Differentiation in practical food lessons.

Differentiation in lessons is important to meet the needs of all pupils. It is often referred to a lot in CPD training days but very often CPD events do not give concrete ways of how to differentiate in practical food lessons.

As head of food, I am currently planning a training day for all staff who teach food in our school to prepare us all for the beginning of the new Food Preparation and Nutrition curriculum. One of the key things I am keen to promote within this training is that we make the curriculum accessible to all pupils through differentiation so that they all make progress, become independent learners, are motivated to learn. Ultimately, differentiation could be used successfully to increase their confidence in food lessons.

So, I have decided to use the recipe ‘Quiche Lorraine’ and the topic of ‘pastry’ to give some examples on how differentiation can be used in practical food lessons.

Here is the recipe


Quiche Lorraine


200g plain flour
50g butter 50g white fat
50ml cold water (preferably chilled in advance)

2 rashers of back bacon

3 eggs

100ml single cream

100ml milk
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
1 small onion – finely chopped
black pepper to season

100g cheese preferably Gruyere




  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC or Gas Mark 5.
  2. Sieve flour into a bowl. Cut the fat into flour and rub the flour and fat between your fingers and thumbs until you get a mixture with the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the water and use a table knife to cut the water through the mixture to eventually form a soft and pliable dough. Do not knead the dough.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 3mm thick – it should behave like standard dough, so if you find it is cracking, add a little more water (if the pastry has become too warm it may be necessary to chill it in the fridge for 10- 15 minutes).
  5. Line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin and trim the edges neatly using a knife.
  6. Grill the bacon and cut off the rind. Cut up the bacon into small pieces using kitchen scissors.
  7. In a bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the cream, nutmeg, the spring onions and a little pepper to taste.
  8. Sprinkle the bacon over the pastry base then pour the egg mixture on top. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
  9. Bake the quiche for 25 minutes or until the top has browned and the filling has set.

I tend to differentiate in lessons by:

  • Outcome
  • Task
  • Questioning
  • Support

For the purpose of this activity I will divide tasks into the following levels

Level 1 – Challenging

Level 2 – Difficult

Level 3 – Moderate

Level 4 – Easy



 How the Quiche Lorraine turns outs? The end result!

Give pupils an idea of the characteristics of a good quality quiche so they know what to aim for. This can be done both verbally and visually.

  • The pastry should be short and crumbly.
  • The egg mixture should be set and golden brown.
  • The flavours of the filling should be apparent.

A picture could be used to show a well-made quiche or indeed the opposite.

Could pupils be given the option to change the shape or size of the final quiche?



Could more able pupils prepare a garnish or side salad to serve with the quiche?

Could more able pupils make an enriched short crust pastry?

Could less able pupils use a standard component pastry and focus on the other skills in this recipe?

Provide pupils with an assessment for learning grid or worksheet so that they can assess their work and their final outcomes.


Although all pupils are aiming to make a Quiche, this task can take place in different ways.

Differentiating by ingredient and how to prepare it


Level 1 – Pupils to caramelise onion to add as a filling.

Level 2 – Pupils to fry onion before adding to filling.

Level 3 – Pupils to dice onion finely.

Level 4 – Pupils to use three spring onions finely chopped instead of an onion.


Level 1 -2 – grate whole nutmeg

Level 3-4 – use ground nutmeg


Differentiating by cooking method used for cooking bacon

Level 1 – Grilling the bacon

Level2 – Frying the bacon

Level 3 – 4 – Using an electric griddle pan such as a George Foreman

Differentiating by key words given to or information used with pupils

Level 1When eggs are whisked it changes the structure of the protein in the eggs. This is called denaturation. When eggs are heated they set and become more solid. This is called coagulation. Egg white coagulates at 60 degrees Celsius. Egg yolk coagulates at approximately 66 degrees Celsius.

Level 4 – When eggs are heated they set the mixture and it becomes solid.

Encourage Level 1 – 2 to experiment more with the recipe or task.

Extension activities should be available for pupils who may finish prior to others e.g. adapt this recipe for a vegetarian or coeliac diet or discuss how this recipe meets the requirements of the eat well guide.


Level 4

What is pastry?

Name some recipes that use shortcrust pastry?

What is the function of the onion in the recipe?

Why do we beat the eggs in this recipe?

What happens to eggs when we cook them?

Retell me in your own words how you make pastry.

Level 3

What is the difference between sweet and savoury shortcrust pastry?

What is the function of butter in the recipe?

What is the technical name for adding air to eggs?

How should a good pastry look and taste?

What is gluten?

Level 2

What does the term shortening mean?

Why is it important to keep shortcrust pastry cold?

What might happen if you combined white flour with wholemeal flour when making pastry?

What is conduction?

Can you give examples of other recipes which use coagulation?

Level 1

What is the difference between the gluten strands in bread making and in pastry making?

What solutions would you suggest for preventing a soggy bottom in pastry?

How is frying an onion an example of conduction?

Can you think of other processes which may cause eggs to denature?

Explain how you would adapt this recipe for a person with coeliac disease.

Describe how you would reduce the saturated fat content of this recipe.



 Is the normal seating plan appropriate to offer support to pupils in terms of peer support?

Can you pair pupils at similar levels or will mixed ability seating pupils help less able pupils to make more progress or will it cause anxiety?

Can more able pupils begin tasks and not repeat knowledge and skills and can teachers support less able to learn skills and understand teaching points better?

Can a video or picture of key skills be available on loop or on desks for pupils who may need to refer to it? This may increase pupils’ confidence and make them more independence in their learning.

Can resources such as iPad, recipe books be available for more able pupils who may want to conduct research or find out about other techniques not demonstrated in the lesson?

It is useful for the teacher to circulate and observe to see which pupils may need teacher support or input. This may be done verbally or by using resources or by doing a quick spot demonstration.


So these are some of my ideas on differentiation. I am sure food teachers all over the country use similar techniques but if you have any comments or other suggestions please feel free to comment below.

Feel free to comment or email me at foodandhealthteacher@hotmail.com if you would like to discuss this blog further.

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