How you season your food can make a big difference in how it tastes. There are some basic things you can do to increase your culinary prowess when it comes to spices.
1. Use Freshly Prepared Ingredients Whenever Possible
It may seem easier to simply use pre-ground spices, but you’ll pay for it with an inferior taste. Spice grinders are relatively cheap, and grinding your own pepper, cinnamon, or anything else you’re planning on using will make all your dishes taste way better. Plus, when you buy fresh ingredients, you can buy the amount you need or want, instead of having to buy a huge amount just for one dish.
2. Add Salt At The End
When you’re preparing any kind of soup or broth, the natural salt content of the liquid will intensify as it reduces, so if you add too much salt early on, the final product might turn out overly salty and inedible.
3. Salt Keeps Your Food Dry
If you’re cooking something that has a habit of getting mushy, like eggplant, you should salt it beforehand. Salt takes the moisture out of food, and it can intensify the natural flavor of veggies and meats.
4. Less Is More
You can always add more salt, spices, and seasonings to your dish, but it is really hard (or impossible) to take it back out. Over-seasoning food can make it inedible (or at least not very appetizing) so you should err on the side of less. If you’re trying a new spice or mixing up a recipe, just add a little bit first, taste it, then add more if needed.
5. Think About The Audience
Who are you cooking for? If you’re just cooking for yourself, you should season your food exactly the way you like it, but if you’re having guests or feeding your family, you should think of them first. Some people like really salty foods, and some people can’t stand food that is too salty (my grandpa always used to say “salt belongs under the table!”). Likewise, some people really like spicy food, and others don’t. What is only mildly spicy to you may be way too hot to someone else. If you’re not sure what your guests like, ask ahead of time.
6. Get A Second Opinion
If you’re in the kitchen experimenting with spices and salts and trying your dish over and over again, you may become less sensitive to the flavors. Each time you try a soup in quick succession, it is harder to spot the differences. Grab one of your guests or family members to try it and let you know what they think.
7. Use Sea Salt
Many people make the mistake of using iodized salt in their recipes instead of sea salt. Granted, iodized salt can be good for people who are iodine deficient (usually caused by not having any seafood in your diet) but it doesn’t taste as good. Pick up some sea salt at the store; it will make all the difference in your recipes.
8. Think About Temperature
As your food cools, the flavor will be less intense, so your dish might not taste the same as it did when you tried it while it was cooking. If possible, cool it down to serving temperature when you’re seasoning and salting. Otherwise, just add a little more to compensate.
9. Try New Things
One of the best things about cooking is experimenting and discovering new ways to cook your favorite foods. Consider using some spices you don’t normally use, and see what works. The best time to try this is when you’re just cooking for yourself. If it works, try your new and improved recipe again when you have guests.
10. Make Food That Tastes Good To You
This is the most important tip. You should always season your food the way you like it. If, at the end of the day, you have a dish that tastes delicious to you, that’s all that matters. Make great food, and enjoy it.