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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do foods become brown during cooking/baking?

Argentina

The unique colour and flavour of roasted meat or baked bread is produced when the food’s surface is exposed to an intense source of heat. The process is known as the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction (named after the French scientist Louis Camille Maillard) is non-enzymatic and involves the interaction of sugars, amino acids, and proteins.

The process can even take place in the human body. The end results of this complex reaction can be are changes in colour, flavour and, e.g. the crust of bread during baking. In the process, hundreds of different flavour compounds are created, which can break down and form even more different flavour compouds. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavour compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction.

Some products with Maillard reactions:

  • the browning of bread into toast
  • the colour of beer, chocolate, coffee, and maple syrup
  • the flavour of roast meat


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The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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This site was last updated 21/08/2014
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