What happens when you fry food?

18 March 2007

Question

What's actually happening when you fry food?

Answer

It's called the Maillard reaction, after the French chemist Louis Camille Maillard.

This is a chemical reaction between carbohydrate groups (that's sugars, largely) and proteins or amino-acids (those are the building blocks of proteins).

It takes place at around 148 degrees Celsius, and when these sugar groups lock on to the amino-acid groups they form these nice, brown caramelised substances which taste great - that's the nice aroma you get from cooking.

As it happens at 148 degrees - that's 48 degrees hotter than water boils at - that's why you get a very different consistency and taste and texture to fried food compared to boiled.

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