Temperature. Cooking methods. Conduction. And more about the Maillard reaction.
Meats such as beef, pork and chicken turn yummy brown on the outside when they are cooked. This is the doings of the Maillard reaction, which is also behind the browning of dough that gives us the golden brown crusts found on breads and donuts (read all about it in the 1-Minute Marvel “How now, brown cow?“).Not all cooking methods result in the Maillard reaction, however. It depends very much on the temperature of the particular cooking technique.
As a rough guide, the cooking temperature must be more than 150°C/300°F. That is why we see the browning for methods such as:
1) Stir frying (cooking temperature is in the region of 200°C/400°F)
2) Baking (cooking temperature can be up to 260°C/500°F)
3) Grilling (cooking temperature can be as high as 260°C/500°F)
For other techniques such as boiling and simmering (100°C/212°F or below), and sous-vide cooking (60°C/140°F), the temperature is simply not high enough for the Maillard reaction to begin. Hence you never see the browning of your meats and dough.
Why isn’t every part of the meat or dough brown?
For the techniques where the cooking temperature is hot enough for the Maillard reaction, why is it only the outside that is browned, and not the inside as well?
This has to do with conduction. Conduction occurs when the surface of our food is heated and becomes hotter than the rest of the food. The temperature rises to 150°C/300°F, and it takes time for the heat energy to be conducted into the colder regions of the food inside. The insides of the food will be cooked without reaching the temperature required for the Maillard reaction, and hence will not brown.
Like this? Make me hot by liking me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!