Surface Browning at High Temperatures

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

If fresh meat never gets hotter than the boiling point of water, then its flavor is largely determined by the breakdown products of proteins and fats. However, roasted, broiled, and fried meats develop a crust that is much more intensely flavored, because the meat surface dries out and gets hot enough to trigger the Maillard or browning reactions. Meat aromas generated in the browning reactions are generally small rings of carbon atoms with additions of nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. Many of these have a generic “roasted” character, but some are grassy, floral, oniony or spicy, and earthy. Several hundred aromatic compounds have been found in roasted meats!