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Frying is chemistry

25 Jun 2023

White coat on and safety glasses on: your kitchen is basically a chemistry laboratory. Because browning potatoes, searing a beautiful steak to perfection or caramelising vegetables: much of what you see happening in your Skottsberg pan is caused by the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that makes for the tastiest food.

What is a Maillard reaction?

The lower the temperature of your cooker, the slower the reaction will start. So when you fry your piece of meat or vegetables on high heat, you get the Maillard reaction going faster and, more importantly, to a greater extent, and thus that delicious flavour you ultimately want. The Maillard reaction owes its name to Louis Camille Maillard, a French physician and chemist who discovered this chemical process by accident. He researched the effect of sugars and amino acids on the kidneys in 1912, but found that these substances also react with each other when you are cooking.

If you heat something in the pan, the carbohydrates (sugars) in the food react with amino acids, a substance found in proteins, among others. The result? New aromas, colours and flavours are created in food. And that not only ensures the brown colour of fried meat, it also provides that delicious taste and smell that will make your guests' mouths water. This process takes place not only with things you fry, but also, for example, when you cook broth for a long time. Beer also gets its dark colour because the proteins from the grain react with the added sugars.

The perfect steak using the Maillard reaction

Watch the video below with chef David. He explains how to prepare the perfect steak using the Maillard reaction.

Want to know more about this topic? Check out our knowledge base article.