I’ve often heard bacon lovers say that one of the reasons that bacon is the best meat out there is because it is so good it can “break” vegetarians. Well is bacon good just because it is tasty? Or is there a more sophisticated chemical interaction at work?
In a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, Elin Roberts, a science communications manager at the Centre for Life education centre in Newcastle, UK points out there is a very scientific explanation for why we love bacon so much. The secret to bacon’s popularity isn’t just in the taste, but in the flavors and smells that are released when bacon reaches a certain level of heat during the cooking process.
This chemical reaction is called the Maillard reaction, which occurs between amino acids in the bacon and the reducing sugars in the bacon fat. Wikipedia has a basic explanation of the effect:
“In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction.”
The Maillard reaction and the high level of amino acids in bacon is also what makes bacon such a satisfying food when you have a hangover.
So let this be a science lesson for all you bacon lovers out there. Your love of bacon has nothing to do with your own independently developed taste preferences or your opinion of the meat. In fact, you’re nothing more than a slave to chemistry. And who was good at chemistry in high school? Nerds. Nerds were good at chemistry. Connect the dots people, connect the dots. Bacon lovers = chemistry nerds.
Picture via One Whole Clove.