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  • There are a lot of sins that a cook can commit in the kitchen

  • but perhaps one stands out above all others:

  • Boiling a perfectly nice hunk of meat.

  • I'll take my steak seared,

  • my chicken roasted

  • and my bacon fried to a crisp.

  • But boiled? Boiling water never gets above 212 degrees.

  • We're going to need more than that

  • to trigger what's called the Maillard Reaction:

  • the chemical roller coaster that both browns meats

  • and creates so many of the flavor compounds that we find so delicious.

  • The reaction is named after the French chemist, Louis Camille Maillard

  • who in 1912, described how sugars and amino acids

  • will combine to create aromatic compounds

  • that also happen to pack a lot of flavor.

  • Since then, other chemists have found that the Maillard Reaction

  • creates thousands of different flavor compounds.

  • The specific compounds that you end up with depend on cooking time and temperature

  • as well as the kinds of sugars and amino acids

  • that you add to the reaction.

  • Thiopenes, for example, are sulfur-containing compounds

  • that have a distinctly meaty quality

  • whereas oxazoles are oxygen-containing compounds

  • that have a nutty or sweet taste.

  • Some Maillard Reaction products don't do much on their own,

  • but enhance other flavors.

  • Alapyridaine, for example, makes meats taste meatier,

  • sweets sweeter and salts saltier.

  • You may wonder,

  • "Why have humans evolved to enjoy the particular compounds

  • "that result when meat meets heat?"

  • While we can't go back to ask early humans about their taste preferences,

  • we do know that cooking not only kills potentially harmful microorganisms,

  • it also makes foods easier to digest

  • allowing us to get more nutrition out of a meal.

  • No wonder that the chemical combination of sugar, protein and heat

  • tastes so delicious.

  • For Scientific American's Instant Egghead, I'm Michael Moyer.

There are a lot of sins that a cook can commit in the kitchen

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B1 US reaction flavor amino taste boiling instant

What Is the Maillard Reaction? - Instant Egghead #44

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/15
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