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What is Hydrolysis?

Hydrolysis is a reaction through chemical decomposition that occurs when water reacts with a compound resulting in the production of another compound. The term is taken from the Greek words hydro meaning water and lysis meaning separation. During the reaction a molecule is split into two parts by the addition of a water molecule. Of the two parts one will get a hydrogen ion and the other collects the remaining hydroxyl group. The end result is the formation of an acid and a base.

In cooking, hydrolysis is a common occurrence especially with molecules of carbohydrates and proteins. These larger sugar and amino acid molecules are broken down and bonds are formed with the addition of hydrogen to one and hydroxyl to the other. Negative charges are bonded with positive charges and vice versa. Since there is no longer a difference in charge, the molecules are able to move apart. A simpler substance is formed as a result of this.

As the name implies, the process does not happen on its own. Water must be present within proteins and carbohydrates. Reactions between these substances can be hastened with the use of an alkali or an acid such as baking soda or lemon juice.