Maillard in a Pressure Cooker

  • Maillard in a Pressure Cooker timmyp

    I was reading about frying in On Food And Cooking this weekend and it mentions that frying works so much better than oven cooking because oil has a far higher specific heat than air so it is able to transfer that heat to the food being cooked much faster than an oven. It then went on to mention that oil has significantly less heat storage capacity than water - according to this specific heat table, it looks like water has around 2.5 times the heat capacity as most oils. This got me thinking about whether there’d be any way to “deep fry” something in water. What I mean by “deep fry” in water is - get the water up around the temperature you’d get in a deep fryer, and then drop some food in. This way you’d get the same temperature as the oil, and therefore hopefully you’d have the same Maillard reactions, but none of the oilyness from frying. I’d like to give this a try. but there are a few important hurdles I’d have to get over first and I’m wondering if anyone here has any guidance. around a few questions this raises:

    1. I did some calculations and it looks like I’d have to get the pressure up to around 70 psi above atmospheric pressure in order to get the water up around 155C - Probably I’d want to go a bit higher than this in practice. It doesn’t seem to be out of the realm of possibility that a pressure cooker could exist that could handle this kind of pressure (bicycle tires go a lot higher than this), but I only see pressure cookers that go up to around 15psi. Do pressure cookers that handle this high of pressure exist? Otherwise, might there be other kitchen-sized industrial equipment that could achieve this high of pressure and temperature?

    2. Can I expect a maillard reaction to occur at high pressure, or will the pressure make the reaction require relatively higher temperature and therefore preclude it from occuring?

    3. Can I expect a maillard reaction to occur under water? Everythíng I read about the maillard reaction mentions that it will only happen after the water on the surface of the food evaporates specifically because water keeps the temperature too low. This makes sense at standard pressures, but will the water in and of itself make the maillard reaction difficult or impossible (since one of the outputs of maillard is more water), or is the water mentioned ONLY because it keeps the temperature so low. All of the references I've found that say water deters the reaction specifically state that this is because of the temperature factor.

    4. Is there any chance that I’d get any crisping through this process? I’m thinking that if I depressurize the food while the surface is superheated (obviously I’d have to figure out a way to get it out of the water bath first), I’d get some amount of the water in the surface boiled away as the pressure dropped, and thus some crisping. Might this work?

    Obviously I’d have to set up a pretty crazy rig inside the pressure cooker to get the water and food pressurized without significantly cooking the food in the process, then have a setup inside the pressure cooker that drops the food into the water at a given temperature, and then pulls it back out after a set time. I’m thinking that my first step would be to get a super-high-pressure pressure cooker and drop some chicken into it, get it up to 160C or so, cool it and see what I get. It’d be way way overcooked I’m sure, but I think I’d be able to tell if I could get any reasonable browning in water, and proceed from there if the results were favorable.

    I'd really appreciate any insight, either from experience with pressure cooking of non-traditionally-pressure-cooked foods, or other experience, or possibly from understanding more about how maillard works and what I would expect at high pressure and submerged.

  • Unless you are prepared to build some industrial strength equipment of your own design and then move everyone in the neighborhood away while you experiment with this, I fear you are taking your life in your hands.

    Normal pressure cookers add a maximum 15 PSI to achieve a water boiling point of 121 C or 250 F. Autoclaves, used for surgical sterilization, go to 30 PSI. You are talking about going more than twice that.

    There is no reason, based on the science of Maillard reaction, to believe that it would not occur at a high enough temperature. The presence of excess water would normally inhibit the process because of temperature reduction, but your "super duper pressure cooker" would keep the temperature at a high enough level to allow the chemical breakdown to occur. You might, in fact, discover that it occurs a bit earlier, as water tends to facilitate many reactions. Caramel making comes to mind as an indicator of what might be achieved, as sugar syrup (OK, most of the water is gone, but in principal) browns when you get in the above 330F-165C degree range.

    As to crisping based on quick pressure reduction (perhaps when your device explodes?) That seems less likely as most crisping comes at the loss of water, and you are, in effect, keeping water in contact with your food both in liquid and superheated steam form. It would, most likely, be similar to a braised food surface, than a fried one.

    Interesting thought. Please don't try this.

  • Check on ebay you can buy a used "pressure vessel" these are industrial/laboratory things that normally cost a few grand but there is no demand for them so you could get something that does 100psi and holds 10-15 liters easily for a C note and regular pressure cookers do 15 psi so that would be 6-7 times more powerful.

    Those are perfectly safe and most likely in your price range to experiment with. I just wanted to throw this in there, but I saw one that does 1,000 psi used for 2 grand it only holds 1 liter though and that is 60-70 times more powerful than a regular pressure cooker if you wanted to take it to the extreme =)

  • Heat help in creating the Maillard reaction, but PH are also very important, by increasing the PH you can achieve a Mallard reaction at 120C in a pressure cooker.

    See SCIENCE OF COOKING . Or example that you can try is the Onion soup in Modernist Cuisine basically 500% onion, 100% onion juice (or stock), 0.75% baking soda, see link for all ingredients. Put in jar, put on lid but do NOT tighten fully or it might explode, put on a rack ( do not put jars directly on the bottom of the cooker), fill pressure cooker with water just under the rack. Cook on full pressure for 40 min. Season as per link above.

    So as answers:

    1) You can achieve Maillard reaction in water at 120 C if you increase the PH

    2) Since it can happen at 120C at 15PSI, I say that pressure does not effect the reaction.

    3) As per above Onion soup, the Maillard reaction happen in liquid, so it is only since liquid at normal pressure lowers the temperature to 100C it does not happen, at higher pressure it does.

    4) I think crispiness and water does not happen at the same time, and you need water/steam to get heat in a pressure cooker.

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