Sugary deserts Ketones, ketoses, and aldehydes
Maillard Reaction Q&A


Enzymatic browning and non-enzymatic browning are two different types of chemical reactions that cause browning in food.

Enzymatic Browning:

  • Caused by enzyme activity, usually polyphenol oxidase
  • Occurs when enzymes react with phenolic compounds like phenols and polyphenols
  • Happens in fresh produce and meats when cells are damaged, exposing phenols to air and enzymes
  • Creates melanin pigments that cause brown colors
  • Examples: Cut apples, avocados, and potatoes turning brown

Non-Enzymatic Browning:

  • Does not involve enzymes, but rather Maillard reactions and caramelization
  • Maillard reaction - reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars at high temperatures
  • Caramelization - breakdown of sugars when heated
  • Both create brown pigments through complex chemical processes
  • Occurs during cooking methods like grilling, roasting, frying
  • Examples: Bread crust, grilled meats, toasted marshmallows

Key Differences:

  • Enzymatic browning can occur at lower temperatures and with intact cells
  • Non-enzymatic requires high heat or dry conditions to initiate browning
  • Enzymatic can be prevented by inactivating enzymes with acids or heat
  • Non-enzymatic is difficult to prevent as it is a process of cooking

The Maillard reaction is a form of browning that occurs during high-heat cooking which can enhance or detract from flavors, aromas, and colors depending on the specific foods and conditions involved. It is a very important reaction in cooking.

Common artificial sweeteners

  • Aspartame - Sold under brand names like NutraSweet and Equal. Commonly used in diet sodas and other sugar-free foods. About 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Saccharin - One of the oldest artificial sweeteners, sold under brand names like Sweet'N Low. Much sweeter than sugar but has a bitter or metallic aftertaste for some people.
  • Sucralose - Sold as Splenda. Derived from sugar but chemically modified. 600 times sweeter than sugar and heat-stable.
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) - Sold under brand names like Sunett and Sweet One. Often combined with other sweeteners. About 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Neotame - Related to aspartame but more potent at 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Not as widely used.
  • Advantame - One of the newest sweeteners, 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. Approved for use in food in 2014.
  • Stevia - Extracted from stevia plant. Marketed as Truvia and PureVia. Up to 400 times sweeter than sugar and derived from a natural source.
  • Erythritol - Found naturally in some fruits. About 70% as sweet as sugar but with fewer calories.

Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars when foods are cooked at high temperatures. It is a form of non-enzymatic browning that leads to the development of flavors, aromas, and colors in foods.

Some key points about the Maillard reaction:

  • It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who first described it in 1912.
  • It requires heat to occur, usually above 285°F/140°C. It accelerates as temperature increases.
  • It involves amino acids reacting with reducing sugars like glucose and fructose. This forms unstable glycosylamine intermediates.
  • These intermediates then undergo further complex rearrangements and reactions to form melanoidins, which are brown nitrogen-containing polymers.
  • Maillard reaction products contribute to desirable flavors in cooked foods like roasted meat, coffee, bread, popcorn, beers, etc.
  • It also enhances aromas, darkens food colors, and produces antioxidants.
  • Excessive Maillard browning can negatively affect protein nutrition and make some foods taste burnt.
  • Acidic conditions, lower moisture, and increased reactant concentrations increase the rate and extent of Maillard browning.

Cakes - Classic chocolate cake, vanilla cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake etc. Cakes are quintessential sugary desserts, with butter, eggs, flour, and often large amounts of sugar.

Cookies - Chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodle, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies. Cookies are an iconic sweet treat and rely on sugar for flavor and texture.

Pies - Apple pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, pumpkin pie. The fillings and crusts of pies are loaded with sugar.d3e

Ice cream - Virtually all flavors and styles of ice cream are high in sugar, which contributes to texture and palatability.

Candy - Anything from chocolate bars, lollipops, jelly beans, gummy bears, salt water taffy, etc. Candy is largely defined by sugar content.

Cobblers and Crisps - Fruit cobblers and crisps consist of sugared fruit fillings and sweet dough topping.

Milkshakes and Smoothies - When made with ice cream or sweetened yogurt, milkshakes contain a lot of sugar. Even fruit smoothies often have added sweeteners.

Sweet Breads - Scones, donuts, cinnamon rolls, banana bread etc. rely on sugar for browning and taste.

Frozen Confections - Sorbet, sherbet, popsicles, fudgesicles all depend on high sugar for their dessert-like quality.