Geek Trivia

The Maillard Reaction Is Responsible For The Flavors Found In Items Such As?

Tree Nuts
Salt-Cured Meats
Ripe Fruit
Japanese Honey Bees Kill Their Primary Predator, Japanese Hornets, With?

Answer: Toast

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the Maillard Reaction, but a very good chance that you’re thankful the process it describes exists. The reaction is named after the French chemist, Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while conducting research into biological protein synthesis.

What is the Maillard Reaction? It’s a type of non-enzymatic browning that occurs between 284 and 329 degrees Fahrenheit. This process is responsible for the distinct color, texture, and flavors of a wide range of foods. You experience it when you make toast and a room temperature slice of bread takes on a warm golden color (and a new flavor and texture). The reaction also plays a role in the formation of the subtle flavor profiles in roasted coffee. The golden color of French fries and fried onions are both a result of the reaction process. Malted barley, a staple in the production of malt whiskeys and beers is created through a Maillard Reaction.

Although the reaction itself might be relatively simple to describe, the results of the reaction are as diverse as the foods in which it occurs. The combinations of sugars and amino acids in every different kind of food and recipe-combination ensures that the flavors resulting from the Maillard Reaction of that particular food is unique (and usually delicious).

Image courtesy of Rainer Z.