The Physics Behind Range-Top Cooking

Essay by alyssalHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2004

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Behind the use of range-top cooking devices there are many concepts that physics can explain. For example, heat is a major concept in this type of cooking. Heat is the amount of energy that is transferred from one body to another because of a difference in temperature. When heating an object, there is a raise in the internal energy, or thermal energy, of that object. This can be achieved by transferring energy from an object with a higher temperature to one with a lower temperature. The way that thermal energy is transferred in the range-top cooking device is through conduction. This method is most common in solids, like the surface of the cooking device, and is also used in such things as thermometers. The branch of physics that explores thermal energy is called thermodynamics.

The kinetic-molecular theory can also help to explain how range-top cooking works. This theory says that in a hot body the particles move faster, so they have a higher energy than particles in a colder body.

Thus, when something is placed on the cooking device, it is colder than the device, so the device transfers heat to it, thus making it hotter.

Thermal equilibrium is also a physics term that applies to range-top cooking. Thermal equilibrium occurs when the flow of energy from one object to another is equal to the flow of energy from the object back to it. So, it is possible that once the food is placed on the cooking device and has been there for its allotted cook time, it will have gotten enough energy from the device to be said to be in thermal equilibrium with it. The second law of thermodynamics, which states that natural processes go in a direction that increases the total entropy of the universe, can...