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Caramelization- The Untold Story

By: Daniel Friedman and Victoria Michaels

Food Science

Burgeoning field combining chemistry, physics and materials science

Defined as "the application of basic sciences and engineering to study the
physical, chemical, and biochemical nature of foods and the principles of
food processing
Focus on the chemical processes involved in cooking
Notable processes include: Maillard Reaction, fermentation, and


Caramelization is defined as the chemical reactions that occur when any sugar is
heated to the point that its molecules begin to break apart.
The greater the quantity of sugar that is heated, the less sugar and sweetness remain,
and the darker more bitter it gets.
It is a type of non-enzymatic browning reaction
Differs from other browning reactions (namely the Maillard) reaction as it is an example
of a pyrolytic reaction.
Caramelizing sugar results in different flavors, such as buttery and milky notes (from
diacetyl), fruity notes (from esters and lactones), flowery notes, sweet notes, rum-like
notes and roasted notes.
When sugars are cooked with amino acids or proteins (like in milk) then some of the
sugars participate with the proteins in the Maillard Reaction, and produce a larger range
of compounds and a rich aroma.

Chemistry of Caramelization

The Science
Caramelization of sucrose starts with the melting of the sugar at high
temperatures (see below) followed by foaming (boiling). Sucrose first decomposes
into glucose and fructose. This is followed by a condensation step, in which the
individual sugars lose water and react with each other. Hundreds of new aromatic
compounds are formed having a range of complex flavors.
In the case of the caramelization of sucrose three main product groups are
formed: a dehydration product, caramelan C12H18O9; and two polymers, carmelen
C36H50O25 and caramelin. The average molecular formula for caramelin

More Science



110 C


160 C


160 C


180 C


160 C

Caramelization in Action

Caramelization in Food Products

Non-enzymic browning in dessert wine

Caramelized Onions


Caramelized Apples


Caramelized Squash

most commonly heard of form of caramelization

Caramelized Shallots

the system of dessert wine offers the opportunity to study caramelization in a simple food


Crme Brle

Caramelization As Used By Us

To demonstrate the process of caramelization, weve made for you a

traditional Hungarian beverage known as karamella-tej (caramel milk)
The drink can be served chilled, but is often served warm to children with sore
throats, especially for those that detest the taste of cough medicine
Karamella-tej was traditionally popular in rural communities, where
chocolates were too expensive for many families and the sweet taste of the
drink was a good substitute.
The caramelization in this process occurs when the sugar is exposed to a
heated pot


Thank you first and foremost to Jennifer for an engaging class, we couldnt
have done this without you. Definitely the best intersession class either of us
have taken
Thank you to Dans grandma, she helped out with refining the recipe.
Thank you to Victorias mom- she paid for the sugar and milk- integral to the


McGee, Harold. "Chapter 12." On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of
the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. 656-57. Print.
Kroh, L.W. Caramelization in food and beverages. Food Chemistry 51 (1994):