Maillard Reaction - Foods and Products With Maillard Reactions

Foods and Products With Maillard Reactions

The Maillard reaction is responsible for many colors and flavors in foods:

  • The browning of various meats like steak
  • Toasted bread
  • Biscuits
  • French fries
  • Malted barley as in malt whiskey or beer
  • Fried onions
  • Dried or condensed milk
  • Roasted coffee
  • Dulce de leche
  • Roasted meat
  • The burnished surface (crust) of brioche, cakes, yeast, and quick breads
  • Maple syrup

6-Acetyl-2,3,4,5-tetrahydropyridine is responsible for the biscuit or cracker-like flavor present in baked goods like bread, popcorn, and tortilla products. The structurally related compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline has a similar smell, and occurs also naturally without heating and gives varieties of cooked rice and the spice pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) their typical smells. Both compounds have odor thresholds below 0.06 ng/l.

The browning reactions that occur when meat is roasted or seared are complicated, and occur mostly by Maillard browning with contributions from other chemical reactions, including the breakdown of the tetrapyrrole rings of the muscle protein myoglobin.

Caramelization is an entirely different process from Maillard browning, though the results of the two processes are sometimes similar to the naked eye (and tastebuds). Caramelization may sometimes cause browning in the same foods in which the Maillard reaction occurs, but the two processes are distinct. They both are promoted by heating, but the Maillard reaction involves amino acids, as discussed above, whereas caramelization is simply the pyrolysis of certain sugars. The following things are a result of the Maillard browning reaction:

  • Caramel made from milk and sugar, especially in candies: Milk is high in protein (amino acids), and browning of food involving this complex ingredient would most likely include Maillard reactions. See references below.
  • Chocolate and maple syrup
  • Lightly roasted peanuts

In making silage, excess heat causes the Maillard reaction to occur, which reduces the amount of energy and protein available to the animals who feed on it.

When cooking, the Maillard reaction can be achieved at lower temperatures (for example, when using the sous-vide method or when searing meats) by increasing the pH of the item being cooked. The most common method for accomplishing this is by using baking soda as a catalyst to facilitate the reaction. Additionally, a pressure cooker is well-suited for achieving the higher temperatures often required for the Maillard reaction to occur (depending upon what is being prepared).

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