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In the Culinary world there are two basic types of physical/chemical Browning: Enzymatic Browning and Non-Enzymatic Browning. There is also a cooking term "Browning."

Non-Enzymatic Browning includes the most common, more beneficial forms of “Browning” that we associate with cooking, where heat, not enzymes, works on the food to change it and Brown it. 


Two primary forms of Non-Enzymatic Browning are practiced in the kitchen: Caramelization and The Browning Reaction (the Maillard Reaction). Caramelization occurs when sugars are heated, typically above 320° F (160° C) but the temperature for each sugar varies. When Sautéing Onions, for example, sugars in the onion are Caramelized through exposure to heat which results turns them brown and releases more complex tastes in the food.

A Maillard Browning Reaction occurs, in contrast, as Amino Acids (found in meats and all other foods) recombine with certain sugars (among them Glucose, Fructose, Maltose, and Lactose) at temperatures around 310° F to 500° F (154° C to 260° C) creating hundreds of different flavor compounds and browning the color of the food. Each type of food and combination of foods has a very unique set of flavor compounds that are formed in response to the Maillard reaction which was discovered by Louis Maillard in early 1900’s. The types of amino acids present determine the resultant flavors.

High Heat, low to moderate moisture and alkaline conditions all encourage the Maillard reaction. Significant Maillard Browning of food won’t happen until any surface water has vaporized because water steams at only 212° F (100° C) a temperature below that needed for the Maillard Reaction.

Caramelization and Browning can occur simultaneously in the same pan, or even in/on the same food item. All that is required is the right environment and temperatures for each to happen.

Culinary Uses

In cooking, Browning doesn't mean a golden brown as in the crusts formed during Searing. It refers to more of a grey-brown and results from partially cooking, even completely cooking, the surface area of meats to remove excessive fat, Par-Cook the meat and to add some flavor before using the meat insimilar to the Roast / Bake naming convention for meats and vegetables. For some reasons, no longer known, Meats are Browned, Vegetables are  a second or third preparation step.  Browning is not often used in the kitchen to refer to vegetables. It is Caramelized or Roasted

As an example, ground meats will often be Browned before use in a lasagna or casserole. Browning really helps in final preparations where the ultimate cooking temperature won’t be high enough to Brown the meat, and impart desirable flavors, on its own.  

This type of Browning is best accomplished with a Medium Heat, Dry Heat Method and a little bit of fat, typically on a stove top in a Pan FryPan Broil orSauté.

The meat should be patted dry with a paper towel before you begin because excess moisture can create steaming, which prevents an even Browning.   

Stirring, while Browning, is a good idea because it breaks up meat clusters and expands the surface area of the meat exposing more of it to the cooking heat to ensure even cooking. Seasonings or finely Diced Aromatics can be added while Browning.  Once the meat is uniformly brown, meaning no pink remains, remove the cooking vessel from the heat source and drain off the excess fat. Reserve the fat for Tallow or Lard if desired.