As helpful as meal planning is to keeping people on track with their busy schedules, even the most organized athlete, mom or busy executive sometimes needs just a bit more help in the kitchen. The appeal of using less ingredients for cooking is undeniable. But there’s no point in cooking bland or mediocre food just for that reason.
Here are some helpful guidelines and points I use when coming up with six-ingredient cooking.
Use High Heat
Browning food is important for developing flavor in food – rather it’s for 6 ingredients or 50. High heat is what encourages food to brown. It’s a potent flavor builder that makes it seem as if you are using more than one or two different ingredients. Grilling (huge flavor builder), pan searing and broiling are all high heat cooking methods. Just make sure you are getting the grill and sauté pan hot enough because you don’t want to end up steaming the food.
Store Bought Sauces are Your Friend
Store bought sauces in the past deservedly acquired a bad reputation. They were loaded with salt and preservatives. Let’s also not forget to mention that they tasted horrible. Nowadays, there is a plethora of organic and preservative free sauces at your local grocery store. You can marinated chicken and seafood in sauces like pesto. Use a spicy Arrabiata tomato sauce with a touch of cream to make a pasta bake. Just make sure you look at the ingredients in the sauces so you can steer clear of excess salt, MSG or other preservatives.
Load Up on Spice Blends
Using 15 different spices can get expensive and time consuming when cooking. Consider adding spice blends like curry’s, creole seasonings, poultry seasonings, southwest seasonings and maybe some Italian seasonings to your pantry. Keeping these blends on hand means you don’t have to spend the money buying all the spices and adding a lot more ingredients to a dish. Another big perk to using spice blends is that some of them contain spices that are hard to find. So the next time you see a fun spice blend at the store – go ahead and buy it!
Embrace the International Aisle
Every single grocery store has one. Go raid it. They usually have Latin to Chinese to Thai to Middle Eastern and more represented in the aisle. You’ll find jars of sauces, marinades and spices that will add a giant punch of flavor to a quick 6-ingredient dinner. Marinade some meat in a red curry paste and then add it into a coconut sauce. Or maybe use a jerk rub on some shrimp before throwing them on the grill. All of these things will add more flavor with less effort and fewer ingredients.
Bloom Spices and Herbs
This sounds more complicated than it really is. All you are doing is unlocking the flavors by briefly cooking them in some oil. As the oil heats, the spices get some more flavor and then they are released into the oil. This will then add more flavor to the rest of the ingredients you are putting into the pan. It’s almost like you had made a rub for the meats and veggies before cooking.
Fruit Jams as Glazes
This is a great little trick. You can find all types of different jams in a the grocery store now. Fun and outside of the box spreads like caramelized onion jam, hot pepper jelly, chipotle blueberry and so much more are finding their way even the bigger supermarkets! Use these jams as a glaze or even marinade before cooking. They’ll sweeten, condense in flavor while cooking and sometimes become a sauce if using in a skillet with the juices of the meat.
Remember to Season and Taste
I don’t consider salt and pepper among the six ingredients when cooking. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t important – if anything, salt is the most important. Follow my seasoning instruction on salting food before cooking, season your food during cooking, and be sure to taste before serving – and season again if necessary.