled with warm air.

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Use of Thermal Energy in Cooking. (2021, Oct 05). Retrieved from

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