season to taste? here's how to get the right flavor every time

Ahh seasoning. The elusive, yet necessary skill that seems to baffle many home (and professional) cooks. Salt is an essential and basic ingredient in a dish,...
By: Anna Becker / 07/14/2017 /

Ahh seasoning. The elusive, yet necessary skill that seems to baffle many home (and professional) cooks. Salt is an essential and basic ingredient in a dish, but it's also the fastest way to destroy hours of hard work over a hot stove.

Sure, you can leave salt out of any dish, but you might wind up with a basic, bland, underwhelming meal. On the other hand, you can make that salt rain over your dinner, but feel like you’re eating food that marinated in the Dead Sea. Neither is optimal.

Adding salt is not something that you want to skip out on. Seasoning a dish with salt enhances the flavors of the components of a dish. Even a slight sprinkling of salt on roasted vegetables adds a rich complexion of flavors.

So how do you ensure you’re not under or over-seasoning your food? Here are some tips to ensure proper seasoning every time:

Know your ingredients. You might be making our Sesame-Ginger Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Rice and Sweet Onion and want to add some salt as the final flourish, but you'd be smart to wait on that. This recipe includes gluten-free tamari, which is pretty salty in itself. Our suggestion? Hold off on adding any additional salt until you taste the final product, and be sure to taste throughout the cooking process (more on that below) The exception to this rule, of course, is raw meat.e don't suggest taking a bite out of uncooked poultry under any circumstances.

Know your salts. If you're heading through the spices and seasoning section of the grocery store, you'll probably see more than one type of salt. Between table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, Maldon salt, there are so many options to choose from, and each one with their different pros and cons. Want to know which one is best for your dish? We made it simple for you with this helpful guide.

Season to taste. We get it, it's a vague instruction, but what we might find perfectly salted, you might find underwhelming. Seasoning is (generally) subjective. Typically, you want to use your own judgement. If it seems like a lot of salt, you might want to hold back.

Season your meat. You always want to season your meat prior to cooking. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper over some raw steaks immediately before you put it on your cooking surface. However, you never want to coat an entire steak or piece of vegetables with salt and pepper when told to season to taste. What you should be looking for is a slight early winter snowfall. The type that leaves only the tiniest of sprinkles of snow over frozen grass, not a mid-winter blizzard.

Season from up high. While this may seem silly, it's actually a very important tip. If you're aware of the 2017 meme craze that was "Salt Bae," you'll notice that his signature seasoning style had his hand high above the dish itself. Why do cooks do this? To ensure that the salt is distributed amongst the entire dish. When you season from down low and simply sprinkle the salt over your ingredients, you'll inevitably end up with a portion of food that is over-seasoned. When you're sprinkling the salt from a greater height (think about ten inches above the dish), you can guarantee that the seasoning will be more effectively dispersed.

You can always add more, but you can't take any away. When seasoning, you should always remember that you can add more salt or pepper at the end, but you really can't remedy the dish if you've over-seasoned. Yes, you can attempt to hide the salt with an acidic flavor like lemon juice or vinegar, but it's not always a sure bet. Instead, you should err on the side of caution and prevent over-salting rather than attempting to fix it.

Want more salt tips? Check out this video for seasoning tips from our test kitchen!