Many of our favorite foods have a characteristic color. Golden brown. Be it fried, roasted, seared, or sautéed, the color alone tells us it’s going to be delicious. This color shows controlled technique and finesse on the part of the cook.
The delicious amber color is a side effect of one of two things happening to your food. In high sugar items, caramelization is occurring at temperatures over 310 degrees and taking the sugars present in the food (both natural and added) through over one hundred chemical changes. The resulting color carries with it a depth of flavor and richness that can’t be attained through steaming or boiling. The temperature range for this to happen can be attained through most dry-heat cooking methods. The same cooking techniques will yield similar GBD results when cooking low sugar items like proteins and breads, in a very different way though.
The Maillard reaction is what causes the desirable browning of things like coffee, chocolate, and roasted meats. Exposure to high temperatures causes great changes to locked up carbohydrates and amino acids inherent to proteins. Imagine bread that never developed that golden crusty goodness. Or fried chicken that came out of the pan bright white on the outside and tasting of nothing but flour.
Look for this color taking shape when cooking. Coax it along with attention to the temperature of your pan, oven, or grill. The addition of fat in the form of oils and butter help to coat the item being cooked and conduct heat evenly. Brown good, bland bad.