100 Years to Maillard Reaction!

By: Shivangi Kelkar

Can you believe it’s been 100 years since the discovery of the Maillard reaction?  Breads, roasted coffee, biscuits, French fries, and grilled steaks all owe their appetizing smell, taste, and appearance to this reaction. It is the most widely practiced chemical reaction and no doubt a foundation of food science!

Named after Louis-Camille Maillard, the reaction occurs when sugar and proteins are heated together. When Maillard discovered the reaction, he was looking for ways to synthesize proteins in vitro, but the odors and colors that emerged fascinated him towards food chemistry applications (Compt. Rend. 1912, 154, 66). Later in 1953, a chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, John E. Hodge established the mechanism for the reaction (J. Agric. Food Chem.1953, 1, 928).

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, 270 international scientists gathered in Nancy, France, 20 miles from Maillard’s home, for the International Maillard Society conference. There was a birthday cake in a pile of profiteroles (shown in the picture), to commemorate Maillard and his most important discovery.

Maillard reactions affect the texture and consistency of foods, making it the most favored chemical reaction!  However, the same reaction can create undesirable carcinogenic compounds. This significant chemical reaction has established the principles of non-enzymatic browning and modern flavor chemistry.

What other chemical reactions are noteworthy to food science? Do you know their history? Let us know in the comments below!


Photo source: http://cen.acs.org/articles/90/i40/Maillard-Reaction-Turns-100.html

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