Welcome Friends! 🥂
Part of becoming a true Flavor Master is understanding how to properly season your food.
Every chef I ever worked for, before taking food I prepared asked “is this seasoned?”
It’s important to understand that most mass market prepared foods are designed to over-stimulate your palate.
This is because as flavor molecules are perceived on your palate, over time it takes more and more of the same flavor to generate the same initial “burst” of pleasure response.
This is known as the Law of Diminishing Returns and one reason that 🐙 believes that tasting menus (aka Omakase) can be truly revelatory experiences.
A master chef can prepare 18-20 small bites in a progression that is truly magical.
Because there is a small quantity, the master perfectly balances pleasure with a serving of “just enough” to satisfy the guest and leaving them ready for the next course.
Aside from portion size, a giant factor in enjoying what we eat comes down to seasoning.
In fact, this post was the result of a Tweet a few weeks ago:
Many people feel very insecure about seasoning their food. It really isn’t rocket science and should be noted that this is largely subjective.
People have different responses to salt, spice etc… so “perfection” shouldn’t be the goal. We just want our food to taste good.
Don’t overthink this!
In order to achieve this. You need to taste your food while cooking 💡
This may sound basic AF but you’d be shocked by the amount of people who do not taste their food when they cook.
How does 🐙 know?
9 out of 10 cooks that came in my kitchen were not in the habit of consistently tasting their prep (or tasting at all!). And these were people cooking for a living. So if that was the norm in commercial kitchens, then it’s safe to assume a similar or more extreme metric in the residential space.
Here’s a Practical Guide to Seasoning Your Food that will take your eating enjoyment up levels for sure.
Note: The Next Paid Substack Post will be the Best Recipe for baking bread at home! Sign up now… and get access to ALL the previous recipes and get setup for 2022!!!
What is seasoning?
At its’ most elementary, “seasoning” is the process of enhancing flavors in the food you are cooking through salt, sour/acid, sugar, bitter and umami.
Important to note, that while salt is the largest component of seasoning, it is not the only one!
Well seasoned food has attained a pleasurable balance between the 5 tastes in the spectrum.
You’ll see even in desserts that 99% of the time, a pinch of salt should be added to a cake, dough, filling, etc… because the seasoning with salt enhances all of the other flavors present.
Let’s break down the 5 Tastes and Apply to Seasoning.
Chemically known as Sodium Chloride, this is nature’s “Flavor Enhancer”. When added while cooking, salt brings forth, amplifies and accentuates all of the flavors in your dish.
Be careful though, it’s easy to have “too much of a good thing”!
The baseline rule of thumb in kitchens when seasoning: you shouldn’t be able to taste the salt in the dish. Add enough to season and make tasty, without being able to taste the actual salt.
Salt is a key ingredient in brines. Brining is for another dedicated Substack but worth mentioning here. Most people are familiar with wet brining; submerging a food in a salt solution; but there are also dry-brining techniques. Wet brining does alter texture of the food being brined, which again, would be covered in a future Substack!
Types of Salt:
This is the classic Morten’s “Girl in the Raincoat” most people grew up with in the cupboard. It’s a refined salt containing about 97 to 99 percent sodium chloride. Mainly harvested from salt mines and refined, this also contains anti-caking agents to make it free-flowing.
In short… flavor sucks, don’t use it unless an emergency.
In an emergency? Use sparingly. If you happen to have iodized salt, know it will taste gross and bitter… avoid at all costs.
Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water and is minimally processed, so it usually retains trace minerals, which add flavors. This will vary upon the body of water where it was harvested…
TLDR this is a good baseline product to use for seasoning. Baleine sea salt is a very popular and easy to find brand. Useful in brines and cooking solutions because it dissolves faster.
Kosher salt is named because the size of the salt crystals are perfect for drawing out moisture from meat, and was used heavily in the koshering process of foods. Because the crystal size of kosher salt is larger than sea salt and table salt, it is much more forgiving and harder to over-salt food when using kosher salt (with some exceptions, but for now, it’s fine)
Not All Kosher Salt is Created Equal:
The two biggest kosher brands are Morten’s and Diamond Crystal.
Morten’s crystals are dense, round and like little rocks.
Diamond crystal are lighter, flakier and more pyramid in shape…
which means that by weight, there is more salt in 1 cup of Morten’s vs 1 cup of Diamond Crystal.
I have a flavor preference (Diamond Crystal, is what I used in all my kitchens, until the last few years, when we predominantly went to sea salt plus all the finishing salts we used), but it’s subtle and the most important factor is to just use what you have consistent access to.
I remember a few occasions where Diamond Crystal was not available and we got Morten’s… threw the kitchen into disarray with seasoning and the cooks were frustrated since so much of cooking and seasoning in a commercial setting is muscle memory.
TLDR: Kosher salt is great for learning even-seasoning-distribution. Great for pre-salting foods. Find one brand you can always get, and go with it.
Prized for the regional harvesting, Hawaiian sea salts tend to be less saline and more on the crunchy side. Color variations are due to other minerals present when harvested. These have a. Large cult following, 🐙 is not one of them. Worth checking out to see if you like.
Down in Australia, the Murray river boasts some of the most clean and delicious finish gin salt I’ve ever stumbled across. It tastes of a pure, sweet Seabreeze… a true favorite… you can put on poultry, pork, beef, vegetables, salads, etc… find your favorites and use! (At the restaurant I would pick a few dishes to finish with different salts… based on flavor profiles.. you can do the same!)
Maldon (Reg & Smoked):
This was a favorite that I still love. Used as a finishing salt, Maldon Sea Salt (harvested in the UK) has large irregular flakes that blast with ocean-salinity and give a nice crunch when finishing plates. Be it steaks, glazed carrots, salads or vegetable puree’s… the regular Maldon is very versatile, and the smoked Maldon carries amazing balance like a BBQ without being overpowering. Highly recommend
Fleur de Sel:
French meaning “Flower of Salt”, this salt is harvested as a thin, delicate crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates. Because of where it is harvested, production is weather dependent and the process produces irregular grains. This is a subtle and lovely salt to have in your arsenal of salts to tinker with.
Sel gris is harvested in a similar method as fleur de sel, but with some variations yielding a coarser salt that is also a moist (usually contains 13% residual moisture). It tends to be much more dense than table or kosher salt, so less is more in cooking or using as a finishing salt.
In Part 2 we will break down the remaining 4 seasoning categories and also expound on salts, and how to properly use for seasoning!
Thank You for the Continued Support as we Enjoy Better Food Together!
Until next time! 🥂