The quest to better understand soggy cereal might not seem that complicated. Cereal is crispy. Milk is a liquid. You put something crisp in a liquid and it’s going to go limp. Pretty straightforward, right?
Apparently not. Scientists have actually spent decades trying to better under why and how cereal and other food items become soggy. And in fact, they continue to uncover new information. Micha Peleg, a researcher with the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, recently had a paper published on “Crunchiness Loss and Moisture Toughening in Puffed Cereals and Snacks.” In it, he discusses the concept of “moisture toughening.” Turns out that between its states of crunchy goodness and soggy disgustingness, cereal actually becomes stiffer for a short time.
“We have concluded that the partial plasticization, which caused the brittleness loss, also inhibited failure propagation, which allowed the solid matrix to sustain higher stresses,” the paper states in explaining why, during that transitional period, cereal is perceived as being “harder.” Now, let’s all take a deep breath and remember that this research was conducted on Peanut Butter Crunch. The guy talking about the peanut butter-flavored spinoff of Cap’n Crunch!
According to Popular Science, research like this could be helpful for food manufacturers who are working to tweak their products to get a perfect texture. If you’re a scientist, it’s also a great way to use academic grants to cover your breakfast.