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Effects of nitrite on the odourant volatile fraction of cooked ham

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The aim of this work was to reliably identify the key odour compounds in cooked ham and acquire new knowledge on the role of sodium nitrite on the formation of its aroma. Gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and (or) olfactometry was used. In all, 24 odourants were identified in the volatile fraction of cooked ham. Their main origins are discussed. Orthonasal sniffing of the hams was used to study how these substances contributed to the overall aroma of the product. The aroma of cooked ham is a balance between that of certain sulfur compounds produced during cooking and that of oxidation compounds commonly found in cooked meats. In the absence of nitrite, this balance is disturbed by extensive formation of oxidation compounds that mask the meaty notes induced by the sulfur compounds.


Identification and origin of odorous sulfur compounds in cooked ham

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The aim of this work was to identify and gain further knowledge on the origin of sulfur compounds present in the volatile fraction of cooked ham, and on their role in the aroma of this product. To this end, we performed analyses by one- and two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, and olfactometry. Among the odorant sulfur compounds identified, three furans present in trace amounts proved to have very intense odours responsible for the “meaty, cooked ham” notes of this pork product. They were 2-methyl-3-furanthiol, 2-methyl-3-(methyldithio)furan and bis(2-methyl-3-furyl) disulphide. Addition of thiamine or cysteine also enabled us to study the effect of these odour precursors on the formation of odorant furans during the cooking of ham. The results revealed a direct link between the thermal degradation of thiamine and the formation of these compounds. By contrast, addition of cysteine in the presence of fructose or xylose did not appreciably increase their production.