What Does Baking Soda Do?

baking-soda Credit: Bill Boch/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Baking soda neutralizes the acid in recipes and aids in the leavening process. Once baking soda is mixed with other ingredients and placed into the oven, a chemical reaction creates bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand.

Baking soda is stronger than baking powder and can be used as a substitute in some recipes, as long as there is an adequate acid reagent to counteract its affects. It is ideal in recipes that include acidic ingredients such as chocolate, vinegar, sour cream or buttermilk. Baking soda is often added to pancakes, cakes, cookies and breads to provide the correct texture and tenderness. It can also be sprinkled over vegetables during the cooking process to make them more tender.

Baking soda is chemically known as sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate and is used for more than just cooking purposes. It has a vast array of cleaning abilities as well. Since it neutralizes acids, it works great as a stain remover or to clean up vomit, urine or battery acid. One can add a few pinches into the washing machine as a fabric softener and to help get rid of strong odors. Baking soda is also used to put out grease fires. The chemical compound smothers the fire with its saponification effect.