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Toast Formula Update!

A press release from the Royal Society of Chemistry: Formula for the perfect cheese on toast revealed.

Oh dear.

The concept of a formula for toast isn’t new to us: we discussed Professor Chris Smith / The Big Bang Theory’s ‘formula’ for falling toast in September.

Now Ruth Neale, Science Executive of the RSC, joins the field wearing the British Cheese Board’s colours. Here’s a formula for the perfect cheese on toast (also known as grilled cheese):


Fortunately for us, it’s a chemistry formula, so I won’t make our usual complaints about things like typesetting and syntax. The only weird thing is that the key lists “sliced”, “hard” and “cheese” as separate quantities. What are their dimensions?

Anyway, nobody was distracted from important work in the making of this press release: Ruth only holds an MChem and works in science communication for the RSC, and this formula is just a rather overwrought way of saying “put 50g of sliced hard cheese on a thickish bit of bread and grill quite far from the flame for four minutes.”

I reckon this is about as benign as a nonsense formula story can get; it’s not even worth breaking out the Nonsense Formula Disapprove-o-Matic we used on the last toast formula. So it’s unusual that this is the straw that has broken UK middlebrow newspaper The Independent’s back, prompting a piece titled “Perfect cheese on toast: If b=bread, c=cheese and t=time, what is the point of all these formulae?” Kashmira Gander, I share your pain, but you could’ve picked a better example!

Actually, journalists usually compound the anti-reason in these press releases, so I had a quick look at various outlets which had republished the story. Sure enough, some had overreached and claimed the formula is somehow mathematical.

  • Huffington Post – “They then whittled it down from 120 difference recipes and came up with a mathematical formula”
  • Grist – “Have you ever wondered whether you’re making cheese toast using the mathematically ideal method?”
  • Medindia – “A complex mathematical formula for calculating how to make the perfect cheese on toast was devised by scientists at the Royal Society of Chemistry.”
  • The Times of India – “Scientists at the Royal Society of Chemistry have devised a complex mathematical formula for calculating how to make the perfect cheese on toast.”

Source: Formula for the perfect cheese on toast revealed, press release from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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