Maillard Reaction – Browning, Flavour and Aroma

Which chicken dish looks the more appealing? The one on the left is cooked at 95°C and on the right at a much higher 150°C, creating the Maillard reaction (the extra hot (above 140°C) dry heating of carbohydrates and proteins which give us the roasted, toasted notes as in baked foods, chocolate, coffee, etc).  It makes food taste better!

Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavour compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavour scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavours.

Products with Maillard reactions

  • the browning of bread into toast
  • the colour of beer, chocolate, coffee, and maple syrup
  • the flavour of roast meat and sizzling steak
  • fresh baked biscuits
  • the colour of dried or condensed milk

The key is to make sure the surface of the food is dry to prevent steaming and promote the maximum amount of browning. Dry the surface of meat and vegetables with paper towels and season right before cooking to avoid drawing out excess moisture.

The Maillard reaction makes foods more enjoyable to eat.  When you heat foods, your senses are engaged and lured by a plethora of aroma molecules engulfing the air.  Who can resist a freshly baked flaky croissant, toasting your bagel, the distinctive smell of fresh coffee beans, and why chocolatiers roast cocoa nibs to make dark chocolate. 

Are your residents missing out on the Maillard reaction?  How can you incorporate it into your menu? Read more at An introduction to the Maillard reaction.


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