The process of breaking down proteins into smaller protein molecules or amino acids (i.e., the smallest protein unit).
Proteolysis derives meaning from ‘proteo’ (protein) and ‘lysis’ (breakdown).
Proteolysis’ Role in Cooking
Proteolysis helps tenderize and flavor foods.
Breaking down large protein networks (i.e., collagen) can tenderize meat and form gelatin, a protein thickening agent.
Further breakdown into amino acids can enhance food flavor through the creation of umami compounds (e.g., glutamic acid).
How to Enhance Proteolysis
Proteolysis is a lengthy process, but can speed up under high temperatures or acidity.
A class of proteolytic enzymes called proteases can speed up proteolysis reactions under optimal conditions.
Meat contains natural proteases, which tenderize the muscle fibers with time (e.g., dry-aging).
Probiotics also contain proteases that break down proteins during fermentation. Proteolysis in fermented food helps develop
The savory taste of amino acids or nucleotides (e.g., glutamic/inosinic acid) or their more flavorful salt forms (e.g., monosodium glutamate and disodium inosinate).
More info on umami flavors (e.g, cheese, soy sauce, miso, and fish sauce).