When one fries or bakes various fruits, like apples, plums, and apricots, they acquire a (patched) brown to black layer where they have touched the pan or the hot air. It tastes deliciously tart and bitter. Is that only caramellisation, or is it more than that? Bonus question: is it the same process as what happens when you grill aubergines, and meat? A picture:

enter image description here

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    I can't view the image on mobile, but it sounds like you're describing the Maillard reaction. Sugars and amino acids break down and recombine to form complex and delicious new compounds
    – Jon Takagi
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:54
  • @JonTakagi: Oh! I've only heard that name in conexion with meat, interesting. So is it distinct from caramellisation? Or is one part of the other?
    – Cerberus
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:56
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    They are different, however, the difference is slim from the perspective of a cook. The Maillard reaction refers to the interaction of two types of chemicals - sugars and amino acids - at high temperatures. Caramelization refers to the pyrolysis of sugars. The two often occur at the same time, and caramelization is not very well understood, so there is often confusion between the two. The Maillard reaction also occurs whenever there are amino acids present: bread, fruit, and especially meat. Pure caramelization leads to caramel - but adding dairy allows the Maillard reaction to occur.
    – Jon Takagi
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:11
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    @JonTakagi: That is most interesting, and I think it is about complete enough to be turned into a full answer!
    – Cerberus
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:39
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    It is caramelized the sugar. I was wondering what was your reason for asking this question? That is to say is it recipe related? Do you want more or less caramelization, are you going to take advantage of the flavor, etc? Aug 23, 2016 at 21:53

2 Answers 2


This is a combination of the two: caramelization and Mallard reaction.

Caramelization may sometimes cause browning in the same foods in which the Maillard reaction occurs, but the two processes are distinct. They both are promoted by heating, but the Maillard reaction involves amino acids, as discussed above, whereas caramelization is simply the pyrolysis of certain sugars.

Mallard Reaction – Wikipedia

Caramelization – Wikipedia

  • This sounds like a good answer, with useful links. Do you agree with the comment above and with Wikipaedia that the Maillard rection is between amino acids and (reducing) sugars? And the comment mentions that it also occurs in meat: does that mean there are reducing sugars present in meat?
    – Cerberus
    Oct 11, 2016 at 23:53
  • My search returned 0g of carbohydrates in meat and oil. Which makes me say you've asked a pretty good question. Either with meat we have a different type of mallard reaction, or something produces sugars when we fry meat. One thing is for sure – meat tastes better when grilled with sweet sauces. This means to me that Mallard reaction in meats goes much better in a presence of added sugars. Oct 12, 2016 at 0:10
  • Interesting! An alternative explanation: the improved flavour you experience is that of caramel? Or simply of the surag? I have to say, though, that I don't normally eat meat with sweet sauces, so I have no idea (I think that is popular in China, Japan, and some other regions?).
    – Cerberus
    Oct 12, 2016 at 1:17
  • Yes it is quite common. Beyond asian teriyaki and such, how about famous USA barbecue that is loaded with fructose sirup or molasses? I am assuming this is due to presence of sugars during Mallard reaction. And no, it's not just caramel or just sugar (not that I am not a fan :) Oct 12, 2016 at 6:59
  • Maillard reaction. Unless it is duck you are cooking or serving to. Oct 12, 2016 at 8:49

I do think it is the carmelization, but in the picture looks a bit like char/sear as well, maybe a combination of the two. In any event, looks really yummy!

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