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Title: Caramelization  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Browning (food process), Caramel, List of cooking techniques, List of pastries, Peasemeal
Collection: Cooking Techniques, Culinary Terms, Food Science
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Mirepoix (carrots, onions, and celery) being caramelized
Caramel of sucrose; all brown color is a result of browning, as sucrose is normally colorless

Caramelization (British English: caramelisation or caramelization) is the browning of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. As the process occurs, volatile chemicals are released, producing the characteristic caramel flavor.

Like the Maillard reaction, caramelization is a type of non-enzymatic browning. However, unlike the Maillard reaction, caramelization is pyrolysis, as opposed to reaction with amino acids.

When caramelization involves the disaccharide sucrose, it is broken down into the monosaccharides fructose and glucose.


  • Process 1
  • Effects on caramelization 2
  • Uses in food 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Caramelization is a complex, poorly understood process that produces hundreds of chemical products, and includes the following types of reaction:

Effects on caramelization

The process is temperature-dependent. Specific sugars each have their own point at which the reactions begin to proceed readily.

Caramelization temperatures[1]
Sugar Temperature
Fructose 110°C, 230°F
Galactose 160°C, 320°F
Glucose 160°C, 320°F
Sucrose 160°C, 320°F
Maltose 180°C, 356°F

The caramelization reactions are also sensitive to the chemical environment. By controlling the level of acidity (pH), the reaction rate (or the temperature at which the reaction occurs readily) can be altered. The rate of caramelization is generally lowest at near-neutral acidity (pH around 7), and accelerated under both acidic (especially pH below 3) and basic (especially pH above 9) conditions.[2]

Uses in food

Caramelization is used to produce several foods, including:

  • Caramel sauce, a sauce made with caramel
  • Confiture de lait, caramelized, sweetened milk
  • Dulce de leche, caramelized, sweetened milk
  • Caramel candies
  • Caramelized onions, which are used in dishes like French onion soup. Onions require 30 to 45 minutes of cooking to caramelize.[3]
  • Caramelized potatoes
  • Cola, of which some brands use caramelised sugar in small amounts for colour

Note that the preparation of many "caramelized" foods also involves the Maillard reaction; particularly recipes involving protein and/or amino acid -rich ingredients.

See also

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Food-Info on caramelization
  2. ^ Villamiel, M.; del Castillo, M. D.; Corzo, N. (2006). "4. Browning Reactions". In Hui, Y. H.; Nip, W-.K.; Nollet. L. M. L.; Paliyath, G.; Simpson, B. K. Food biochemistry and food processing. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 83–85.  
  3. ^ Scocca, Tom. Layers of Deceit: Why do recipe writers lie and lie and lie about how long it takes to caramelize onions?, May 2, 2012.

External links

  • Sugar in food management
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