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Join Date: Feb 2005
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Chemistry of an Onion

10/11/2006 9:06 AM

OK all you Chemical Engineering types that double as Epicureans - What chemical process takes place when you cook an onion that changes tha flavor from sharp to sweet?

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Anonymous Poster
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Re: Chemistry of an Onion

10/11/2006 10:24 AM

The answer is really attributable to several different series of reactions:

  1. The various sulfur compounds react with one another and other compounds to form new and interesting flavor compounds
  2. If you let the onions brown the the natural sugars in the onion start to brown and carmelize.
  3. Beyond carmelizing there is the Maillard reaction. This is another form of non-enzymatic browning which is the product of sugars and amino acids

References:
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee:

The relevant pages on Onions, 311-312: Google Print link.
Pages on browning reactions, 779: Google Print Link.

Molecular Gastronomy by Hervé This, Malcolm DeBevoise (Translator)

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