Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (aka Baking soda & sodium bicarbonate) are two very common and useful ingredients for cooking various baked foods. But many of us actually do not have any idea of these two chemicals. We often get confused between these two ingredients. We often became clueless before adding any one of these two ingredients. Both are used to make food fluffy and not only that both items sound similar – Baking powder & baking soda, haha. So what is the difference between baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)?
Scroll down to directly check the differences between two substances
Even, I had no idea about the differences between these two. I only knew that I can add baking powder any batter what I want to make fluffy. But if I want to add baking soda then there should an acidic ingredient (lemon juice, curd etc) along with baking soda.
Why? I had no idea. I just knew that it is the thumb rule for choosing baking powder & baking soda.
But recently I was searching for an organic fungicide for my plants. Then I suddenly came to know that baking soda can be used as an organic fungicide. I was surprised to know this because it is a common ingredient in every kitchen in India, probably all over the world. Did you know it? Though it is not fully effective and still it is a good organic fungicide which is not even toxic for our body.
After that, I started knowing more about these two common household chemicals and the difference between baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).
So do you have any idea?
Okay, I have collected some information for me. I tried to understand that and find my answers.
I hope it will also help you to understand the differences between baking powder and baking soda. If you have some basic knowledge of chemistry then it will be much easier to understand.
If you do not understand everything then also you will definitely understand something.
Okay, let’s discuss.
Why do we use baking soda & baking powder in a recipe?
Actually, it acts as a leavener or a leavening agent. I mean it works to make your food rise. In a simple word, baking soda makes your food fluffy. Both are used to make cakes, cookies, biscuits and any other baked foods.
Baking soda (Bicarbonate of soda)
What is bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)?
Bicarbonate of Soda or Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is the most confusing chemical substance. Is it not true?
Bicarbonate of soda! It sounds like doing practical experiment with chemicals that to in a kitchen. If you are not from science background or do not want to remember all those experiments what you did in you your school at chemistry lab then you may be demotivated to read further or understand the difference.
The chemical formula/symbol of bicarbonate of soda/Sodium bicarbonate/baking soda is NaHCO3. Can you remember all those symbols
Na stands for Sodium
H stands for Hydrogen
C stands for Carbon
O stands for Oxygen
There is another chemical substance which is Na2Co3 (or Sodium Carbonate). But baking soda has more amount of carbon dioxide that you can understand from the formula. I mean each molecule of sodium contains more carbon dioxide in baking soda.
Now baking soda is a BASE or Alkaline chemical substance. That means its pH value will be higher than 7. It is a white solid & available in crystalline form. But in our kitchen, we see it in fine powder form.
As baking soda is a BASE then naturally when it will come in contact with acid then the reaction will happen and it will produce Carbon dioxide. Is this not true? Remember your school level chemistry lab experiments.
How does baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) work?
As we know that baking soda is a BASE then when it comes in contact with acid then it reacts and produced CO2 which make food rise. So we need to have an acidic ingredient in that recipe like vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, tartar of cream etc. So when we add baking soda and another ingredient which is acidic in nature then it will start reaction to produce carbon dioxide.
But this process happens in room temperature and so it produces CO2 very slowly what does not make it rise. So you need to heat that so it makes the process faster. So that enough CO2 can be generated to make food fluffy.
Not only that, if you heat bicarbonate of soda then also it generates the half amount of CO2.
2NaHCO3 -> Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O
So without acidic ingredient, your food will become bitter in taste or soapy in flavor, at the same time it will bring extra yellowish color in food too.
What are the disadvantages of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)?
Firstly, you need an acidic ingredient along with baking soda
Secondly, if you add an extra amount of baking soda then there will be always some leftover baking soda or sodium carbonate what will make your food soapy in taste or bitter in taste.
Thirdly, if you add less amount of baking soda then your acidic ingredients will not get neutralized what makes your food sour in taste and food will not enough fluffy.
What is baking powder?
It is a leavening agent what helps food to rise and make it fluffy. Now, what is in it?
It contains 30% of bicarbonate of soda and a week dry acid in the form of phosphate or sulfate substances. It may have the cream of tartar, a derivative of tartaric acid. But nowadays monocalcium phosphate is commonly used to make as an acid salt. There may be some other acid salts (like sulfate acid) too.
14 NaHCO3 + 5 Ca(H2PO4)2 → 14 CO2 + Ca5(PO4)3OH + 7 Na2HPO4 + 13 H2O
Ca(H2PO4)2 stands for monocalcium phosphate
Corn starch is also added to this powder because it resists both chemicals to perform any reaction.
How does baking powder works?
Till this stage, you probably understood the functions of NaHCO3. So when we combine both dry ingredients & wet ingredients of a batter. Then the moments baking powder comes in contact with water, it starts ACID-BASE reaction. That reaction produces CO2 gas. this gas helps the batter to rise.
But here you may have two types of baking powder. Firstly, single action baking powder and secondly, double action baking powder.
- Single action baking powder: It contains only slow acting acid. Slow acting acid means what reacts with the BASE very slowly at room temperature. But when we heat it then it starts acting fast. So in case of single acting baking powder, very minimum amount of CO2 gas is produced when we combine both dry & wet ingredients at room temperature. But when we put it in an oven and apply heat then it starts the actual reaction. That means it works only when we heat it.
- Double action baking powder: It contains both slow acting acid as well as fast acting acid. That means when you combine both dry & wet ingredients, it starts reaction at that time. It is because of fast-acting acids which can work fast at room temperature. Then it works again when you heat it. As it acts twice that is why it is named double action baking powder.
Disadvantages of baking powder?
Baking powder is less strong than bicarbonate of soda. So you need to add more baking powder than baking soda.
Though there is no such disadvantage of baking powder over the baking soda. But both baking soda & baking powder can be harmful if you overuse it, particularly you are advised to follow low sodium diet. Excess use of bicarbonate of soda may lead you to several side effects like gas, nausea, stomach pain etc.
What is the difference between baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- Baking powder contains almost 30% of baking soda and rest is dry weak acid (like cream of tartar) and corn starch what resist both chemicals to react. like. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) contains only NaHCO3 (Sodium bicarbonate powder)
- Baking powder is less powerful but baking soda is 2 or 3 times more powerful than baking powder.
- Baking powder starts working when it comes in contact with water. It does not need any other ingredient with acidic nature. But baking soda needs liquid ingredient of acidic nature to start the reaction and generate carbon dioxide.
How to inspect baking powder & its freshness?
You just need to add half teaspoon of baking powder to one cup of warm water and stir. It will start the reaction and generate CO2 gas. You can notice bubbling in water. If you do not notice anything then discard it and buy a fresh pack of baking powder.
How to inspect baking soda & its freshness?
First, add half teaspoon of baking soda to one cup of warm water and stir. You will notice nothing in that cup of tea. That means it is not baking powder. Then add 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar to that cup of water. Then it will start the reaction and you will notice bubbling in water. That means it is fresh baking soda. If you notice nothing then discard it and buy a fresh one.
Why do people use both baking powder & baking soda in some recipes?
Yes, it happens when we use both of these two chemicals. When the amount of acidic ingredient is less and it is not sufficient to produce enough CO2 but you do not want a sour taste in your food then can add both baking powder and baking soda.
Well, this wall all what I understood. I never knew all these things before I wanted to know this. It looks like a chemistry chapter but basic thing is that I can add baking powder directly to the batter. But I should only use baking soda when one of the other ingredients is acidic in nature.