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Objectively, grilling on charcoal is better than grilling on gas

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This is a beautiful day. The whole family is there, and the side dishes and beer are all present. Your sister-in-law brought a suitcase full of Super Soakers. It’s barbecue time. Is it time to go back to the yard and light… the stove?

Well, that doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But this is basically what you do when cooking on a gas grill, which is powered by the same basically odorless fuel as a kitchen stove.

The truth: cooking on a gas grill is more convenient than cooking with charcoal.

It is also not that special. And, scientifically speaking, it produces less delicious food.

To understand why, you first need to understand taste with taste It’s not the same thing. “In flavor, we have taste compounds and aroma compounds,” said Gavin Sachs, Food Science Researcher at Cornell University. “Our brains are not designed to decouple them.”

In other words, the burger is not just the sum of its ingredients. Of course, the chemical processes that take place in food will change its flavor when heated—amino acids interact with sugars, fat breakdown, etc.—but whether you use gas, charcoal, electric stove, or even engine block

What charcoal brings to the party is a pile of healthy aroma compounds, and the other half is flavor. In fact, aroma may be the superstar in this relationship, because our tongue is actually very limited. “Only five taste receptors are recognized in your taste buds,” Sachs said. He refers to sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and new children, umami.

Anything else you feel while eating—such as smoky flavor—is the courtesy of aroma.

When you bite into food, the aroma will be released. They move up your posterior nasal cavity and light up your olfactory receptors. This neural signal mixes with whatever your taste buds say and tells your brain what is happening in your mouth.

Of course, even food cooked on a gas grill emits aromas—all foods do. But food grilled on charcoal flames has a special kind: Guaiacol.

Guaiacol is an aromatic compound. When you use heat to decompose lignin, an aromatic compound is produced. Lignin is the resin responsible for binding cellulose chains together to form wood. “It has a smoky, spicy taste, Bacon Aroma,” Sachs said. “In fact, most people think that the taste of bacon is mainly degraded lignin. “

Translation: Cooking with charcoal will make your food taste like bacon. Let me repeat: wait, wait, charcoal, wait, wait, bacon.

So if you have two identical steaks cooked at the same temperature for the same time, the only difference is that one is cooked with charcoal and the other is cooked with gas. What will be the end result? Char-grilled steak tastes more like bacon.

The case is closed.

View The other side of the debate: Why is natural gas (yes, natural gas!) better than charcoal.


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