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Let's Cook: Seasoning with Salt
Five thoughts on a fundamental aspect of cooking.
Generally, the word “seasoning” refers to anything that flavours food: spice, herbs, garlic, etc. When it comes to cooking, however, it pays to think of seasoning in a stricter sense, i.e. anything that enhances the flavour of food, but does not necessarily alter it. Take salt: When you use it properly, you end up with flavourful food – but not salty food.
Here are five thoughts on this most fundamental of seasonings. -JRS
1. What sort of salt?
Basically, whatever you like and can afford. Think of salt in two broad categories, seasoning (e.g. table, kosher) and finishing (e.g. fleur de sel, Maldon). In my more extreme Foodie days, I stuck with kosher; now I use table salt, because it’s cheap, ubiquitous – and no-one can taste the difference, anyhow.
I have in my time watched a few Foodies with Money season broths and sauces with fancy finishing salts; this not only complicates the process (these salts take longer to dissolve) but it also costs more.
2. Season by hand
This is important: For one, you develop a touch-based sensitivity for how much salt you’re adding; and two, you can season from a height, which distributes the salt evenly over the food. Keep some handy in a small bowl or container when prepping and cooking.
3. You can always add, but you can’t take away
In general, season a little at a time. That way, you’re unlikely to over-season.
Also, learn to season in steps, throughout the cooking process. Think of it this way: If you make a soup and toss in a bunch of salt after the soup has cooked, you end up with a salty broth and bland vegetables. The proper method is to season in stages, adding a bit of salt while sautéing the vegetables and later adjusting the seasoning as necessary.
4. Taste, think, adjust
Taste your food throughout the cooking process. And don’t be shy, taste literally everything. If you’re making a pizza dough, for example, taste the raw dough. Taste the fermented dough. Taste the cooked crust. This is how you “train” your palate.
Each time you taste, think. What flavours are developing? How is the seasoning? To go back to our hypothetical soup, if the flavours are still a little bland, it might need more salt. Add a little, stir, and taste. Adjust until you’re happy with it.
5. Season to taste
You read that in almost every recipe. What it means is season to your taste – you’re going to eat it, after all. So, go through the things I’ve listed above, seasoning, tasting, thinking, adjusting, till the food is to your liking. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?