Baking soda and baking powder are both common household items that are used for many different purposes.
However, despite this fact, both items are commonly mistaken for one another, and many people do not know what they are used for.
But are baking powder and baking soda the same thing, and if not, how do they differ?
Are They The Same Thing?
While sounding similar in terms of their names, and even looking similar in terms of their appearance, these two substances couldn’t be more different – each having different uses, and completely different chemical properties.
What Is Baking Soda?
Otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a chemical compound consisting of salt that is composed of a sodium cation (Na+), and a bicarbonate anion (HCO3), which has a white crystalline structure, and is usually presented as a fine powder.
With a slightly salty taste, and a bitterness to the overall flavor, baking soda is commonly used as a leavening agent in bread making and baking.
When the baking soda reacts with the acid in the dough, carbon dioxide is released, which then causes the dough to rise and expand – creating the characteristic grain within cake, bread, soda bread, and all manner of other baked goods.
What Is Baking Powder?
Baking powder on the other hand is a dry chemical leavening agent that consists of a carbonate, a bicarbonate, and a weak acid.
While still used within baking and cake making – where it is used to increase the volume, and lighten the texture of baked goods – it has to be used in specifically controlled amounts, and there are serious complications for consuming too much of it at once.
What Are The Differences Between The Two?
While both products serve a similar purpose – and people could be forgiven for thinking they were the same – there are actually some notable differences that set them apart from one another.
While performing similar functions, they are used at different times, and under different conditions.
Baking soda is used when there is already acidity present in the other ingredients – such as in cocoa powder.
This can then react with the acid, create carbon dioxide, and then create a fluffy, light baked product.
Baking powder on the other hand is used when there are no acidity-laden ingredients within baked goods. This will then ensure that the products become softer, lighter, and tastier.
As you can see, one is used actively, and the other is used passively – and they should not be used in their opposing functions due there being too much acidity present in the food.
They also have distinctly different chemical compositions that make them different on a molecular level.
Baking soda is a sodium bicarbonate, which then needs to be combined with acid in order to create a reaction.
Meanwhile, baking powder is a sodium bicarbonate that has already been combined with acid, meaning that it is somewhat more caustic and volatile than soda.
Baking soda is also an alkaline, which causes this reaction when mixed with acid. On the other hand, baking powder is considered more acidic due to the chemical ingredients within.
Suitability & Safety
There are also some differences with regards to their suitability and safety for consumption.
While baking soda is perfectly edible, and has been used in baking for centuries, baking powder is somewhat more harmful, and shouldn’t be ingested before the reaction has taken place.
This is due to the higher acidity within the compound, which could cause damage to internal organs, canals, and the stomach itself. This is why baking powder has to be used in specific amounts that are controlled and observed.
What Other Uses Do They Have?
While they are both used in baking, they also have other uses in and around the home.
Due to the sodium content in both products, combined with the acidity in the baking powder, both products are also widely used in cleaning – featuring heavily in cleaning products, and also being used on their own by homeowners.
They are readily used for cleaning bathtubs, shower basins, sinks, toilets, and kitchen surfaces – where they are effective for removing stubborn stains and grease.
They are also used for deodorizing – particularly with regards to carpets, fabrics, and other forms of manmade fibers.
This is due to the chemical compounds themselves, which when sprinkled on surfaces, can be used to dissolve and disperse odors and stains.
It can also be used as a natural deodorant on the human body, and when combined with other ingredients (such as coconut oil) it can be effective at removing odors and the underarm bacteria that causes it.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about baking soda and baking powder, and the differences therein.
It’s certainly true that both substances have numerous uses within daily life – each of them serving a specific purpose that makes them useful ingredients to have.
However, as this article shows, they are both distinctly different from one another, with different uses and purposes.
So if you want to learn more about baking powder and soda, then be sure to check out this handy guide. Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we know a little more about baking powder and baking soda, and the differences therein, it is now time for us to answer some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in.
Are Both Substances Edible?
No! While baking soda is edible, and has been used within recipes for hundreds of years, baking powder is used as a leavening agent, and should not be consumed.
Are They Easy To Find?
Both substances are common household items, and as such are easily found in most all purpose grocery stores, and larger supermarket chains.