How to Season Food
I talk a lot about the importance of seasoning foods and the layering process that is involved. Unfortunately when I see other recipes I see at the very end “season with salt and pepper”. While that is something I do sometimes for the “to taste” aspect, seasoning food is much more. Seasoning is the combinations of adding spices to a dish, herbs, acids and salt as the enhancer – not something you want to be able to taste.
I’m a member of the salting club that believes in salting early, not later. This could be with adding a salt crust to a large piece of steak 24 hours before cooking or placing a chicken breast in a brine. By doing this, the salt is able to penetrate the meats. This adds a lot of flavor without giving the food a “salty” taste to it. When using salt while cooking, se kosher salt as you have to feel the salt between your fingers. This gives you a better understanding of how much you are adding.
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Properly seasoned food uses layers during the cooking process. Most recipes, including my own, will call for 2 tablespoons of this and 2 teaspoons of that. However, the key is to add in layers throughout the cooking process. When making a chili: Season with a pinch of everything when sautéing the veggies, then a few more pinches when you add in some and and then again, a few more pinches when the wet ingredients are added. The goal is to add seasoning each time time you add an ingredient to the cooking process. The flavors will build on each other. Then you taste and adjust seasonings one more time before serving.
Don’t be Timid
When I’ve given cooking classes in the past to people, what I find is that most are very timid to the idea of adding more spices. If you don’t add the proper amount of spices and/or salt, the food is just going to be meh. This doesn’t mean dumping 3 tablespoons of madras curry into a small pot of tikka masala though. It means to add liberally. When you are tasting the food and you think to yourself “this had so much more punch when Sally made it” – it’s because Sally wasn’t afraid to flavor the food. Keep adding little bit at a time until you taste what you want to.
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This is similar to brining the food and the concept of layering the flavors. Adding seasonings before cooking is an important step to healthy and flavorful food. This could be a quick lemon and garlic marinade for a chicken breast or it could mean a mojo marinade for a pork butt. Whichever it is, it’s just important o remember that adding seasonings, spices and herbs before cooking will allow you to use less fat.
Once you start getting into the habit of using all these tips when you are cooking, you’ll quickly begin to get a feel for all of it. Then the next thing you know, you’ve got chef tasting food that is also healthy.