The seasonings that you add to your food can bring out its flavor, making it taste far more delicious. Seasonings can take a number of different forms, ranging from herbs and spices to citrus juice or salt. Even though it seems like seasoning your food would be a straightforward process, there is a lot that can go wrong if you do it incorrectly. The section below outlines some of the most common seasoning mistakes along with tips on how to keep from making them.
Failing To Use An Adequate Amount Of Salt
Most people know the Iliad as one of the first pieces of literature in the Western world. As it turns out, however, it also is somewhat of a cookbook. Homer discusses how Patroclus, a friend of Achilles, uses salt on a goat, pork, and sheep loins before cooking them over the coals. Today, this method of seasoning meat before roasting it is still the most effective, even though people have had thousands of years to try to find a better way.
Most of the salt used today is Kosher salt. That hasn’t always been the case. In the past, people used table salt, instead. Compared to Kosher salt, table salt is far saltier. If you are using table salt for a recipe, try cutting the salt in half to keep the food from being too salty. Alternatively, you could also pick up a container of Kosher salt.
Meat isn’t the only type of food that benefits from salt. You also need to salt the water when cooking foods like potatoes or pasta. Foods like poached eggs can even benefit from extra salt.
One tip to keep in mind is that the phrase “season to taste” means that the food should have a noticeable amount of salt.
Not Sampling The Food As You Prepare It
If you don’t occasionally taste the food while you are making it, things can quickly go wrong.
It is easy to get caught up in the cooking process, focusing on chopping up ingredients, stirring the food, and adding seasonings. If you aren’t careful, you can easily go overboard with one of the seasonings for the dish. Adding too much cayenne pepper can turn what should be a relatively mild dish into a four-alarm fire. Too much salt, on the other hand, can detract from the flavor of the food.
Luckily, avoiding this mistake is easy. You just need to remind yourself to do it. The more frequently you taste the food while cooking, the more it will become a habit.
Sampling a sauce or a soup is a straightforward process. All that you have to do is occasionally taste it while it simmers.
Something like raw meat, on the other hand, is a little bit different. Although some dedicated chefs will taste the meat when it is raw, most people aren’t too excited about the idea. Luckily, all that you have to do is cook a small piece of the meat to taste how it is with the seasonings.
One good habit to get into is to cut the seasonings for the recipe in half. As it begins cooking, you can then gradually add more until the food has the flavor that you want.
Using Black Pepper That Is Already Ground
Black pepper is one of the most commonly used seasonings in any dish. Don’t make the mistake of buying ground pepper from the store. It lacks the flavor of freshly ground pepper and won’t do anything to enhance the taste of your dishes.
A better option is to grind your own pepper. If you want, you can purchase a pepper grinder of your own, as found on Foodal.com.
Grinding your own pepper offers a number of benefits. For one thing, freshly ground pepper has more flavor. After pepper is ground, it immediately begins to lose its flavor. When you grind it yourself, it is at its most flavorful. Ground pepper also has a lot more texture. This can make food more enjoyable to eat. There is something satisfying about crunching into a piece of black pepper as you eat your meal.
Waiting Too Long To Add Dried Herbs
Whenever possible, you should use fresh herbs in your dishes. Examples of common herbs that are used in cooking include parsley, thyme, oregano, and basil.
In some cases, it isn’t practical to use fresh herbs. In situations like these, dried herbs can be a good substitute. The key is to add them at the right time when preparing the dish.
Dry herbs should be added when you begin cooking, while fresh herbs should be added at the end of the cooking process. Herbs that are fresh release volatile oils when they are cooked for even a little bit of time. That means that you don’t have to add them as early in the cooking process.
Herbs that have been dried, however, require more time before their flavor is activated. For situations where the dried herbs aren’t going to be cooked, plan even more time for the flavors to be replaced. For instance, if you are making salad dressing, try to prepare it at least several hours before you plan on using it.
Using Stale Spices
Spices are derived from other parts of the plant beside the leaves. This can include the roots, bark, buds, or seeds. Since spices are dried when you purchase them, it doesn’t take long for them to go stale.
For the freshest spices, consider grinding your own rather than buying spices that are already ground. Usually, ground spices are at least somewhat stale already by the time that you purchase them. The oils in the spices evaporate surprisingly quickly.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is by purchasing an inexpensive coffee grinder. You can then use the coffee grinder to grind seeds, berries, or buds, creating your own ground spices. Only grind as much as you need at any given time. Another option is to purchase spices in bulk. This allows you to buy a small amount at a time so that you don’t waste money on spices that are going to sit around in your kitchen becoming stale.