Crispy and crunchy are two of the most popular food textures, especially for snack foods. Scientists have been studying what makes foods crispy or crunchy for decades . . . now it’s your turn!
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3 wide, thin, and crispy or crunchy snack foods, such as:
Crispy and crunchy are two words that are often used interchangeably to describe food texture. But they actually mean two different things:
Take a look at the foods you’ve gathered for your experiment. Eat a sample of each. Would you categorize each food as crispy or crunchy? How do you know? Keep track of your observations on your Texture Investigator card.
First, some background information: Scientists agree that crispy foods and crunchy foods sound different when we eat them. In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that people describe foods that make higher-pitched sounds when they chew them as crispy and foods that make lower-pitched sounds when they chew them as crunchy.
Try it for yourself! Find a quiet space. Eat 1 or 2 of each chip or cracker. As you eat each one, think about what it sounds like while you chew: Does it sound crispy (higher‑pitched) or crunchy (lower-pitched)? Rate the sound of each food on your Texture Investigator card.
In this part, you’ll use a scale to measure how much force it takes to break each chip or cracker. The amount of force tells you how hard you would have to push down with your teeth to bite through the food. We highly recommend having an adult or friend help you with this experiment. One person can push down on the chip or cracker until it breaks. The other person can observe the reading on the scale.
Make sure your scale is set to measure ounces. Place 2 small paper or plastic cups upside down on your digital kitchen scale. Lay a single chip or cracker across the cups (like a bridge).
Congratulations, scientist! The experiments you just completed are very similar to ones that professional scientists conduct in their labs. When scientists are studying the texture of different foods, they use two different kinds of tests:
Sensory Analysis: A group of people use their senses (touch, sight, smell, taste, hearing) to rate different properties of food, like its texture. You did some sensory analysis when you compared the sounds of eating different foods. This kind of testing is subjective—each person gives their own opinion.
Texture Analysis: Special machines measure different properties of foods, such as the crispiness of a potato chip or the softness of a muffin. You did a kind of texture analysis when you measured how much force it took to break each food. This kind of testing is objective: No opinions are involved, just measurements and numbers.
Scientists use a combination of sensory analysis AND texture analysis to help them understand what people like and don’t like about different foods. Sensory analysis tells us what people experience when they’re eating. Texture analysis gives us details on the exact properties of different foods, such as hardness and chewiness. Machines can measure these properties much better than people—and since they don’t eat, there aren’t any foods they don’t like!