Maillard – what does that even mean?
The Maillard reaction is named after the French chemist Louis Camille Maillard, who discovered the reaction of amino acids and glycosides at increased temperature. If this fellow man also loved a nice crust on this steak is unknown, but it’s very likely. The Maillard reaction describes the succession of a chemical processes which is responsible for the golden-brown color as well as for the creation of a nice crust that forms upon grilled meat. Amino acids react with the cooked sugar and thereby build new chemical compounds. As a result, the color and texture of the meat’s surface changes.
Maillard reaction while grilling
Achieving the Maillard reaction is the art of grilling. It’s not only responsible for the delectable browning of your steak but also its flavor. The byproduct of roasting meat gives it a distinctive roast aroma and juicy flavor. In other words, without the Maillard reaction, grilling meat would be kind of a boring thing to do.
Temperature is significant
Give it some heat! The higher the temperature the faster the chemical reactions will proceed. This basic rule of chemistry is also valid for steaks. If you cook your steak in water, for example, almost no roast aromas will occur. The meat will only become more greyish-looking and it won’t get that crispy crust we grillers are after. Grilling the steak is entirely different. Though, you should make sure that the meat isn’t cooked for too long at high temperatures. With the O.F.B., Otto recommends to grill your cut of meat for just a few minutes on high heat, otherwise your dinner will look more like charcoal than steak.
The Otto Grill – A Maillard Machine
With temperatures around 1,500°F/900°C, Otto’s O.F.B. is hotter than any other grill. This high heat capability means you have perfect conditions for the Maillard reaction. At such a high temperature, the chemical process kicks in faster than you can say “melanoidins” and your meat becomes a golden-brown delight covered in a flaky, crunchy crust. The distinct grilling aroma occurs quickly on the O.F.B. and ensures a unique taste experience. Not only does the Maillard reaction require the O.F.B. high temperatures but also dry heat. Water in and around the meat will prevent the crispy crust grilling. This will create steam and slow the process which will rob you of the precious aromas and crunchy texture. On Otto’s O.F.B., the heat comes from above so the liquids can drip down onto the drip tray. This way, the Maillard reaction is free to grill your steak properly.
The rules of the Maillard reaction don’t only apply to meat. The tasty chemical compounds, known as melanoidins among connoisseurs, can occur to almost any type of food. The rule: the more protein the better. For example, sweet potatoes or fish will turn into real aroma feasts when grilled on the O.F.B. Even the caramelization of sugar, which for example occurs when you flame Creme Brulee, is nothing else than the chain of chemical reactions triggered by heat. Thanks, Maillard – grill on!