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I will attempt to cook a Thai Green Chicken Curry. I'll be using cubed boneless chicken thigh which I would like to brown really well. I remember reading somewhere that Baking Powder or Baking Soda could be used to aid the Maillard reaction by making the surface ph of the chicken more alkaline. However I also remember that one of the two gave the chicken a bad taste, I don't remember where I read this. What would you guys suggest? Baking Powder or Baking Soda? What else could I do to get better browning on the cubed chicken and thus introduce more flavour into the curry?

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You want to use baking soda. Baking powder is used as a leavening agent and does this by combining an acid and a base, so it would not make your chicken more alkaline. Baking soda, on the other hand is just sodium bicarbonate and will make your chicken more alkaline.

However, baking soda, especially if used in excessive amounts, will give your chicken a bad taste. Baking soda tastes bitter, and cooking it for too long at high heat exacerbates that.

From reading online, it seems that adding baking soda will indeed make your chicken look much browner (the same way that pretzels are dipped in lye to produce their brown colour), but it would affect the texture/taste of your chicken.

If you want to add more flavour, I would think that properly browning the chicken (using high heat, having patience) would be more effective than adding baking soda, which might give the appearance, but not the taste.

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    Baking soda reacts with lots of thing, but it will react with fats to make a form of soap, and this tastes very bad! Use with caution. Best with low fat things like onions etc – TFD May 22 '15 at 7:57
  • A thin coating of cornstarch on your chicken will brown more quickly and add flavor. I wouldn't add baking soda under any circumstances as you will get some serious off flavors just as @TFD says. – GdD May 22 '15 at 8:10
  • Agreed - the best things you can add to aid browning are Time and Heat. – logophobe May 22 '15 at 14:07
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The application of a basic solution (baking soda or lye), has been used for ages on bread products such as bagels and pretzels to promote browning. I have found a couple of factors to be significant in the browning of proteins.

  • Ingredient Temperature
    • Is the meat near room temp when you drop it in the pan?
  • Removal of moisture
    • Pre-salt your meat while it's chilling in the fridge to draw moisture out.
    • Wrap the meat in paper towels. Change them until the meat remains dry.
  • Par-cooking
    • Gently Par-boiling or roasting chicken will cause the proteins to become more readily brownable. The pre-maturation of the proteins from par-coking will actually make it brown better.

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