Pair Up: What is the Food Science Behind Iconic Food Pairings?

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There are approximately 200,000 edible ingredients in the world. The average recipe has 8 ingredients. Add to that number the potential ways to cook all of these options, and there are more potential recipes than there are atoms in the universe.

Food science is one of the best ways to make sense of all of these possibilities. It examines the makeup of food and can be used to determine what ingredients go well together.

Read on to learn the food science behind the most popular and strange food pairings in the world.

What Is Food Science?

Food science looks into the makeup of food, why it deteriorates, and how it’s processed. It’s a combination of disciplines such as:

  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition

The primary purpose is to make sure that the entire process is safe. It also helps determine what makes food go well together based on both taste and flavor.

Taste refers to what happens in the mouth when food touches your tongue. It begins when your taste buds send messages to your brain.

Taste only accounts for 20% of flavor, and aroma makes up the other 20%. It comes from particles known as odorants that bind to scent receptors in your nose.

Texture and mouthfeel affect how food feels when it goes into your mouth. Consider the slimy texture of okra, the unique feel of mushrooms, or the disappointing feel of flat soda.

Temperature is especially important with certain dishes or drinks. You may prefer iced or hot coffee, but no one wants to drink it at room temperature.

Flavor is the combination of all of these elements and the most important part of any food pairing.

What Is Food Pairing?

Heston Blumenthal is a British culinary master who came up with the flavor pairing theory. His idea is to create a food profile based on an ingredient’s chemistry. The more compounds 2 ingredients share, the better they’ll go together.

Some combinations that share similar compounds seem stranger than others. Dark chocolate and cauliflower both contain limonene, but so does the much more popular combination of oranges and chocolate.

Tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmesan all have 4-methylpentanoic acid. This is the scientific reason that pizzas with these ingredients pair so well, but there’s more to it.

The 5 basic tastes are sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami. These are made up of a variety of components and other tastes.

The pizza combination mentioned earlier is delicious because it balances sweetness, acid, and richness.

A proper meat and cheese pairing creates a similar balance. Swiss cheese and prosciutto become sweet and salty. Gouda and salami are sweet, nutty, savory, and spicy all at the same time.

Where Can I Get More Food Pairing Tips?

Food science is the study of what makes up food and its ingredients. It’s a safety process that can help create flavorful meals.

Taste is the signal that our brain receives when food touches our tongue. Flavor is more complicated and involves aroma, mouthfeel, texture, and more.

One theory says that 2 ingredients have a better flavor when combined if they share several compounds. Balance is also important because having too much of one of the basic tastes and their components makes a meal bland.

Read the rest of our content for more food pairing tips.

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