The One Phrase That Will Make All Your Home-Cooked Meals Taste Better

·3 min read

You don’t have to look far to find a cooking hack that claims it will absolutely change your life. (Change my life by helping me chop an onion without crying? That’s a little dramatic, but OK.) So, apologies in advance: I’m about to dole out some culinary advice—it won’t necessarily change your life, but I do think it will take your home-cooked meals to the next level. Drumroll please…

Season as you go.

That’s right, your recipe calls for a single teaspoon of salt and I’m telling you to completely ignore that measurement. Here’s why.

Why you should season as you go:

This simple technique is one of the first things I learned in culinary school. The basic principle is that you should start adding salt to your food as soon as you begin the cooking process. Sautéing an onion? Season it. Adding garlic and celery? Add a little more salt, too. Each time you incorporate an ingredient, you should also add salt. (For what it’s worth, my preferred salt is Diamond Crystal kosher salt—the flakes are hollow, so it’s less salty by volume and harder to oversalt with than other brands.)

Why it works:

You might think, I can just add salt at the table, and yeah, you could do that. But your food will probably just taste salty (and not properly seasoned). That’s because the salt is just sitting on top of the dish. But if you season as you go, you’re giving the salt a chance to meld with all the ingredients, and in doing so, the salt perks them up, bringing out their flavor more. Instead of a dish that tastes overly salty or salty only on the exterior, it will taste well-balanced and flavorful throughout.

What “seasoning as you go” doesn’t mean:

For starters, it doesn’t mean adding tablespoons of salt to a single clove of garlic. On the other hand, a measly grain or two of salt isn’t going to cut it either. To properly season while you’re cooking, gather your index and middle finger with your thumb and grab a generous pinch of salt—that’s approximately the right amount to add. Of course, it will depend on the amounts of what you’re making, so use your best judgement and make sure to taste the dish as you go, too.

When you should season as you go:

You should pretty much always season as you go—any dish will benefit from this approach (with a few exceptions). Season raw meat before it even hits the pan and vegetables as soon as they go in. Broths, liquids and sauces should be seasoned, too.

However, if the recipe calls for a sizable amount of another salty ingredient (for example, soy sauce or miso paste), you might want to hold off on the salt.

Likewise, most baking recipes aren’t the best place to experiment with seasoning. If the recipe is from a reliable source, it’s most likely been tested with the amount called for—anything more or less could yield overly salty or bland results. However, if a baking recipe doesn’t call for salt at all, you should go ahead and add a half teaspoon or so. It won’t taste salty, just better—promise.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Kosher, Table and Sea Salt, Anyway?

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