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Food Science

Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: Kitchen chemistry hacks explained

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning reveals the chemical recipes behind common kitchen shortcuts.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
August 20, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 27


Infographic detailing the chemistry behind four kitchen chemistry hacks. The first is slowing fruit browning. Fruits brown due to the oxidation and polymerization of phenols. Adding acids, such as lemon juice, wrapping the fruit in cling film or otherwise blocking oxygen slows browning by reducing the activity of the polyphenol oxidase enzyme.
Credit: Andy Brunning

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References used to create this graphic:

Ames, Jennifer M. “The Maillard Reaction.” In Biochemistry of Food Proteins, edited by B. J. F. Hudson, 99–153. Boston, MA: Springer US, 1992.

Ioannou, Irina, and Mohamed Ghoul. “Prevention of Enzymatic Browning in Fruit and Vegetables.” Eur. Sci. J. 9, no. 30 (2013).

Yoon, Ashton. “Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?Science and Food. June 6, 2017.

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



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