Bacon is delicious – there’s no doubt about that. But what about the flavour of bacon is so delicious? Describing the flavour of something that we love is often hard to do. We just love it! And as we’ve discussed before here on the Republic of Bacon, bacon’s flavour is so complex that pinning it down to one flavour is just impossible. Each piece of bacon tastes different, and every way you cook it changes its flavour in wonderful, delicious ways.
But there is one thing that is particularly special about bacon that has a direct effect on its flavour. Bacon’s distinctive flavour has a lot to do with the fact that it has a larger percentage of glutamic acid than other meats. Glutamic acid, if you aren’t aware (which I wasn’t), is the “meaty” flavoured chemical. So, in other words, bacon tastes “meatier” than other meats.
Glutamic acid was discovered in 1908 by a Japanese scientist who was trying to find out where that meaty flavour comes from. After he made his discovery of the chemical, he patented a way to make a crystallized variant of glutamic acid called MSG. Since then, MSG has become popular as a flavour enhancer. This doesn’t mean that bacon has MSG in it (and that you should worry about MSG allergies), But it does mean that the flavours are chemically related. No wonder you can use bacon to enhance the flavour of everything!
The other interesting thing about this is that when the Japanese scientist discovered glutamic acid, he named the flavour it produced umami. Since then, umami or savoriness, has begun to be recognized as one of the fundamental flavours that we can detect, along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. And while sour and bitter flavours – particularly intense amounts of these flavours – will turn your appetite off, savory, salty and sweet flavours make you hungrier. Bacon starts out very salty and savory, and the cooking process makes it sweet. This means that bacon has the three fundamental flavours that make you hungry. Further improving its tastiness is the fact that it doesn’t have much of the two flavours that will turn your appetite off.
So, not only does bacon enhance the flavours of the other foods you are eating through its magical glutamic acid effect, its stupendous combination of flavours makes you want to eat more of it! The more you think about it, how could bacon get even better? It is pretty much the world’s most perfect food.
What else does bacon make so much better? Any recipes or stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them.