So, You Have Got Your Maillard Reaction and Your Amino Acids ... Now Just Add the Brown Sauce; That Perfect Butty Is Down to Chemistry

The Journal (Newcastle, England), April 4, 2009 | Go to article overview

So, You Have Got Your Maillard Reaction and Your Amino Acids ... Now Just Add the Brown Sauce; That Perfect Butty Is Down to Chemistry


Byline: Paul Loraine

ASK someone what makes a bacon butty and you will probably provoke a lecture on brown sauce distribution or toaster settings.

It's less likely the Maillard reaction or amino acids will get a mention - but they are right at the heart of the science which explains why we can't resist that most tempting of sarnies.

Elin Roberts, science communications manager at the Centre for Life, explained that behind the appeal of the bacon sandwich lies complex science.

At the centre of it all is the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar which often requires heat.

The acid and sugar react to release a huge amount of smells and flavours.

Elin said: "The smell of sizzling bacon in a pan is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians. There's something deeper going on inside. It's not just the idea of a tasty snack. There is some complex chemistry going on.

"Meat is made of mostly protein and water. Inside the protein, it's made up of building blocks we call amino acids.

"But also, you need some fat. Anyone who's been on a diet knows if you take all the fat from the meat, it just doesn't taste the same. We need some of the fat to give it the flavour.

"Fats mean that there are some reducing sugars in there as well. When it's really hot - 150 degrees and above - that's when the Maillard reaction starts." Elin said the reaction releases hundreds of smells and flavours but it is the smell which reels in the eater.

"Smell and taste are really closely linked. …

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