AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Is MSG Bad For You?

Share on:
parmigiano-reggiano

The Truth About MSG And How To Use It Wisely

MSG (a.k.a. monosodium glutamate) is a first rate flavor enhancer that amplifies the natural flavors found in food. It is salt bound to glutamic acid, an amino acid; it is naturally present in our bodies; and it occurs in nature in many foods, among them cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, and even pork, beef, and chicken. It is also a natural byproduct of some aging and fermentation processes. As a food additive, MSG is harmless in normal use. It is an effective flavor enhancer because glutamates are responsible for a basic taste sensation called umami, and we recommend it. I keep a jar next to the salt near the stove.

Sadly, many people have the misimpression that MSG is harmful or it can create headaches, unfortunately dubbed “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” because many Chinese restaurants use it. Doritos, Pringles, parmesan cheese, and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup are among the many foods loaded with MSG, so if you can eat them, then you are not allergic to MSG.

Like what you’re reading? Click here to get Smoke Signals, our free monthly email that tells you about new articles, recipes, product reviews, science, myth-busting, and more. Be Amazing!

The fact is that scientists have had no luck proving the connection between MSG and ill health in controlled peer reviewed tests, the gold standard. When people who think they are allergic are brought into a lab and fed foods with MSG in normal quantities or a placebo, there is no reaction to either. That’s why the eminent food writer Jeffrey Steingarten once wrote a famous essay, “Why Doesn’t Everyone in China Have a Headache?” Here is what an independent group of scientists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say about MSG: It is safe. That document states, “An average adult consumes approximately 13 grams of glutamate each day from the protein in food, while intake of added MSG is estimated at around 0.55 grams per day.”

The only credible research showing harm was when it was used in large quantities on an empty stomach.

But isn’t MSG different from the glutamate in natural foods? Essentially no. It is simply glutamate with salt. The salt becomes detached when it gets wet. So why do people think MSG is evil? It all started in 1968 when a doctor wrote an informal article stating that he experienced a hangover-like effect when he ate Chinese food. He never mentioned MSG and there was no research involved. But it went viral, long before the internet, and there has been no undoing the harm.

Ac’cent® and AJI-NO-MOTO® are commercial powdered forms of MSG. You can find Ac’cent® in most spice sections of grocery stores. I recommend it. Sprinkle it on meats or add it to stews and soups. But also try it on Mac & Cheese and popcorn! Add it before or during cooking. You can add it just before serving but it is less effective that way. I use it in savory dishes but not sweets. I recommend about 1/2 teaspoon on a pound of food. It has a bit of salt in it, so you can even cut back on the salt in your recipe.

Skeptical? Do this experiment: Get two steaks and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of MSG per pound of meat on one steak before cooking. Make a small cut in the edge of this steak so you know it is the MSG one. Use nothing else other than some salt. Then have someone give you a taste of each steak without telling you which is which. I’m betting you’ll have no trouble telling them apart, and you will prefer the MSG steak.

For more on the subject and the history of MSG, click here and here.

Related articles

Published On: 9/15/2021 Last Modified: 12/10/2021

Share on:
  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

 

High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not paid ads, they are a curated selection of products we love.

All of the products below have been tested and are highly recommended. Click here to read more about our review process.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our “buy now” links. This has zero impact on the price you pay but helps support the site.


Big. Bold. Flavor.

Meathead's Amazing rubs and sauce

Introduce big, bold flavor to your BBQ and grilling creations thanks to the Meathead’s Amazing line of pork, red meat, and poultry rubs as well as a KC-style BBQ sauce. Click here to read more and to purchase.


The Cool Kettle With The Hinged Hood We Always Wanted


It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make their 22″ Pro Cart a great alternative! Click here for more about what makes this grill special.


A Propane Smoker That Performs Under Pressure

The Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’. Click here to read our detailed review.


Amp Up Your Outdoor Cooking Game By Joining The Pitmaster Club

AmazingRibs.com Pitmaster Club
Now the largest membership-based BBQ and grilling community in the world, the Pitmaster Club is sure to step up your outdoor cooking game. Experience the countless benefits — from monthly giveaways, to free products, to exclusive content, and more– by signing up for a 30-day free trial below! Get a free 30-day trial here.