“Eating is a necessity, but cooking is an art...”
Take a moment and think about the last time you smelled fresh baked bread... what was your response?
The Maillard Reaction is a series of chemical reactions that result in the delicious flavor we get when we brown something. Amino acids and sugars change their molecular structure when heat is added and create a synergistic effect that is also quite often umami in nature, making a delicious something that we crave.
Research suggests that not only humans but also animals prefer foods that have been cooked. The Maillard reaction stimulates the olfactory centers first, creating a desirable feedback loop. Anyone who has ever smelled something being sautéed up, whether it be meat or vegetable, can attest to the stimulating effect of the aroma as the perfect chemical reaction occurs. Some scientists suggest that humans began to depend on the Maillard reaction from a self preservation standpoint, as a way to tell if food was safely cooked.
The maillard reaction not only occurs in sautéing but also baking and it accounts for the salivation that so many of us experience if we smell fresh baked bread or cakes. You can also find it in roasted vegetables and browned toast. If you find yourself craving something cooked, it could also mean you are in need of fat and you could try roasted peanut or almond butter to satisfy your fix.
The maillard reaction goes hand in hand with umami and also stimulates brain chemistry to a healthier balance. Just be sure that you don’t overdo and actually burn your foods because then you’ve gone from flavorful to carcinogenic.