This is a “hot topic” 🙂
The Maillard reaction and Caramelisation might be thought of as being basically the same thing, both use heat but the Maillard reaction “modifies” amino acids (protiens) in meat/flesh; to give a myriad of extra flavours. Lightly brown to dark brown and in some cases black (burnt) I’ve never understood why people would want to eat burnt food or why anyone would want to serve burnt food, there isn’t any nutritional value in burnt food! Each to their own 🙂
I like to think that the food I cook has nutritional value and tastes great! Meat that is browned / seared does, IMO, taste better but meat that is “burnt” doesn’t, IMO, taste better.
Grab yourself some 30 day matured steak and brown it, no black bits and the taste is awesome. Nice and pink in the middle and brown on the outside – perfection! Cook it with BLACK BITS and you’ve just ruined a steak that has been matured for 30 days!
Maillard – (I pronounce it as “my yard”) A chemical reaction discovered by French chemist Louis Camille Maillard (1878-1936) is responsible for the delicious flavors present in everything from baked bread to steak
Caramelisation, uses heat to oxidise the natural sugars in foods to give a brown and some say nutty flavour. Some people take it too far, IMO, and actually burn the food but a lot of people seem to enjoy the taste of burnt food!
Caramelisation, think toffee! You use a saturated sugar solution and heat until it goes a nice golden brown. You then have a lovely sweet toffee. If you go too far and the colour becomes very dark brown or even black; the toffee tastes burnt, which might be OK for “Bonfire Toffee”!
Things like Bananas, Pineapple and even sweet potatoes are good to have a play with Caramelisation. Cut some fresh pineapple and pop it in a frying pan with a little oil and then saute until you get the golden or even a dark brown colour. Do a taste test, notice the difference between the fresh pineapple and the golden brown pineapple. Now let the pineapple continue cooking until it’s very dark brown or even black, do a taste test. You should find the taste is very different, we’re all different and some will prefer the burnt taste, other will prefer the sweet and nutty flavour of the not burnt food.
Making use of the Maillard Reaction and/or Caramelisation does add some wonderful flavours to food and it is very much worth experimenting. In my experience, a very dark brown – taking it to the limit gives the maximum of wonderful flavours but go to black and the taste is “burnt”!
IMO, brown is done; black is Bug**ed/Burnt 🙂