Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Caramelization is the name given to the chemical reactions that occur when any sugar is heated to the point that its molecules begin to break apart. This destruction triggers a remarkable cascade of chemical creation. From a single kind of molecule in the form of colorless, odorless, simply sweet crystals, the cook generates hundreds of new and different compounds, some of them small fragments that are sour or bitter, or intensely aromatic, others large aggregates with no flavor but a deep brown color. The more the sugar is cooked, the less sugar and sweetness remain, and the darker and more bitter it gets.