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La réaction de Maillard

Maillard reaction

Have you noticed that many of our recipes begin by mentioning searing and browning the meat in a pan over high heat? 

This coloring, called the Maillard reaction, occurs when proteins interact with the reducing sugars in the meat during cooking to form new molecules with grilled flavors. This reaction provides more flavors and a more tender texture.


The Maillard reaction is not difficult to achieve, but a few easily avoidable pitfalls could hamper the mission. Here are the three main points to consider to succeed in said reaction every time:


It is essential to heat your pan over high heat long enough before adding your meat. The Maillard reaction can occur at low temperatures, but for it to be optimal it must be at the top of the boiling temperature (100 °C ). Once it is started, you can then reduce the heat slightly to avoid burning the protein, which would give it a bitter taste. This state, called pyrolysis, occurs from 180°C, when the Maillard reaction stops.


We must allow time for the Maillard reaction to occur. You should therefore resist the temptation to constantly stir the meat while it cooks. Otherwise, its cells will tear more and release more juice. The meat will then bathe in water and begin to boil. 

However, it is possible to check the cooking from time to time, but keep in mind that the food must brown: the resulting meat will be nicely browned and will give off a delicious grilled aroma.  


If the pan is overloaded with meat, pieces will overlap and the temperature necessary to trigger the Maillard reaction will not be reached. The meat will release its juices and they will accumulate as there is not enough space to adequately contact the hot surface and allow rapid evaporation.

If you don't have a large enough pan, simply cook in two stages: it will take a little longer, but definitely better than boiling meat.


It is good to know that a marinade made with lemon juice or wine will make the Maillard reaction very difficult.  Indeed, it is better to favor a marinade with a high pH (alkaline) which offers more favorable conditions.

If you follow all these tips carefully, once the meat is removed from the pan, you can also deglaze it with wine or broth to form a delicious sauce full of flavors.