The salute to Tenderbutton continues…

Cooking shit up like bacon is a good way to get cancer and die. While it’s profound and sexy to cook shit up just like bacon, especially in the lab; perhaps you would rather roast shit up just like pre-microwaved calf liver.

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Allow me to start somewhere else more… palatable. When you cock cook shit up, be it like bacon or otherwise, you’re forcing things toward their thermodynamic minimum. A reducing sugar and amino acids with free amines in a watery matrix at room temperature generally react slowly, but under refluxing beefy or poultry conditions a reaction will begin rapidly to produce a very wide variety of flavors and odors in what is called the Maillard reaction. The whole process is complex because, while you have only 20 amino acids, some of them have multiple nucleophilic atoms (cysteine and lysine being among them) and you have multiple different reducing sugars like glucose, fructose, lactose and maltose (to name a few.) Each one of these reducing sugars combined with each one of those amino acids produces a different flavor and odor which are distinct to specific dishes. Is this why pork tastes delicious when cooked in a cranberry and pecan sauce and duck is delicious a l’orange? I dunno. I’m sure food pairing is more complicated than that. Nevertheless, that awesome delicious ‘cooked’ flavor of foods comes, with little variation, from this reaction.

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Whatever. That’s a gross oversimplification of what actually occurs when you cook shit up, but that’s not quite how I started. What I started with was ‘blabhlabhlh YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, PIG EATER ablhalblahblah.’ That’s because in meat there is an extra ingredient: creatine. See, the chemistry in food with high creatine concentrations leads to high levels of toxic-doom-causing-heterocyclic-amines. Such amines come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all arrive from the Maillard reaction path. Below, you see them… and they’re going to kill you. (Que squeaky violin noise from Psycho)

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Next week, we’ll look at what you can do to stop the reaction that will lead to your own death. I’m sure you will find the solution to be quite delicious.