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How Much Glutamate to Use in Cooking

The flavor enhancing properties of glutamate have been scientifically investigated in many contexts. For each food, there is an optimum glutamate concentration. Some foods, however, are not improved by the addition of glutamate – noticeably sweet foods and some particularly bitter foods. Like any seasoning, the optimal concentration of umami taste varies widely between individual consumers.

Studies carried out among Europeans suggest that the optimal concentrations (0.6–1.2 percent) tend to be higher than those reported by Asians; this may be due to the relative deficit in awareness of the distinctive umami taste in Western countries. It may also be due to genetic variation in taste.

Asian consumers learn to discriminate and appreciate the taste of umami from early childhood. In the the Western world, consumers have only recently learned to discriminate the umami taste, although they have enjoyed its contribution to food for centuries.

Excess glutamate does not make food taste better and it actually worsens taste. Generally, glutamate will work very well with salty or sour food. The optimum amount of added glutamate to enhance the taste of food is at 0.1–0.8 percent by weight.

For instance, 500 grams of food needs 0.5–4.0 grams of glutamate to bring a favorable taste, which is the same as that of glutamate naturally found in foods rich in umami flavors. For example, protein from meat contains 11–22 percent of glutamate.