When you cook meat, have you wondered why the meat changes colour at different stages of cooking? This is because of the Maillard reaction. Wondering what is Maillard reaction? Well, let us find out....
Everyday Chemistry - What is Maillard Reaction?
Have you ever wondered why meat changes its colour at different stages of cooking? We are sure this question has come into your head every time you cooked! Well we have the answer. Meet the Maillard reaction.
The Maillard Reaction occurs when the amino acids in the meat react with the reducing sugars to form colours and flavours. When meat is cooked, it changes colour and the flavours also change. This phenomenon is taken for granted by many cooks, but it is actually the result of chemical reactions that are caused when the temperature of the meat is increased.
These chemical reactions were first studied by French scientist Louis Camille Maillard as part of his PhD thesis in the year 1912 and are therefore known as the Maillard reaction.
Reaction with Amino Acids
Amino acids make up the group of chemicals, which form the monomers for important polymers known as proteins. A lot of them are available in a steak or joint of meat. The important part of the amino acid is the amino group, which is a nitrogen atom that is attached to two hydrogen atoms (-NH2).
Reacting with Reducing Sugars
Reducing sugars are sugars, like glucose, that are also commonly found in many foods. They are molecules that contain five or six carbon atoms, with hydroxyl (-OH) groups attached to them, but one of them also has an oxygen atom double bonded to it (-C=O) which makes it an important group.
Complicated Food Chemistry
Food chemistry is not based on just one reaction. It is a complex series of reactions, which occur between chemicals that are found in meat. This results in new chemicals with strong flavours to be produced. They are also the cause of brown colouration of cooked meat. The reaction is not limited to meat, but also to the browning in toast, beer and many other foods. All of these are the result of the Maillard reaction. This is an example of non-enzymatic browning. The Maillard reaction forms colours and flavours in food that are appreciated by those who eat them. Some leaner, white meats do not have many reducing sugars, so they do not develop such a brown colour and have fewer flavours.
So the next time you cook meat and it turns brown, you are sure to know the reason...