ATK Kids

Kitchen Classroom 2021: Week 4

Resources to help kids learn in the kitchen—and make something delicious along the way.

Published Jan. 22, 2021.

Welcome to week 4 of Kitchen Classroom 2021, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly list of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities paired with suggestions for how to bring learning to life in the kitchen.

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This week, kids can cook a batch of Turkey Burgers for family dinner while learning about the important role temperature plays in cooking; explore the science behind what gives Pretzel Rolls their signature color and flavor; observe the physics of how a blender works while making some quick and easy Mixed Berry Smoothies; and perform an experiment to discover which cheeses are the meltiest in The Gooey Science of Melty Cheese.

Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #atkkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more culinary content designed especially for kids, plus all of the Kitchen Classroom content in one easy-to-scan location. 

Here’s what’s cooking for the week of January 25th through 31st, 2021.

From left: Turkey Burgers, Pretzel Rolls

Kids Cook Dinner: Turkey Burgers

Let kids take the lead on family burger night! Mixing the cheese right into the patties helps keep these burgers moist, while mayonnaise and panko bread crumbs keep them cohesive yet light. Family members can customize their burgers with their favorite toppings, such as lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, or a stir-together “special” sauce made from ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sriracha, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Kids will learn about temperature and thermometers while cooking these cheesy burgers. 

What You’ll Need
1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey
1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 hamburger buns

Learning Moment
Math (Measurement):
The most reliable way to check that your burgers are cooked properly is with an instant-read thermometer. Before starting to cook, ask kids what they know about temperature:

  • What tool do we use to measure temperature? (A thermometer)
  • Can they think of times when they’ve used or seen a thermometer before? ( At the doctor’s office, when checking the weather outside, when cooking)
  • Do they know which temperature scale (Fahrenheit or Celsius) is used to measure temperature where they live?

Explain to kids that temperature plays a very important role in cooking. For example, cold, raw turkey can contain microbes that might make you sick if you eat it. You have to raise the turkey’s temperature to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill those bad microbes and make it safe to eat. That’s where the instant-read thermometer comes in. 

Have kids use the instant-read thermometer to take the temperature of the turkey mixture in step 2, before forming it into patties. (Wash the thermometer probe with soap and hot water before continuing, as it touched the raw turkey.) Kids should record their observations on a piece of paper. Next, in step 4, have kids carefully take the temperature of the patties again before flipping them over (help kids with this step as needed; the pan and the food will be hot). Lastly, have kids take the temperature of the burgers at the end of step 4 as directed in the recipe.

Have kids compare the three temperatures. Ask kids: How many degrees did the temperature of the turkey mixture change from start to finish? How about in each interval? (Kids can use subtraction to figure this out.) What caused the temperature to change? (The heat from the stove.)

Take it Further
Language Arts (Speaking and Listening)
As you enjoy your burgers together, use the prompts below to help foster conversation around your table. Topics can be serious, entertaining, or even make-believe. As kids and other family members answer the questions, help them think through their thoughts and feelings about their answers and what has been said by others. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. What’s your favorite meal to eat? What’s your favorite meal to cook? If you could cook anything in the world, what would it be?
  2. Did you think making these turkey burgers was easy, medium, or hard? Have you ever helped someone do something hard? What was it? How did you help them?
  3. What toppings did you put on your burger? What are your favorite burger toppings? What other foods or sauces might taste good on a burger?

Weekend Project: Pretzel Rolls

Kids can take their sandwiches (or Turkey Burgers, see above!) to the next level with these homemade pretzel rolls, and will discover the science behind what gives them their special “pretzel-y” flavor and color. This recipe relies on the power of a stand mixer to knead the dough; we don’t recommend kneading it by hand. Be sure to use instant or rapid-rise yeast, not active dry yeast, in this recipe.

What You’ll Need
3¾ cups (20⅔ ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1½ cups (12 ounces) room-temperature water plus ½ cup (4 ounces) water, measured separately
Vegetable oil spray
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 large egg, cracked into bowl and lightly beaten with fork
1 teaspoon pretzel salt or kosher salt

Learning Moment 
Physical Science (Chemical Reactions):
When kids reach step 7 of the recipe, where they mix together baking soda and water and heat it in the microwave, ask them to make a prediction: What do they think this mixture will be used for in the recipe? Have kids look ahead to step 10, where the dough balls are dipped in the baking soda-water mixture. Was their prediction correct? Ask kids: Why do you think the dough is treated this way? What do you think the baking soda will do when the rolls are baked in the oven?

To find out, when kids reach step 10 in the recipe, use one of the dough balls in a mini science experiment: 

  • Have kids dip just one half of the ball in the baking soda-water mixture. 
  • After placing the half-dipped dough ball on the parchment-lined baking sheet, have kids use a marker to draw an arrow on the parchment pointing to the dipped side. 
  • In step 12, have kids only paint the dipped side of the dough with the egg mixture, leaving the other side plain. Sprinkle salt across the whole dough ball.
  • When the rolls are cooling in step 14, have kids observe the half-dipped roll. Can they tell which side was dipped and egg washed, and which side was left plain? How do the two sides look different? Have kids taste a bite of each side of the roll. Do they have a favorite side?

