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Cooking Under Pressure

Applying the Ideal Gas Law in the Kitchen

Co Authors:

Ling Chen
Science Department
Borough of Manhattan Community College / City University of New York

Jennifer Y. Anderson
Health Science / Nursing
Brookdale Community College

Diane R. Wang
Biology, Plant Breeding and Genetics
Cornell University


The Clarksons are making dinner for friends and decide to try out their new pressure cooker. As students read the dialogue that ensues, they learn about how the boiling point of water is directly related to external pressure, apply the ideal gas law, and relate chemical reaction rates with temperatures in addition to learning about the conservation of energy. Designed for a non-majors’ general chemistry course, the case could be extended to other disciplines, including physics, nutrition, and microbiology.

  • To stimulate students’ interest in chemistry.
  • To reinforce chemistry concepts and scientific thinking skills.
  • To enhance the concept of vapor pressure of water.
  • To emphasize that the boiling points of water vary with external pressures.
  • To demonstrate that chemical reaction rates increase at higher temperatures.
  • To apply the ideal gas law to explain a real life scenario.
  • To practice unit conversion skills.
  • To create awareness of energy conservation in daily life.
Keywords: Vapor pressure; external pressure; boiling point elevation; ideal gas law; chemical reaction rate; pressure cooker
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Directed, Discussion
Language: English
Subject Headings: Chemistry (General)   Food Science / Technology   Nutrition   Microbiology  
Date Posted: 06/19/09
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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