Saturday, November 30, 2013

Roast chicken and Maillard reactions

The cooks’ consensus, with which I have always agreed, is that you start cooking a chicken or joint of meat at a high temperature, to brown it, before lowering the dial. But my previous observation about browning reactions (known as Maillard reactions) – that they work more efficiently once the cooking process is well established - made me realise that this initial blast may be unnecessary.

Roasting a chicken the other day, I simply cooked it at gas mark 4/180C throughout (2 hours, for a 2kg bird – butter massaged between the skin and breast, rubbed all over, placed inside the cavity; lemon squeezed over and placed inside the cavity, into which I also placed two bashed garlic cloves). It emerged from the oven perfectly bronzed.

Why do meat and skin brown more efficiently later in the cooking process? Their loss of water, which would inhibit browning, may be one explanation. But it does not account for why, when one fries meat in batches in a frying pan, the later batches brown more efficiently. The reason for their doing so may explain also why the first pancake is usually a flabby disappointment.


pablopatito said...

I've started slow cooking chicken. 4 or 5 hours at 120C, with an initial or final blast to crisp up the skin. I think this is my preferred method now - where you don't carve the chicken, you pull it apart as it falls off the bone. I guess I just need to be careful that it reaches the required temperature.

Nicholas Clee said...

I envy you your oven! Mine has a lowest temperature at least 10 degrees about that. My worry about this technique is that the final blast might dry up the breast meat - but it seems not to be a problem for you.