We cannot overemphasize the importance of texture in food. Food is not a combination of flavors. Flavors are one thing, but since eating is a combination of sensory experiences, the professional home cook or chef needs to pay close attention to food textures, too. But how does texture affect the quality of cooked food? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
What Does Texture Mean in Food?
Texture and taste go hand in hand in providing a special experience for the very type of food. Experts state that texture can alter the perception of what we taste.
So when a person eats something, the texture contributes greatly to what is actually sent to the brain and then processed as the complete experience. This may come as a surprise to many, but textures can change how a person perceives sweetness and saltiness.
Interestingly, if you change the texture of food, you can make the foodstuff appear as if it was less sweet or less salty. Inversely, food texture can also fool the brain into thinking that something is sweeter or saltier than it is.
In the context of making healthier food, this might be very useful because if you are reducing the salt content of food for someone who is salt-sensitive, then obviously, the texture is going to count a lot.
The reduction of sugar and salt in many beverages and foodstuffs means small-scale food producers and bigger manufacturers have to step up in being creative with manipulating food texture if they want to arrive at the same palatable and tasty dimensions that they are aiming for.
What About Beverages?
Experts believe that low-viscosity beverages can still be altered and explored further to provide consumers better experiences. When you change the texture of liquids by adding ingredients (whether dry or wet), you can also change the brain’s perception of the basic tastes and flavors involved. In short, everything that we consume can be experienced differently. This is probably why the experience is different when you buy milk tea from an outside stall with all the additional ingredients and make some at home with some ready-made or instant milk tea powder. Taking all things into consideration, even the packaging changes the brain’s expectations. The result of experience is finalized by the entirety of the experience in consuming the food or beverage.
How Does Texture Affect Food Taste?
Science points at the integral role of mastication or chewing in how we experience food in the first place. The mouth can derive information from all kinds of food, from semi-solid, solid, and liquid. There are dominant temporal sensations that change how we perceive food. Solid food can be incredibly complex because it requires multiple chewing cycles. Each chewing cycle changes what we perceive as we eat; it’s like peeling away layers of information as we go along. That’s why the mechanics of eating is not just chewing and swallowing – the process is much more advanced than that.
According to science, Taste perception occurs physiologically and mentally, and eating will influence emotions and behavior. The individual substances within the food will erupt inside and eventually dissolve, adding multiple dimensions to what we eat in the first place. The rehydration of food through the action of saliva also changes how we appreciate food. When food is chewed and hydrated by saliva, the individual components of food are spread throughout the oral cavity. That also influences how we appreciate the food in its entirety.
When you chew food for the first time, the brain perceives the first wave of textures from the food as it begins to be broken down by the teeth. There’s not much flavor yet, but the brain is already collecting information from the food. The mastication introduces fracturing to the food’s physical structure, and the individual elements of the food are revealed to the brain for the first time. Scientists can measure how long we keep food in the mouth per cycle of chewing. Even jaw mechanics can also affect how we appreciate food.
Why Is Texture Important in Food?
The texture is important to food because consuming food is a multidimensional activity. As mentioned earlier, eating food or drinking beverages is not just about getting the food or beverage into your stomach as fast as possible. When we eat, we gather thousands of sensory inputs as we consume the food.
All these sensory inputs are calculated and decoded by the brain as we eat. We remember food and beverages set the standards as to what we find delicious and appealing in different situations. With this in mind, the texture of food comes as close as possible to the mechanical breakdown of food and the subsequent decoding of the information stored in the food as we break it down in the mouth.
People normally don’t think about it this way, but consuming food is more complex and nuanced than what one would think. It’s just that people don’t mind the process that much, but the brain continues to store memories and experiences as we eat. The science behind all of this, they are experiencing food is largely a combination of impulses and mechanical processes that eventually boil down to the molecular level.
As we grind food in the mouth, the brain perceives how the food splits and fractures and how parts of it touch the taste buds. The density of food has a large bearing on the final experience. Proportion is also important here – how we combine different textures will change the experience slightly even if you are experimenting with a single dish. Narrowly and broadly, the texture will be a big factor, and this factor somehow commands the flavor profile of the food.