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I'm wondering about that high-heat flavor you get just before outright burning food. Charred, grilled, blackened, smoky, or seared flavor? Wok hei? I'm not exactly sure what to call it. Or would the term depend on the method used for cooking?

  • Like you say, it depends on the method. – Max Jan 5 '18 at 19:50
  • My understanding is that wok hei also has to do with the specific wok and what's been cooked previously in it. But it's still the closest that I can think of, as it's beyond 'GBD' (golden brown & delicious). – Joe Jan 5 '18 at 21:13
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I have frequently heard it said (or read) that "the flavor comes from..." rather than naming the flavor in particular. Each of the adjectives you listed (and more) can be used situationally to describe the flavor, but there is no established name for those flavors.

With sugars (fruits and other sweets) the flavor is caused by "caramelization" whereas with proteins the source is referred to as "the Maillard effect/reaction". I have also heard caramelization used to describe the browning of meat, while technically inaccurate the term still conveys the meaning. Some articles will confuse the terms (see Why Does Food Brown) but it is more accurate to treat them as separate reactions (see Caramelization: Why Food Turns Brown When You Cook It)

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