Is there some scientific explanation for why one cooks vegetables?

I mean apart from increasing the ability to digest. Are there flavor enhancements going on? Does the temperature have to rise about 100°C, which means that just boiling wouldn't do?

I've heard of the Maillard reaction (with known chemical reactions, temperatures, etc.), but that mainly applies to other meats?

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    vegetables caramelize beautifully - just not if you boil them. Roasting vegetables is delicious, as is frying them. You don't need science to prove it to you - just eat a roasted or fried vegetable. Oct 17, 2015 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


One simple reason to cook vegetables is to kill microorganisms, which can make you sick.

In Chinese wok cooking, very high heat is used to get wok hei.

The distinct taste of wok hei is partially imbued from previous cooking sessions. In practical terms, the flavour imparted by chemical compounds results from caramelization, Maillard reactions, and the partial combustion of oil that come from charring and searing of the food at very high heat in excess of 200 °C (392 °F).[11] Aside from flavour, there is also the texture of the cooked items and smell involved that describes wok hei.


Cooking breaks down cell walls, making the veggies easier to chew, especially for olden folks. The breaking down of the cell walls should also release e.g. sugars otherwise trapped in said cells. As an experiment, try a raw carrot, and then bits that have been steamed for increasing amounts of time.

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