The Maillard Reaction Is What Gives Grilled Meat Its Flavor

The Maillard Reaction Is What Gives Grilled Meat Its Flavor

There's a reason why bacon doesn't taste as good microwaved as it does fried, and why chicken doesn't taste as good boiled as it does roasted. That reason is the Maillard reaction, a phenomenon that takes place when denatured proteins and sugars meet temperatures of around 300-500º F (150-260º C) and combine, making meat turn brown and taste absolutely delicious. The reaction was named for its discoverer, French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first wrote about its browning effects in 1912. His discovery didn't gain immediate ground in kitchens, however. It wasn't until the 1940s that people understood the connection between browning and flavor, and even then, most research was performed on how to avoid the reaction because the flavor changes were considered undesirable. Eventually, scientists were able to analyze the many thousands of aromatic and flavor compounds the Maillard reaction can produce, not only in grilled meat but in bread, coffee beans, and other foods that get more flavorful as they turn brown. These compounds include pyrazines, which lend a roasted flavor; alkylpyrazines, which impart a nutty quality; and acylpyridines, which have a cracker-like aroma. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

Here's How The Maillard Reaction Works

An explanation of the chemical reaction that creates that delicious browning.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    The Maillard reaction is named after the French chemist Louis Camille Maillard, who first described how sugars and amino acids combine to create numerous flavors. (0:33)

  • 2

    Here are some examples of the thousands of different flavor compounds created by the Maillard reaction. (0:45)

  • 3

    Humans may have evolved to enjoy these compounds because of the evolutionary benefits of cooking meat. (1:21)

How To Make The Maillard Reaction Happen In Your Kitchen

It takes some high temperatures and invisible chemistry.

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The science of rendering, smoking, and other delicious phenomena.

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