Kitchen science: Unexplained cooking phenomena

Cooking is both an art and a science, and there are many things science still can't tell us about cooking.

I've always enjoyed the idea that cooking is just tiny science experiments that we get to eat. While we've learned a lot about food and what goes into making it delicious, there are still some fundamental mysteries that I'd have thought science should have more exact answers to, but we do not.

One surprising unknown: the many triggers and variables of the Maillard reaction. While we know browning food makes bread toasty or seared steak steak-ie, we don't exactly know when it'll start or which compounds will be formed under what conditions. Apparently so much is happening, and there are so many variables, this super important part of cooking is several parts magic.

Salt makes things taste better until it doesn't. How much salt is too much, and how does the body know? Scientists still can't figure it out. Everyone's tastebuds react differently, and we aren't clear why.

Everyone has a method, but none of them works consistently. Why is peeling a hard-boiled egg so hit or miss?

There are likely many more.

Previously: Perserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen, Science of the perfect chocolate-chip cookie, Cooking for Geeks: chocolate port (not pork!) cake