For those who like their food a little extra toasty, the fad of burnt snacks makes sense, but for the rest of you, you may be a little perplexed about why these snacks have become so popular. What is it about burnt food, especially snacks, that makes them so tantalizing to customers?
Well, it's due in part to the Maillard reaction, the chemical reaction responsible for browning food. Paul Breslin, a doctor at Monell Center, told Epicurious that people have a psychological response to this reaction, even when taken to the extremes — aka, when your food goes from browned to burnt. "We find the caramelization of sugar, slightly burnt sugar, very attractive," he said. Not everyone may like burnt foods, but as food trends expert Kara Nielsen pointed out to The Kitchn, the market is more diverse than ever. There's a demand for charred and extra toasty food, and "bitter, char, and caramelized are all flavors people are more comfortable with now."
This might explain the rise of products like Extra-Toasty Cheez-Its. As one observant Redditor said, "Apparently, a bunch of people said they love the taste of the over-baked ones so the Kellogg company started intentionally over-baking them a bit." However, you may want to think twice before eating overcooked snacks.
Read more: 8 Baking Sheet Mistakes You Want To Avoid
Is It Safe To Eat Burnt Food?
You may have heard that burnt foods may be hazardous to your health, but is this based on fact or fiction? Well, it's complicated. If taken to the extreme, the Maillard reaction can cause the creation of the chemical acrylamide. The chemical is created via a reaction between sugar and amino acids. According to the American Cancer Society, acrylamide is potentially carcinogenic to humans.
A study published in the International Journal of Toxicology linked high levels of acrylamide to cancer as well as liver toxicity. However, the National Cancer Institute has not found a link between the acrylamide acquired through eating and a higher risk for cancer, and Cancer Research UK hasn't either. Therefore, you're probably safe eating that piece of slightly burnt toast.
However, it's worth noting that people's tolerance for burnt food generally has its limit. If a food is too burnt, it has the potential to go from appetizing to appalling. So even if it's safe to eat, it may not be pleasant to consume if it's burnt black rather than slightly toasted. Likewise, not every snack tastes good extra-done.
Foods That Taste Good Burnt
When it comes to slightly burnt snacks, the aforementioned Extra-Toasty Cheez-Its springs to mind, which has a stronger taste than normal Cheez-Its. Other well-done snacks have also cropped up in stores like Dark Split Pretzels and Dark Roasted peanuts. All three snacks share a similar quality in that they're already crunchy. The extra time in the oven just exemplifies that quality as well as heightens the taste.
However, it's very easy to make your own slightly burnt snacks at home. In particular, veggies like carrots and potatoes seem to be good choices, with the extra time in the oven creating a nice golden crisp. You could also overcook meat for additional caramelization. After all, who doesn't love extra-crispy bacon at breakfast time? Crunchy lasagna will give extra texture to your noodles, creating additional contrast in what could be a soggy dish.
Perhaps, the reason burnt food has become popular is the familiarity with the taste. Who hasn't accidentally burnt their dinner on one or more occasions? It's a taste that almost anyone can recognize. However, overcooking one's food doesn't have to be a mistake. It can also be a bold new way of enjoying flavor.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.