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Flavor Creation: Composing Savory Flavors

By: Shane McDonald
Posted: December 4, 2007, from the December 2007 issue of P&F magazine.

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  • From P&F Magazine
  • December 2007 issue, pg 32—5 pages
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Later, in college I heard the same songs on real stereophonic equipment. It enabled me to hear the pulse of the low, bass notes and the high notes from the guitar or singer.

Creating savory flavors can be likened to composing music. While it is possible to get the basic beef or tomato flavor across with middle notes, true-to-type flavor will incorporate top notes and low notes for an excellent flavor “composition.”

Low Notes

The tongue perceives the basic four taste sensations: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. These are manifestations of well-known water-soluble, non-volatile compounds.

Today, umami is often considered another basic taste sensation and is very important in savory flavor formulation. Roughly translated from Japanese as delicious, it refers to the enhancing properties of chemicals such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nucleotides. Umami is a particularly challenging flavor note mainly due to labeling restrictions. MSG has a very negative connotation with many consumers. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is a good source of free glutamate (especially wheat HVP), but is also perceived unfavorably. Nucleotides, most commonly in the form of a 50:50 blend of disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (I+G)), are an excellent source of umami and can be used synergistically with free glutamate sources. However, it gives consumers the impression of being very chemical. Fortunately, a wide variety of autolyzed yeast extracts (AYE) are commercially available and offer varying degrees of free glutamate and nucleotides. Many commodities have potentiation as well (e.g., tomato paste, Parmesan cheese powder and certain cultured products especially designed to potentiate with clean labels).

Also contributing low notes are certain sensations of feeling, such as the cooling of menthol in peppermint or the heat of capsaicin in cayenne pepper. The typical sources for low note tastes can be found in T-1.

Other topics discussed: Middle Notes, Top Notes, Example Savory Formulations (grilled beef flavor, cheddar cheese flavor, reaction flavor example) 

This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine, but you can purchase the full-text version.