What is a Maillard Reaction?

The Maillard reaction is a type of ‘nonenzymatic browning’ which is slightly similar to ‘caramelisation’. The Maillard reaction often results due to a chemical reaction between the amino acid and a reducing quantity of sugar (this usually requires heat).

The Maillard reaction is extremely important in the preparation, presentation or the baking of many and various different types of food. This type of reaction was named after a famous chemist known as Louis Camille Maillard, who first described this in 1912 while he was attempting to reproduce biological ‘protein synthesis’.
The type of amino acid is vitally important as it will often determine the flavour as a result. This reaction forms the basis of the flavouring industry.

In the process, hundreds of different flavour compounds are produced. These compounds, in turn, break down to form even more new flavour compounds, and this will continue. Each type of food has a rather distinctive and particular group of flavours compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction.

Boiling food in water does not tend to allow the reaction to take place, as the boiling point of water (100 degrees Celsius) in far to low to set off the reaction. Frying foods in vegetable oils will often reach temperatures ranging from 180 degrees Celsius to 210 degrees Celsius, providing these temperatures are maintained the reaction will occur.

The brown crust of bread and the appetising crisp outside of chips are all the result of the Maillard Reaction.

Thank you for reading.

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