The Maillard reaction, an ideal cooking technique

What do we call the Maillard reaction in cooking?

The funny thing is that we all have Maillard reactions in our kitchen without realizing it, or knowing that it’s called that!
In an ultra-simplified way, the Maillard reaction is a chain of chemical reactions which results in browning of the material and aromas which we call “cooking”. Simply put and avoiding overly technical details, this is what happens when you sear a steak, roast a chicken, or fry eggs, among a thousand other examples.

Except, except… sometimes the reaction doesn’t happen! And it is for this reason that we choose to dwell on it today – not having kept too many fabulous memories of our chemistry classes – because there is nothing more frustrating than a meat that “boils” when it should “roast”!

Time must be allowed for the Maillard reaction to occur.

How to succeed with certainty in your Maillard reaction?

The Maillard reaction which, if it has nothing magical but rather chemical, is not difficult to succeed, a good number of pitfalls – more or less detectable – can hinder the mission.

The heat of the pan

If the pan is not hot enough and you don’t let the food brown long enough, this can be enough to spoil the cooking process. Yes, “screw up” let’s not be afraid of words. When a meat “boils” happily and cooks, without ever reaching the desired coloring – the one which gives the cooking aroma and therefore the taste – this makes us lose our Latin.

This is why you should always heat a frying pan or frying pan long enough before adding an escalope or steak. Good to know: when the cooking oil has become very liquid and rolls easily in the frying pan, then it is good, it is hot and ready to sear any food. Cooking oil is like pasta water, or jogging, you never start cold! FYI, with Maillard darling, the temperature must reach 130°C, and the pan must be on high heat. When the reaction is started, then we can reduce the fire slightly to avoid burning everything (this state occurs from 180°C for information, when the Maillard reaction stops), which we do not want either , obviously.


In cooking, baking, and many other disciplines, patience is the mother of all virtues. This means allowing time for the Maillard reaction to occur without stirring the food(s) every 10 seconds. We can check from time to time of course, but remember that the food must color! If there is color, there is taste, it is a fundamental principle in cooking.

The amount of water

If there is too much or not enough water, the reaction will not take place. This means that on very dry ingredients, on the contrary too wet, hope will not keep alive!

The amount in the pan

For example, if you put too much meat in your pan at the same time, and you stack the pieces in layers, the reaction will not take place. All ingredients should “touch” the bottom of the pan. And if necessary, just make several batches. This is always better than unroasted meat, which will bear the sweet nickname of “sole”.


Regarding acidity, it is always good to know that a marinade based on lemon juice or wine will prevent the Maillard reaction. It’s all a story between the sugars intrinsic to the ingredient, the amino acids, and their marital difficulties, but we prefer not to interfere in their private lives.

The Maillard reaction, in brief

In fact, if you add water to cooking meat, it does not work; if you don’t sear your meat over a sufficiently high heat, that won’t work either; Finally, if you put too many ingredients in your pan at the same time, it still won’t work.

For a successful Maillard reaction, you must:

– a frying pan over very high heat
– do not add water before or during cooking
– do not stir before coloring
– do not stack foods in layers
– eliminate acidity automatically


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