But here's the question: From an evolutionary perspective, why does it taste good?
I suppose its possible that a preference for cooked food was such a beneficial adaptation for us that we evolved a taste for charred meat in a relatively short amount of time, a hundred thousand years or so. I mean, our jaw structure definitely reflects the shift in selective pressures brought about by the advent of cooking, so it's not inconceivable. But I tend to doubt this explanation for a couple of reasons.
One is that there is a big difference between a modified jaw structure vs. the ability to detect and seek out a whole new class of flavor compounds. It seems the latter would take a lot longer to arise as a result of natural selection.
The other reason I doubt that this preference was selected due to cooking is because there doesn't seem to be any reproductive benefit to preferring charred meat over, say, boiled meat. I suppose our ancestors may just have used fire-roasting more than boiling -- but I have to imagine that the two techniques were invented around the same time, and if our ancestors did not already prefer the flavor of seared meat, I don't see why they wouldn't just boil it to save time, as well as to capture any rendered fat in a broth rather than letting it drip wastefully into the fire.
It seems most likely to me that we already had a taste for these flavor compounds prior to learning how to create them via cooking, and that it was a side effect of some other adaptation. But what?
The Wikipedia article talks about a similar reaction occurring naturally in our bodies... I wonder if that could have any bearing on it? I don't know, I am not an evolutionary biologist, or any kind of biologist for that matter. Anybody have any ideas?