10 Simple Seasoning Tips that Will Make Your Food Taste Better

Reliable recipes and the right equipment are important but knowing how to make the most of your seasonings will help elevate your home cooking from tasty to dee-licious. Whether you’re new to the kitchen, or an old pro who’s trying to cook at home more, our chef’s 10 simple steps will boost the flavor of your food and make your favorite dishes sing: 

  1. No one salt fits all Learning the difference between salt varieties and when to use which for what will make a big difference right off the bat. The best go-to salt for everything, especially seasoning meat and pork, is Kosher salt since its crystals dissolve quickly and its flavor disperses evenly. Table salt should be kept — surprise — on the table since it’s best atop cooked foods for a little extra flavor. Sea salt adds pungency to just-cooked foods and is perfect for salmon, for example.
  2. Tame pepper’s punch Pepper’s strength is determined by when it’s applied. For example, if you want assertive flavor, season meat after searing it since keeping pepper away from heat will preserve its volatile compounds. Conversely, if you season meat before you cook, the pepper affect will be mitigated. Likewise, how you grind pepper matters: fine ground pepper is strong and a little goes a long way; use it for sauces. Coarse ground pepper, on the other hand, is best for seasoning proteins or for little extra taste once your dish hits the table.
  3. Herbal timing To maximize the flavor of herbs, introduce them to the cooking process at the right time: thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, and other hearty herbs should be added early in the cooking process, whereas more delicate herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, and tarragon should be added at the last minute. Also, dried herbs are best used during cooking so they have time to infuse their flavor into a dish, while fresh herbs should be used without much or any cooking at all since they are already bursting with flavor.
  4. Lemon-aid You can reduce your sodium intake and improve the taste of protein and vegetables with just a drop of lemon juice in lieu of salt. A splash of wine or vinegar also work since it’s the acid in each that helps elevate flavors by balancing the dish.
  5. Give me some sugar Sugar likewise helps balance flavors and is great for enhancing the flavors of savory foods, such as roasted carrots, tomatoes, and other sides. It’s also great when added to sauces all you need is a pinch! 
  6. Avoid the cold shoulder Chilling food dulls its flavor. To compensate, season a bit more generously than you otherwise would. But, a word to the wise season slowly so you don’t overdo things. Best to add a normal amount of salt or spices to a dish before you chill it, and then taste and add more as needed before serving. And adding a pinch of salt along with dressing will make salads taste better. 
  7. Pre-season seasoning Pre-seasoning your proteins several hours in advance gives salt enough time to penetrate the meat cells all the way to the through to the center. The salt helps break down some of the proteins that can make meat tough and if given enough time, the cells will reabsorb moisture through reverse osmosis, absorbing the salt itself and making it more flavorful. The salt also alters the proteins, opening them up so they can trap more moisture so once cooked, it remains tender and retains a nice salty juice all the way through.
  8. Umami means delicious The Japanese word, Umami translates as yummy or delicious and is the word we use to describe our fifth taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami, so it must be good! It’s close to what we think of as savory — think roasted meat, stew, or dipping sushi into soy sauce. Try mixing a teaspoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, anchovies, dried mushrooms, or capers into sauces or braises to give your dish an umami boost.
  9. Season from above There’s a reason chef’s season food from high above — it helps ensure seasoning is evenly distributed, which is especially helpful for items like steak that benefit from an even layer of seasoning. As we said, simple and essential.
  10. There may be a fix for that If you’ve over-seasoned or wrongly seasoned, your food, the damage may be done. But, in some cases, an overpowering ingredient can be mitigated by the addition of another ingredient from the opposite end of the flavor spectrum. To wit:
    • If your food is too salty, add an acid such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or try something sweet like sugar, honey or maple syrup; 
    • If your food is too sweet, add an acid or seasonings such as vinegar or a dash of cayenne pepper;
    • If your food is too spicy, add a fat or sweetener such as butter, olive oil, sugar, or honey.