Trivia

Hard

The Maillard Reaction Is Responsible For Flavors In?

Honey
Browned Food
Vanilla
Peppers
A brioche with a golden-brown crust as a result of the Maillard reaction.
Rainer Zenz/Wikimedia

Answer: Browned Food

Although you may not realize it, there’s something that links the unique flavors you experience in coffee, marshmallows toasted over a fire, caramels, bread, steaks, and just about every food you’ve ever eaten that has been roasted, toasted, baked, or otherwise browned: the Maillard reaction.

Named after the French chemist, Louis-Camille Maillard, the term describes the reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars found in food wherein pieces of the amino acids and sugars combine into new flavor-producing compounds. The act of roasting raw coffee beans into the finished product we grind up for our daily brew, for example, creates a wide array of complex flavor compounds through the Maillard reaction.

Not only is this process critical to creating a wide array of unique flavors in food (the same amount of heat applied to coffee beans, beef, and bread, does not produce the same set of flavors), but a scientific understanding of the process has also allowed scientists to isolate individual flavor compounds and synthesize them in the lab as the artificial flavors we now find in a wide range of food stuffs.

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