Why Does a Bacon Butty Smell so Good?Have you ever wondered why frying bacon tempts even the staunchest of vegetarians? I wish I could tell you it is something lyrical and romantic but quite simply: it is a chemical interaction in the meat.
According to Elin Roberts, science communications manager at the Centre for Life in Newcastle; it is not the brown sauce, the bread, or even the bacon which sets the taste buds drooling but the Maillard Reaction - the reaction between amino acids in the bacon and reducing sugars in the fat.
Ms Roberts states : "Meat is made of mostly protein and water. Inside the protein, it's made up of building blocks we call amino acids. But also, you need some fat. Anyone who's been on a diet knows if you take all the fat from the meat, it just doesn't taste the same. We need some of the fat to give it the flavour."
She explained that the Maillard reaction released hundreds of smells and flavours, but it is the smell which reels in the eater. "Smell and taste are really closely linked," she said. "If we couldn't smell, then taste wouldn't be the same." Without denying what Ms Roberts has to say, no matter how Maillard works its magic on my slice of bacon sizzling in the pan, that alone does not the perfect bacon butty make.
What Makes the Perfect Bacon Butty
- Hunger. Always smells and tastes so much better when you are hungry.
- The place. It is almost rude not to eat bacon on a Sunday morning (outside in the rain if away camping or at a festival. And, always on holiday, especially in the UK.
- White sliced, bread: Brown bread is too assertive, whereas the thickness of sliced white is in correct proportion to the thickness of a bacon rasher. This balance means the bread contains the bacon without swamping it and has it has little flavour, does not distract from the pork taste. Also, the bread should be lightly smeared with butter or better still, "mucky fat" (see later).
- The bacon: The bacon can be streaky, back bacon, smoked or not but and must be from outdoor-reared, preferably organic pigs; which means there is no shrinkage in the pan, no 'white-stuff' just well flavoured, juicy bacon. Buying the best you can afford really does pay off with bacon.
- Fried not grilled: I know this will set the health-police screaming but frying several slices in the same pan requires little additional fat as the bacon renders its own. And, when the edges of the bacon caramelise with the frying, it creates that most delicious extra flavouring for the butty - mucky fat.
- To Round it Off: Brown sauce: not tomato; to drink, tea; it must be on a plate and with a paper napkin. Some may say that toasting the bread, ketchup, grilling, maple syrup, marmalade and mayo (I have tried them all) work better, but this is my perfect butty. Do let me know what you think.