Enhancing Umami Taste

Throughout the ages, and all over the world, people have sought out foods which are rich in umami. Selecting food that is ripe, and preparing or cooking it so that it tastes not only palatable but delicious is a human trait that is universal.

In essence increasing umami in food means increasing the level of free glutamate. This can be brought about in a number of ways:

Ripening

Experience tells us that when vegetables are in season their taste and flavor are in perfect balance. As they ripen, the level of many taste components, including free amino acids, increases. Free glutamate levels, in particular, reach a peak when the umami taste is optimal. As green tomatoes ripen to rich red, the level of free glutamate increases ten-fold.

umami taste and the ripening process
Free glutamate levels in ripening tomatoes
As green tomatoes ripen to rich red, the level of free glutamate increases ten-fold

Cooking

Cooking is a way of increasing umami in savory foods. It results in the release of free glutamate and other umami substances, enhancing umami and creating a deliciously balanced final dish.

 

umami taste and the cooking process

Curing

The different processes undertaken during curing meat or fish result in the breakdown of some of the protein, therefore releasing amino acids. So curing not only preserves the food but also enhances umami.

 

Free glutamate levels in the curing process
The curing process not only preserves the food but also enhances umami taste
umami taste and the curing process

Maturation

The taste of cheese becomes stronger and develops character as it ripens. During maturation the proteins in the cheese are broken down, eventually to free amino acids. In strong, mature cheeses, free glutamate dominates delivering a powerful umami taste.

 

Free glutamate levels and maturation
In strong, mature cheeses, free glutamate dominates delivering a powerful umami taste
umami taste and maturation

Adding glutamate or glutamate-rich stock

Increasing the level of free glutamate in a dish, during cooking or processing, is a simple and effective way to increase umami taste and balance. In recipe development, glutamate is added at levels similar to those in traditional recipes. The taste can also be enhanced by using glutamate-rich condiments to season the dish before serving or at the table.

 

Free glutamate levels and adding glutamate
Adding glutamate during the preparation of a dish is a simple way to increase umami taste
umami taste and adding glutamate
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