The Art of Proper Seasoning – Part 1
I believe the mark of a great chef (at home or in a restaurant) is defined by how well they manage the use of salt and pepper. The proper use of salt is the key that turns an average meal into a great one. Salt brings to food far more than one of the five basic taste sensations (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami); it enhances other tastes. Sweets taste sweeter, bitterness is minimized and simple flavors become more complex and multi-layered.
Salt is one of the cheapest and most under utilized ingredients in our kitchens. We predominantly use kosher salt which is a favorite among chefs because of it’s clean, straightforward flavor profile and quick dissolving properties. Salt, in addition to seasoning and enhancing flavors, will also draw moisture out of food, further concentrating and preserving the natural flavor of food.
Black pepper can vary based on variety, freshness and quality. For this reason I recommend you grind it fresh daily or as you need it from whole peppercorns to ensure quality and consistency.
Season, taste, adjust is the pattern we should use for all food we season. Seasoning should only follow tasting a food to know what it needs. After seasoning, time should be given for the salt to dissolve and impact the food before tasting again and repeating the pattern if necessary. Tasting is an essential step to proper seasoning because salt has such a complex interaction with food that it can be difficult to know what impact it will have. As you season and taste food you can train your palate to better understand salt and pepper’s impact on food. As your palate develops you will know through tasting when food needs more or less seasoning. More often than not we are guilty of under seasoning our food.
In my next post, we’ll look at specifically seasoning vegetables and meat.