Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Build Flavors with Seasoning

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 | 9:30 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments


with Northeastern campus executive chef Tom Barton

Building flavors and making sure our foods are seasoned properly is a large part of what we as chefs and cooks do and part of that is using salt. Teaching someone how to season is not easy as all of our palates our different; what is enough salt for one might be too much for another. There is much in the news about our salt intake and how we must take steps to reduce it and if you are a label reader then you already know there is sodium in many of the foods that we eat, especially those that are processed or pre-prepared.

We definitely support the notion of using fresh herbs and spices to add flavor rather than increasing the amount of salt to most preparations; however, as a chef I have to say, when used properly, there is no substitute for salt. As a cook coming up through the ranks I learned that salt should be added throughout the cooking process, not all at the beginning or all at the end. Over-seasoning tends to occur when salt is added all at once then when tasting and re-tasting our palates become de-sensitized to salt and the flavor profile we are looking for becomes more difficult to judge. Seasoning throughout the process also encourages maximum flavor from the ingredients by helping to draw out their individual flavors. We also prefer to use salt that has a coarser grain such as kosher salt. The coarser grains make it easier to handle and see how much is being added. Learning how and when to season takes practice and is a learned skill.

Also worthy of mention is the difference between “seasoning” and “flavoring.” “Seasoning” is the addition of basic flavors, such as salt and pepper, to enhance the natural flavor of something while “flavoring” is adding flavors that will change the natural flavor. For example, I would add salt and pepper to enhance the natural flavor of a roasted chicken but if I added a barbecue rub to the chicken I have now changed the natural flavor of the chicken. Also, saltiness might come into a dish from other ingredients such as adding anchovies when making a Caesar dressing, capers to a piccata sauce, or olives into a salad.

Making the decision to use salt or not can be a personal one for sure. With the proper awareness of daily intake, salt can be useful asset to amateur and professional cooks alike.

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