The Maillard Reaction
Chances are, if you have a passion for cooking, you’re familiar with the Maillard reaction—whether you know it by name or not! This is the chemical process that causes the proteins and sugars in your food to turn brown. Think of it as the difference between plain and toasted bread. Apart from color, this reaction creates hundreds of flavor compounds, making many foods much tastier.
Temperature’s Role in Baking
The Maillard reaction is known to happen at some point between 300° and 350°. Because ovens often fluctuate (or are incorrectly calibrated) a setting of 350° essentially ensures that the browning temperature is reached. Read: It’s a clever way to make sure that all of those glorious flavors are formed.
While it isn’t a foolproof number, 350° is a moderate temperature that will cook your food without burning it (if baked for a reasonable amount of time!). Since it’s high enough for browning reactions to occur, your food will taste more complex and undoubtedly more delicious.
Grace Mannon is currently a stay-at-home mom with an M.S. in food science. She loves baking and cooking and writes about her endeavors on her blog, A Southern Grace.