Dec. 21, 1999 Science has finally gone to the dogs ... hot dogs, that is. Researchers in Northern Ireland have just released a study explaining why reduced-fat frankfurters might taste slightly different than regular franks.
Writing in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers say that aroma compounds, which affect flavor, appear to be released more slowly and last longer in full-fat frankfurters than in the lower fat variety. The peer-reviewed journal is published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article was initially published on the journal's web site on Nov. 18.
In full-fat meat products, the lipid (fat) appears to act as a "reservoir of flavor, which can be released slowly during eating," says Linda Farmer, Ph.D., lead author of the study. Farmer is with the Department of Food Science at The Queen's University of Belfast.
The amount of flavor (odor) compounds in lower fat meat products may be the same as those in full-fat products, but because they contain less lipid, the flavor reservoir is much smaller, according to Farmer. The end result is faster release of many of the flavor compounds. "In practice, this means that the spicy, peppery flavors are strong to start with, but decrease quite rapidly thereafter," says Farmer.
A sophisticated analytical technique, known as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, was combined with another sensitive detector, the human nose, to measure and evaluate approximately 70 flavor/odor compounds in franks with varying levels of fat. Some odors were much stronger in the low fat varieties.
Whether it is possible to slow the release of flavor/odor compounds in lower fat hot dogs, thereby improving their taste, is the subject of a follow-up study by the Queen's University researchers. They expected to announce their results in the next few months.
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