Caramelized onions in a pan
The Real Distinction Between The Maillard Reaction And Caramelization
Although the Maillard reaction and caramelization give your food the same brown gradient, they have a few differences, one being the way chemical compounds react inside the food.
When the Maillard reaction takes place, the amino acids in the proteins and sugars start to interact with one another, eliciting different combinations of flavors and aromas.
During caramelization, sugar molecules break down without interacting with proteins, also creating different tastes. The process typically yields a butterscotch and a nutty flavor.
The Maillard reaction generally takes about 285 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit to activate, whereas caramelization typically starts to activate at 320 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
However, there are some similarities between the two processes. For example, they both require using dry food. As they need a lot of heat to activate, moist food prevents browning.
Additionally, since the Maillard reaction needs a lower temperature to activate, sometimes you can get products from both caramelization and the Maillard reaction in your food.