The Crunch Factor

Not just a characteristic of snack foods, a crunchy texture can signal freshness in fruits and vegetables. Read on for ways to satisfy that crunchy craving.

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The texture of food greatly influences the enjoyment of a dish. Whether it’s pizza crust or crispy salmon skin, crunchy food is most satisfying when it is well balanced in the composition of a dish. 

MOUTHFEEL

The three main textures are crispy/crunchy, creamy and chewy. Flavor aside, texture plays a huge role in our enjoyment of foods. Mouthfeel is the term for how different foods and drinks feel in your mouth. Separate from flavor, the mouthfeel of what we eat will largely determine what we like and dislike. Take oysters, for example – while they are loved by many, others describe their texture as “slimy” and dismiss them for that reason, no matter how much they might enjoy their briny flavor. Another example is meat that one finds too chewy. In contrast, we can derive great satisfaction and pleasure from foods that offer a desirable texture. Food is so objective, depending on the person! Because mouthfeel is so important, texture should be top of mind when composing a dish, rather than an afterthought. It is desirable to have a variety of textures going on in one dish. 

Flavor aside, texture plays a huge role in our enjoyment of foods.

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP

The auditory accompaniment of crunch – that crackling noise you hear when you bite into, say, a cucumber, adds to the enjoyment of that food experience. There are many different ways to incorporate texture into your dishes. Using breadcrumbs to coat foods or toasting them and adding them as a garnish for salad, soup or pasta dishes always works well to create a crispy finish.

There is also something called “The Maillard Reaction,” which is quite complex. In a nutshell, it refers to the various chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in food are transformed by heat, creating new flavors, aromas, and colors. Most often, a umami-type flavor and crunchy texture develop as a result. A simple way to achieve the Maillard reaction is to leave the skin on whatever it is that you’re cooking. For example, searing the skin on a piece of salmon results in a fantastic textural contrast between a crispy exterior and tender, moist fish. 

Whether made from potato, corn or plantain, chips serve as another wonderful way to enhance the crunch factor of many plates. Think vessels for steak tartare or ceviche! 

A simple way to achieve the Maiilard reaction is to leave the skin on whatever it is that you’re cooking.

INGREDIENTS THAT BRING THE CRUNCH

Apples and cucumbers are both fantastic, fresh ingredients that always deliver on crunch! There are thousands of apple varieties around the world. Apple varieties differ in texture, color, sweetness, juiciness and acidity, which are all features to consider when you're using them in baking or cooking. The wonderful crunchiness of raw apples makes them a wonderful ingredient for salads and slaws, or they can simply be enjoyed on their own.

It's hard to talk about crunchy foods without mentioning pickles! Whether on burgers or a cheese board, they always seem to hit the spot with their crisp texture and briny flavor. Pickles are made from cucumbers, which are (botanically speaking) a fruit, since they contain seeds! Best eaten raw, they are one of the most popular produce items in the world. Cucumbers pair very well with tomato, dill and feta cheese. They also make a great sandwich filling, along with cream cheese or mayonnaise. No matter how you enjoy cucumbers, you’re sure to satisfy your crunch craving!