The Maillard Over-Reaction: Have We Reached Peak Browning? (The New Yorker)

Next installment: boiling water. I think that was parodied already, tho.

It’s interesting, Kenji gets most of the credit for science-y-fying cooking for lay people, but wasn’t it really Cooks Illustrated that first (popularly) broke down the science of cooking for home cooks?

I know everyone loves to hate on Chris Kimball and loves Kenji, but still.

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Kenji did work for CI :woman_shrugging:

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Yes, but CI was there before and after. One could argue learned his craft from CI.

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Fair point!

A bit less engineer/scientist than McGee:

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The non-browned lamb and rice meatballs in my yourvarlakia look very ugly, but taste great. I don’t know how I could brown them (maybe briefly in the air fryer?).

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Meanwhile

“I cooked a handful of dishes side by side with onions cut with various methods and found that unless I went out of my way to produce wildly uneven dice, most of the little differences ended up washing out in the mix.”

And yet (with computer models and all!):

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Lol. I mean, that’s pretty much my experience too, but I didn’t go to MIT (I think that’s where he went).

This was really fun, thanks.

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CI had an interesting article a while back about how the way an onion is cut affects the strength of its flavor (think lengthwise, across, etc.

I know it’s been linked before, will try to find.

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Not too surprising when you consider the ways breaking down garlic yields similar variation.

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Im not into the reaction. When cooking lets say steak in a pan or on the grill . I use low heat for a rare to medium rare . Soft and tender.

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Lots of stuff get new names, especially after social media drives it…and then at some point someone calls out the excess use of the term or history. Seems to be a social media cycle.

Call it browning or maillard, either way it does the same thing. It makes it look more appetizing, but it doesn’t work with every meat or protein, or need to. I didn’t read the opening article but wok hei is similar or the same…and that adds flavor IMO.

If I cook an expensive steak, I sous vide and brown it, if for no other reason than appearance but I believe it adds flavor on streak but how much, can’t say. It just looks more appetizing or like a traditionally or conventionally cooked steak. And as the saying goes, you eat with your eyes before you mouth. For stuff like beef stew, browning tends to hold a cube of meat together instead of getting like pulled pork or pot roast that gets stringy. So there’s other reasons…or is that a “sear”. (haha)

Other stuff with new names…dry brining. My mom use to simply call it salting, i.e., salt or salting the turkey the day before, rubbing salt on a bird or roast 12 to 24 hours before cooking. If I said something like “hey should we dry brine the turkey”, she’d say what’s that, or might confuse it with a wet brine, or pickles. Of course you sound way more sophisticated using an obscure or “insider” term…so there’s that.

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Me, too, and I’ve never understood why. If I ask for rare I’m lucky if I get medium rare.

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I ran the broiler for a little while in a small (mostly) family-run restaurant. One of the servers came in with an order for a steak “cooked very, very, VERY rare”. Since that happens to be how I like my steak, no problem, says I. I fire the steak and send it out. A little bit later, the server comes back with a worried look on her face. “You know that very very VERY rare steak? It was TOO RARE!” I tell her to bring it back and I’ll fire it some more. Less than a minute passed, and she comes back empty handed. The customer refused to send it back because it was cooked exactly as he ordered it. He habitually ordered steaks that way in the hope that it would be rare, but he’d never gotten one cooked per his request.

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I prefer Shirley O’Corriher’s Cookwise.

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I’ve always done this:
Want the onion slices to stay intact? Cut them pole to pole.
Want them to dissolve/disintegrate into the dish? Cut them across the equator so they look like rainbows.
Otherwise if I’m dicing or chopping, I just try to keep the pieces as even as possible.

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Yup

That’s usually because the establishment hates steaks that are sent back. They prefer to dumb it all down.

I’ve concluded it’s worth belaboring the point when ordering. “Rare. Not black-and-blue, and not just showing pink. Red inside. Can you do that?” If it’s not a strong yes, I don’t order steak. Then, if it comes overdone, everyone’s conscience is clear when it goes back.

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