MaillardThe Maillard reaction is one of the most convenient and flavorful effects of introducing heat to proteins.   During this process, as the amino acids found within meats are introduced to heat, they begin to denature and rearrange themselves.  This not only causes meats to brown on their surfaces, but creates wonderful savory flavors and aromas.  In my mind, though, one of the most beneficial aspects of this reaction is that it has a built-in non-stick effect.  Whether one is cooking on a grill, or in a saute pan, the Maillard reaction will occur if one allows it to.  When the protein is allowed enough contact with the surface of the grill, or the pan, it will eventually release on its own and can then easily be turned over without sticking to that surface.  This is important, as flavor can be lost if the browned portion of the protein ends up stuck to the cooking surface rather than the meat itself.

So, how can one tell if the Maillard reaction has sufficiently occurred and the protein is ready to be turned/removed from the heat surface?  It’s easy; if when lightly pulled upon, the meat seams as if it wants to stick to the heating surface, leave it alone.  Allow a few more minutes of cooking time and try again.  The meat will easily release from the cooking surface once browning has occurred.  We are often tempted to turn meat before it is ready.  Just be patient and the rewards will be worth the time!


spicegrinderGrinding one’s own spices from whole can ensure fresh and bold flavors when cooking.  A coffee grinder makes a great method for quickly grinding spices and ensures a more uniform grind than other methods- such as using a molcajete or a mortar and pestle.  If you use a coffee grinder for spices, it is important to clean the device between the types of spices being ground.  This is especially true if the grinder is used for coffee as well.  Water and soap can be avoided, and this will prolong the life of the grinder.  Instead, an effective means for cleaning the grinder is to use bread.  First, brush as much residue out of the grinder as possible with your fingers or a pastry brush.  Then, add several pieces of old or stale bread and grind them.  The bread will absorb any lingering spice (or coffee) residue.  Discard the bread and you’re ready to start fresh!