Foodie Friday Fun time. Today I want to talk about the Maillard reaction. No, it has nothing to do with ducks – those are Mallards. This is something that goes on in cooking when heat causes the natural sugar in food to change. You can think of it as browning although it’s a lot more complex than that. The process creates lots of flavors and why we sear off meats before roasting or we will cook vegetables in a recipe to bring out flavors before adding other ingredients.
The thing about bringing out this reaction is that you can’t crowd things in the pan. It’s why we’re often told to brown meat in batches. You’ve probably tried to brown some ground meat and noticed that rather than browning it sort of steams in its own liquid. It’s not brown – it’s kind of grey. The same problem occurs in baking – too many cookies on the sheet and they don’t cook properly.
The fix is pretty simple: give everything a little space and take a bit more time as you plan out your cooking time. Give your food plenty of room to move around in the pan, and let it cook in a single layer. Which is, of course, the business point as well.
We often crowd people with too many tasks and a multitude of instructions As businesses we often put too many things into our figurative pan. Rather than getting the reactions we want (nice even browning with a lovely fond on the bottom of the pan) we get a soggy grey mess or soggy, limp vegetables that don’t have a lot of flavor. We need to take a few things out of people’s’ pans or focus or business on fewer things. Give everything a little more space and allow time for things to develop properly. Of course, there are those cooks who think they can skip the searing altogether. That’s a big mistake which you recognize once you’ve done that and tasted the results. Business takes time and there are certain steps that you can’t omit if you want a great product.
We’re all under a lot of pressure for results, both in the office and in the kitchen. Overcrowding the pan in either place might get us where we want to go more rapidly but the results are inferior. No one wants “OK” as a response, not when “WOW” is sitting there waiting.
How full is your pan?