activity

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!

safety
  • No safety considerations
difficulty
  • Beginner
time
  • 20 minutes

hey curious cook—

Have you heard about our Young Chefs’ Club? Members get a themed (and kid-tested) box delivered each month!

Prepare Ingredients

3 wide, thin, and crispy or crunchy snack foods, such as:

Potato chips
Kettle chips
Pringles potato chips
Tortilla chips
Doritos chips
Saltines
Water crackers

Gather Equipment

Texture Investigator card
Pencil or pen
2
small paper or plastic cups, about 3 ounces each, both the same size
Digital kitchen scale
Pen with rounded cap or pencil with rounded eraser

Part 1: Explore!

1
 

Crispy and crunchy are two words that are often used interchangeably to describe food texture. But they actually mean two different things:

  • Crispy foods tend to be hard but delicate—they break or shatter easily.
  • Crunchy foods tend to be thicker and make a crushing noise when you chew them.
 
2
 
3
wide, thin, and crispy or crunchy snack foods

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.

 

Part 2: Listen!

1
 

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.

 
2
 

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.

 
3
 

Analyze your results: Did the snacks sound the same or different when you chewed them? Did the snacks you rated as crispy in part 1 have a higher-pitched sound when you ate them? Did the snacks you rated as crunchy in part 2 have a lower-pitched sound when you ate them?

 

Part 3: Measure!

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.

1
 

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).

 
2
 

Press the “tare” or “zero” button on your scale. It should now show zero weight.

 
3
 

While your observer watches the reading on the scale, use the pen cap or pencil eraser to gently press on the center of the chip or cracker. As slowly as you can, press down harder and harder until the chip or cracker breaks. Record the reading on the scale (in ounces) when the chip or cracker breaks on your Texture Investigator card. This should be the maximum force reading. (If it takes A LOT of force to break a chip or cracker, you might max out how much force your scale can measure—that’s OK! You can record “max” as your data point for that food.)

 
4
 

Repeat this test 3 times with each type of chip or cracker. Do you get similar results each time?

 
5
 

Analyze your results! Which foods took the most force to break? Which foods took the least force to break? In the Young Chefs’ Club lab, we found that crispy foods usually took less force to break than crunchy foods—were your results similar?