Whether you prefer frozen meals or home-baked goods, if you’re a regular in the kitchen, then you probably know the most frequently used oven temperature—350 degrees.
It might seem like an arbitrary number. After all, most ovens aren’t exact. The temperature probably drops and rises quite a bit as you’re cooking your food.
350 isn’t actually as arbitrary as it might seem. It actually is an important player leading to a chemical reaction in your food.
When food browns, it gets that perfect, nutty, delicious flavor. It also looks beautiful, with a golden-brown hue. This isn’t a random process that happens at different temperatures, it’s actually a very specific chemical reaction.
350 degrees is the temperature associated with something called the Maillard Reaction. This reaction is what gives food that gloriously brown color.
When food is exposed to 350-degree temperatures, the proteins in the outer layer change their chemical makeup. This makes meats taste a little more savory and makes pies and other deserts taste sweeter.
Just think about the difference between boiled chicken and roasted chicken. Boiled chicken does not go through the Maillard reaction because the water doesn’t get to a high enough temperature. Roasted chicken, however, is usually perfectly browned and delicious.
Another example is the difference between a pie that hasn’t quite been baked long enough and one that’s golden brown. If you take the pie out of the oven before it goes through the Maillard Reaction, you’re missing out on the complexity of flavor that you would otherwise get.
Check out this video explaining what exactly happens during the Maillard Reaction.
While this is the scientific reason that many recipes call for 350 degrees, it also serves as the perfect moderate temperature. It’s hot enough to cook foods quickly, but not so hot that the outside will burn before the inside is finished.
So now you know the secret being your oven’s preset! It’s not only a perfectly moderate temperature but also contributes to a chemical reaction.
In other news, this man got a vasectomy, then found out his wife was pregnant. His reaction is priceless. Read the story here.