Browning for Food

Browning for Food

The term browning may refer to several different processes. The most common type of browning, also known as the Maillard reaction, refers to a series of chemical reactions that makes foods from cookies to fried chicken and grilled steaks taste and look more appetizing. As the sugars in any food are heated, they change color from clear to dark brown and produce new flavor compounds. Browning is also an effective way to destroy surface bacteria on meats. A similar type of browning is known as caramelization. This is what happens to white sugar at high temperatures. Another, less desirable browning is what happens to certain fruits and vegetables when phenolic compounds in their flesh react with oxygen in the air to discolor the food.

Making the basic

  • To brown meats - Pat dry and place in a medium-hot pan and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over.

  • To ensure even browning of meats - Avoid crowding the meat in the pan. Without enough room around the meat to allow for quick evaporation of moisture, the meat will steam instead of browning.

  • To brown roasted meats - Increase the oven temperature at the end of the cooking time. By that point, the juices, which contain many sugars and proteins, will have risen to the surface and will aid in browning the surface of the meat.

  • To delay browning in fried foods - Use a low-protein flour or cornstarch for dusting or in a batter. Or eliminate any sugar called for in the batter. Or add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the batter to make it more acidic.

Time savers

  • To brown faster - Use a broiler, a grill or a very hot oven. Browning ingredients this way frees you up to do other tasks in the kitchen, If the food to be browned this way is low in fat, a light coating of oil will help it brown more evenly and quickly. Also, to prevent flare-ups when browning at high heat, remove large deposits of fat from meats before browning. To brown under a broiler or on a grill, place the food about 3" from the heat (using a hot fire on a grill). To brown in an oven, preheat the oven to 500oF and roast the food until browned, usually about 15 minutes.

Flavoring tips

  • To brown for extra flavor and color - Brown the meat without a flour coating. This will develop flavors in the meat rather than just browning the flour. After browning uncoated meat, deglaze the pan by adding liquid and scraping up the browned bits of caramelized meat juices in the pan. These brown bits will dissolve and add depth of flavor, creating the basis for a sauce.

  • To blacken - This technique is essentially the same as browning but more intensely so. Char the meat until dark brown or nearly black but not burnt.

More Cooking Guide

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