The Organic Chemistry of Baking Bread

04 Comprehensive Maillard

The chemistry that underlies the browning of bread. meats, etc. was first defined in 1912 by Louis-Camille Maillard and involves the polymerization of sugars and proteins. While this reaction is obviously messy (i.e. has many different pathways), the dominant chemical mechanisms were identified in a classic paper by John Hodge in 1953 and are outlined in the figure above. As you can see, bread-browning is mainly: amine(protein)-activated carbonyl(sugar) polymerization.



  1. Maillard, L. C. Action of Amino Acids on Sugars. Formation of Melanoidins in a Methodical Way. Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences, 1912 154, 66
  2. Hodge, J. E. Dehydrated foods, chemistry of browning reactions in model systems. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 1953 1, 928-943
  3. McGee, Harold. 1984. On Food and Cooking. New York, NY. Scribner pp. 272-274,389-400.
  4. Potter, Jeff. 2010. Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food. O’Reilly Media
  5. Fleming, I. Frontier Orbitals and Organic Chemical Reactions, Wiley-Interscience, 2004


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