Denaturation (food)

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There are two types of denaturation used: Denaturing proteins for use in consumption, and denaturing food not intended for consumption.

When preparing proteins for consumption, there are three ways of denaturing the proteins: heating, acids, and mechanical force (e.g. whisking eggs)[1][2]. All three methods have the same result: hydrogen bonds in the proteins are broken allowing the proteins to "unwind." When the proteins are unwound, they have been altered from their natural state and are considered denatured. Once denatured, the proteins are free to interact with other chemicals in the food like the Maillard reaction[3] or recombine with itself to coagulate[4][5].

To render food unpleasant or dangerous to consume it is denature by adding a substance known as a denaturant.  Aversive agents—primarily bitterants and pungent agents—are used to produce an unpleasant flavor.  For example, the bitterant denatonium might be added to food used in a laboratory, where such food is not intended for human consumption.  A poisonous substance may be added as an even more powerful deterrent.  For example, methanol is blended with ethanol to produce denatured alcohol.  The addition of methanol, which is poisonous, renders denatured alcohol unfit for consumption, as ingesting denatured alcohol may result in serious injury or death.  Thus denatured alcohol is not subject to the taxes usually levied on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.


  1. ^ Corriher, Shirley O. (1997). Cookwise: the hows and whys of successful cooking. William Morrow. p. 197. ISBN 0-688-10229-8. 
  2. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Second ed.). Scribner. p. 806. ISBN 0-684-80001-2. 
  3. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner. pp. 778–779. ISBN 0-684-80001-2. 
  4. ^ Corriher, Shirley O. (1997). Cookwise: the hows and whys of successful cooking. William Morrow. p. 197. ISBN 0-688-10229-8. 
  5. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner. pp. 808–809. ISBN 0-684-80001-2.