bp's science: flavor molecule reaction (v.1)

Before cooking shows were all the rage (e.g., Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped), both my mom and my dad loved to watch cooking shows on PBS. And as such, I watched cooking shows on PBS too. True, these shows were not as exciting as those of the reality variety, but they did teach some skills and give you some motivation, "If Yan can cook, so can you!"

It seems I have carried on the tradition, and now I can be caught watching cooking shows on PBS on weeknights. I mean, when cooking is something you do everyday, this stuff becomes more interesting and definitely more useful. I think I've seen nearly all of the Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs episodes, then their is America's Test Kitchen, but my favorite is Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way. He can cook just about anything and make it look easy. He explains what he's doing but makes it brief, because he's doing things so fast. I also like that he's one of the greatest chefs around yet he's extremely humble about it. Very fun to watch (and sometimes I try some of the things I've seen, except my show would be called Ashley's Slow-to-Medium-Fast Food Jacques Pepin's Way).

But enough about my PBS watching, onto the science! Here is something I learned while watching: One of the reasons you brown meat is because it creates strong flavor molecules. When the protein molecules (amino acids) and the sugar molecules in the meat heat up, they break up and form flavor molecules. When you brown a piece of meat, the temperature is high enough (~310 degrees F) to go through the Maillard reaction and that's when distinct "browning" flavor molecules are made that make the meat that much better. This reaction happens in other foods too, like french fries, crusts of quick breads, and maple syrup. So next time you're cooking a steak or making biscuits, there is a little bit of science in your recipe too (how's that for a PBS cooking show line?).

1 comment:

jo said...

I too love a good PBS cooking show for the reasons you describe and really enjoyed your reference to "If Yan Can Cook...".

How incredibly interesting. Now when I pull out that extra pan to "brown" the meat before I put it in the pan or slow cooker, I'll remember that it's the Maillard reaction I'm promoting in order to create more flavor. Keep the cooking science coming. So interesting!