Kids likely observed that the side of the roll that was left plain was much paler and did not look shiny. Explain to kids that traditionally, pretzels are boiled in water before baking (weird, but true!) and treated with a chemical called lye, which gives pretzels a dark brown crust and a tangy, “pretzel-y” flavor. Lye can be dangerous to use, but baking soda reacts in a similar way to lye, turning the pretzel rolls brown as they bake in the oven. The egg wash in this recipe gives the rolls their shiny crust, and helps the salt to stick.

From left: Mixed Berry Smoothies, The Gooey Science of Melting Cheese

Cooking for You: Mixed Berry Smoothies

Smoothies are a quick and delicious way to enjoy more fruits and vegetables, and are easy for kids to make on their own for breakfast or an afternoon snack. In addition to these Mixed Berry Smoothies, kids can try other combinations like our Kale-Pineapple Smoothies or Cherry-Almond Smoothies, or they can make up their own flavors swapping in whatever frozen fruit or juice you have on hand. As they clean up after making their smoothies, kids will get an up-close look at how a blender works.

What You’ll Need
1 ripe banana, peeled and broken into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup orange juice

Learning Moment 
Physical Science (Force & Motion):
After adding all of the ingredients to the blender jar, but before turning the blender on, ask your young chef to pay close attention to the jar while the blender is running. What do they notice about what’s happening inside the blender jar? Explain to kids once you start the blender, the motor inside begins to turn the blades at the bottom to spin and chop the ingredients into a smooth and creamy mixture. 

This can be difficult to see while making the smoothie, but a quick and easy clean up solution provides the perfect opportunity to show to your young chef how a blender works. 

  • After making your smoothies, rinse out the blender jar, and then have kids add 1 cup of warm water, 1 drop of dish soap, and 1 drop of food coloring to the blender jar. 
  • Place the lid back on the blender and hold firmly in place with a folded dish towel. Ask kids to keep their eyes on the food coloring, then turn the blender on. 

Explain to kids that as the motor turns the blades, the circular motion creates a vortex, which is a spiral movement in the liquid (similar to the shape of a whirlpool or tornado). The vortex causes a vacuum at the bottom of the blender jar, which pulls the food coloring towards the middle and down towards the blades, the same way it pulls the fruit towards the blades when blending a smoothie. The whirling motion forces the liquid up the sides of the blender jar, whipping the ingredients in circles until they are evenly blended together. Kids should see that the water turns from clear to an even color as the mixture blends. The final result is a mixture that is uniform and smooth as all of the ingredients pass through the blades in circles over time. Bonus: Your blender jar is now clean! Rinse and dry and you’ll be ready to make smoothies again whenever the craving strikes.

Kitchen STEAM Lab: The Gooey Science of Melting Cheese

In this edible science experiment, kids will discover why some cheeses melt better than others (and make a delicious snack along the way). You can substitute pre-shredded cheese in a pinch, but avoid fresh mozzarella cheese packed in water and finely grated Parmesan cheese (the way those cheeses are made and processed cause them to melt differently). You can substitute corn tortillas or even slices of bread for the flour tortilla—whatever you have on hand.

What You’ll Need
1 (10- to 12-inch) flour tortilla
2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Learning Moment 
Science and Engineering Practices (Planning and Carrying Out Investigations):
Before you put the cheeses in the oven to melt, ask kids to make a prediction: Do they think the three cheeses will all melt the same way? Why or why not? Encourage kids to share the rationale behind their thinking. 

They will likely discover that the mozzarella melted smoothly and evenly, the sharp cheddar cheese melted but was also greasy, and the Parmesan cheese didn’t really melt at all. As they eat their cheesy creations, kids can read “Food for Thought” at the bottom of the experiment page to learn why younger, moister cheeses, such as mozzarella and Monterey Jack, are great at melting while aged, drier cheeses, such as Parmesan, don’t melt well—but do add lots of flavor.

Kids can repeat their experiment with any other cheeses you have in the refrigerator, such as Monterey Jack, mild cheddar, Swiss, or Pecorino. Based on what they learned, ask kids to predict how well a cheese melts by looking at its appearance, reading the package, and taking a taste.

On sale through January 31st, the February edition of the Young Chefs’ Club brings the delights of a diner breakfast into your home kitchen. This month’s diner-ific recipes include DIY Breakfast Sausage, Breakfast Sandwiches, and Lemon Buttermilk Flapjacks, inspired by the Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine. Kids can also discover how egg whites and egg yolks cook differently in a simple experiment, learn three ways to cook bacon, practice making fresh orange juice, and tackle this month’s Make It Your Way Challenge: Omelets! Finally, they’ll create their dream diner using our colorable, creative poster.   
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