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Better Cooking with Science!

By +Janice D'Agostino on Nov 09, 2012 10:00 AM in Recipes

The kitchen's a laboratory, and everything that happens there has to do with science. It's biology, chemistry, physics. Yes, there's history. Yes, there's artistry. Yes, to all of that. But what happened there, what actually happens to the food is all science. - Alton Brown 

I took some pride in being the non-scientist in my family. But, as my biologist daughter pointed out, because I cook, I use science all the time. Planning to amaze and astound my family, I set about learning few cookery science terms. First up on my new vocabulary list was Maillard (my-yar) Reaction. Just saying those words made me feel so scientific. Maillard Reaction is simply another way to say delicious, savory, goodness achieved by creating sticky browned bits on your dinner.

The Maillard Reaction covers your food with deliciousness because of a heat activated chemical reaction between sugars (carbohydrates) and amino acids (proteins). The process may not sound particularly delicious, but the result is all about great taste. The reaction intensifies savory flavors, the Umami of food, and builds the lovely sticky browned bits that smell and taste so good.

Even trace amounts of the right proteins and sugars will do. All you need is a bit of butter (butter is 1% milk proteins), quinoa, meat, beans,  or a chunk of cheddar along with the complex carbs of whole grains or vegetables to achieve a beautiful Maillard. Enough with the science, let’s get cooking with the clever Mr. Maillard.

Maillard in the Oven

Vegetarian Times Crispy Quinoa Cakes proves that savory is not just for carnivores! 

With Panko Buttermilk Pork Chops the buttermilk and cheese work with the Panko burnishing the pork chops with a lovely and rather different sort of savory.

For simple and savory without meat, try Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Parmesan.

Can you really put the words Low Fat and Crème Brulee in the same recipe? Yes you can! Just use your favorite egg substitute.

Maillard in a Pan

Herbivoracious’s Vegetarian Potstickers (Gyoza) may be a small stretch to qualify as Maillard, but it is certainly savory and deliciously browned, so we’ll pretend it fits the list. 

The Refined Chef’s Seared Scallops with Brown Butter and Chive Sauce looks simply heavenly. The goregous pic for this article is of seared scallops.

Browned Butter Glazed Carrots and Onions is one of my families low calorie favorites. Butter and carrots both have trace amounts of protein. There may not be much, but it is enough to transform the veggies into a lovely browned side dish.

Italian-American Beef is a Malliard and braise recipe that my family loves. It may not be the traditional roasted Italian Beef that you would find in Chicago, but it is deliciously easy. 

Your thoughts...

Do you always choose the part of the meal with the most browned bits? Are you a browned cheese lover? Are you a scientist or a chef? Will you explain the chemical reaction in a way more efficiently than this non-scientist can? What is your favorite well browned and savory recipe? Share the recipe! Do you make a traditional Italian Beef? Share the recipe with everyone here! If you would like your recipe considered for CC Palate, please send it to me via pmThis article may be reprinted (including bio) with prior permission from the author.



Oh Gosh! These are called AGES.

Sadly, while possibly increasing the scrumptiousness of these foods (which, by the way, also creates the characteristic flavours of caramel), this reaction can lower the nutritional value and create toxic/carcinogenic end products, including advanced glycation end products (AGEs), also known as glycotoxins. ens


You are much better off cooking foods at lower temperatures and avoid browning your food like that. So bad for you!!!

I agree with the last  comment. Remember that health is more important than taste. Otherwise, I'd eat chocolate and bacon and sweet wine for every meal!!!!  

I suggest making a change in lifestyle for all those who care more about the nutritional benefits of food. I personally have embraced the Rosedale philosophy, all based on the science of cooking.

Oh, killjoys. Obviously if you eat like that every day it's going to be bad for you. ENJOY everything in moderation! 

Yes, those Crispy Quinoa Cakes look VERY dangerous as do those suspicious looking Vegetarian Potstickers.  Best to just eat food that is soft, bland, and 100% safe.  Sorry, but I've never bought the whole "those browned bits are going to kill you with cancer" line; I mean honestly, we would have been DEAD as a species a long, long time ago Wink

It's your health... 

Go ahead. eat it! 

Drink Yerba Mate and you are safe. The link you provided is vague about what is wrong with cooking other than it is bad for you. Drink Mate! The article told me to and I do. But I love to grill my meat once or twice a year. It won't kill me. I drink on occasion. It won't kill me. Everything in moderation is an excellent mantra. so since I don't grill my food EVERY day I am pretty sure I am safe. If I ate beef every day the cholesterol will kill me faster than the brown bits.

Brown food tastes good.

Life is short & sometimes you just gotta go for it. I think the preservatives & additives are much worse. I'm trying to eat healthy & cook more.

Oh my word,it's true those scallops are to die for (pun intended)   I agree everything in moderation,very interesting and informative article.  I'm going to live on the edge haha!!!!     :)

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty  is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice  is no virtue.
Barry  Goldwater

Poorly written article.... it tries really hard to sound pretentious but in fact it does not say a thing. It has nothing to do with 'cooking with science' ... it simply a place where you can find 2 caramelised onion receips.

It's just like writing an article about scientific cooking where you reccomend to boil eggs in H2O, instead of watter, just because it sounds fancyer.

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