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Can anyone explain how the taste of food changes when it is cooked? Why does the taste...

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falsefantasy | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM via web

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Can anyone explain how the taste of food changes when it is cooked? Why does the taste differ if something, say a potato, gets boiled, fried or barbequed? I want the chemical reactions, equations and formulas for my question.

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:05 PM (Answer #1)

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Cooking food is not a physical change (though that can happen too) but a chemical change.  When you cook most foods, you are actually making the food undergo chemical reactions to produce new chemical compounds that were not present in the raw food.  These new chemicals produced are extremely important to the look, texture, and taste of the cooked food.  The single most important reaction in food chemistry is called the Maillard reaction.  It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who first explored the chemistry of cooking food in the early 20th century.  The actual chemical reactions that occur are complicated and numerous.  There are literally thousands of chemical possibilities with the Maillard reaction alone.  But the overall theme here is that an amino acid and a sugar are chemically reacted together. A sugar carbonyl group condenses with an amine from the amino acid to produce a new compound.  This compound can then undergo further rearrangements to produce a wide variety of complex chemicals.  This is why the taste of food can vary so widely.  The process of browning cooked meats, breads, starches, and coffees is all due to the Maillard reaction.


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