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  • Writer's picturehungryhungryhayden

Seasoning

Updated: Dec 1, 2020




Seasoning enhances the flavor of food by using sodium containing salts like sodium chloride (salt) and MSG (monosodium glutamate). These salts dissociate in water, or saliva, into sodium cations and their constituent anions (chloride or glutamate in this case). These free sodium cations increase the concentration of sodium in the interstitial fluid around the taste buds, in turn making it easier for your taste buds to transmit an action potential. This allows more frequent and stronger flavor action potentials to reach the brain, resulting in a stronger flavor being perceived. The explanation above is a very long-winded way to say the sodium in salt makes things taste good.


EVERYTHING YOU COOK SHOULD BE SEASONED TO TASTE! I'll say it one more time for the dumb people, EVERYTHING YOU COOK SHOULD BE SEASONED TO TASTE! Seasoning makes things taste good. It should be done to everything, every layer of the dish, every macerated berry, and even every cake and cookie batter. Everything. The only exception is certain fermented foods like bread and pickles that require a certain salinity to promote the desired microbes.


Now some jackwagon out there will say, "but all I can taste is the salt!" To which I will reply, "then you didn't season to taste." The reason there is a difference between something tasting good and something tasting salty is much less sodium is needed to depolarize a tiny myelinated axon carrying the taste message than is needed to depolarize an entire cell in charge of salt gustation. That is what seasoning to taste is: finding the line between tasting good and tasting salty.


But how does one season to taste? Taste whatever your cooking, if it tastes bland or flat, add some salt and mix thoroughly. Taste again, and repeat this process until your food tastes good (you'll usually need more salt than you think). Remember, you can always add more salt, but you can't take any away, so add little by little. Outside of the taste evaluate re-season doctrine, I have dropped a couple tips below to help account for any confounding variables.

1. Know thy salt.


I am going to get martyred for this, but I do not care which salt you use (if this were a monetized blog, I would). Don't let those elitist diamond crystal kosher disciples persecute you because that is all they know. Instead, forgive them for their ignorance. As long as you know the salt you are using, you'll have no problems. But you need to really know it. You need to know how salty a small pinch compared to how salty a big pinch is. How much salt you need to properly season a large pot of stew compared to a small vegetable saute. If you know your salt, you don't need to understand that smaller crystals are more dense and thus, more salty than larger kosher salt. And once you cook with your salt enough, you'll be able to almost season by feel, although always taste to be sure.


2. Seasoning technique


Use your hands. You'll be able to feel the salt this way, and exactly how much. You should know your salt so well that you should be like Indiana Jones guessing the weight of the golden idol. Once familiar with how much salt seasons how much food, Grab a pinch between your thumb and fingers, and dust it from high above in a swirling motion. I'm serious make it rain. Sure you might look a little goofy with the tv hand, but it'll ensure even distribution of seasoning.


3. Account for moisture and salinity.


The more water in your finished dish, the more salt you need. On the contrary, if you're going to let whatever your cooking reduce before you serve it, you're going to need less salt. So, for example if you’re seasoning a pan sauce or pasta sauce before it is reduced, you'll need to account for the fact that it'll taste saltier after reduction because there's less water in the final product.



Furthermore, salt pulls water out of ingredients via diffusion. This affects browning because browning does not occur in the presence of water. So, for instance, if you're searing a steak, salt as far in advance as possible, so by the time meat meets iron, all the water that was released is evaporated. When sauteeing onions, they'll take color faster when unseasoned because salt actively pulls water out of the onion and prevents browning.


Lastly, keep in the back of your mind how much salt is already in your raw ingredients. The best example is butter. If you're using salted butter, you'll need less salt than if you use unsalted butter. Moreover, less salt is needed when using ingredients with a lot of salt such as soy sauce, anchovies, and fish sauce.


4. Time


Diffusion is a slow process and takes time. So to ensure your food will be as evenly seasoned as possible season it as early as you can. The earlier you can season, the longer the salt has to diffuse through the food, the better your food is gonna taste. It's that simple, season something as early as you can.


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