How to Season With Salt and Pepper Better in Less Time

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There are countless spices from all over the world that are beloved by professional chefs and home cooks alike. But when it comes to essentials, and spices that no kitchen should ever be without, the winners unquestionably are salt and pepper. Whether using them separately or together, salt and pepper are mainstays used in just about every savory entree, appetizer, soup, and salad. Like all good cooks know, seasoning with salt and pepper is crucial for getting the most out of every recipe.

And what a pairing they are! They are one of the most famous pairings in the world. You can’t think of one without thinking of the other. Salt makes all foods taste better, with its crisp bite and dry punch. And pepper? Well, what can we say about pepper? After salt, it’s the most used spice in the world, lending food a bit of heat and extra pizzazz. If it wasn’t for salt and pepper, your food would be blander, less exciting, and dull. And no one wants food tasting like that, right?

While salt and pepper are common, their flavors are anything but. In this post, we offer you tips for how to best season with salt and pepper, ways that give you the biggest bang for your flavor buck. Try these suggestions and your food is guaranteed to taste fuller, sharper, deeper, and more delicious.

What is seasoning, exactly?

Seasonings are the spices you use to enhance food’s flavor. Properly seasoning food makes the most of its natural flavors and balance. Spices can make food sweet, savory, hot, or bitter – it all depends on the seasoning and how you use it. But adding a dash of something is a sure way of making your meals taste better. No cook wants to serve bland food, and the correct seasoning eliminates that risk.

There are plenty of spices and herbs that make food taste terrific. But in this post, we’re focusing on salt and pepper. If you think you already know all you need to know about seasoning with salt and pepper, think again! We have some new ideas for you.

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Why are salt and pepper paired?

Like so much of the world’s history about good food, salt and pepper came together thanks to a French chef. He was the chef to Louis XIV, who is reputed to have been a very fussy eater. But his chef, Pierre La Varenne, was undaunted. He developed all kinds of new recipes for his picky king and introduced new ideas to the French kitchen and table. It was he who first chose to serve sweets at the end of a meal, for example, and he developed plenty of other great culinary advances, too.

And he changed how salt and pepper were used in dishes. Thanks to La Varenne, seasoning with salt and pepper became a hit and were soon paired on tables across France, and then across Europe. Not long after that, seasoning with salt and pepper was commonplace in the Americas, too.

Whenever you season with salt and pepper, silently tip your hat to the French chef who started it all – because he had to deal with a picky king! Like moms around the world who cope with kids who are fussy eaters, La Varenne improvised until he landed on the winning formula for getting his regal client to eat!

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Tips to season with salt and pepper properly

Here are some things to remember when you’re about to season food with salt and pepper.

Season at every step

Most recipes advise you to add a bit of salt and pepper as you go, rather than all at once. And at the end of a recipe, you often see this phrase: “add salt and pepper to taste.” It’s wise to season with salt and pepper when you’re starting, but also partway through and a final time, when the food is ready. A sprinkling of salt and pepper can make all the difference. They infuse the dish with lots of flavor and zest.

Everyone has a different opinion about how much salt and pepper are needed to make food taste delicious. You should develop the habit of having a wee taste of your food – a sip from a bowl of soup, a bite of meat – before seasoning with salt and pepper. That way, you add just the right amount. This brings us to our next point.

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Taste before you season with salt and pepper

Professional chefs know that tasting food before any seasoning with salt and pepper is the best course for ensuring it gets just the right amount. For example: let’s say you’re making a salad with a slice of salty cheese, like Feta. Or a plate of Chinese food that contains soy sauce, which is salty too. Adding more salt without tasting it first can lead to over-salting, and food that’s too salty tastes terrible! All you can taste is the salt’s bite. It’s important that you know what ingredients are coming through the food before you season it with salt and pepper. If the food is quite salty on its own, you’ll want to reduce the amount you add throughout cooking and at the end.

It’s best to err on the side of caution if you’re not sure whether the dish needs more seasoning. It’s important to trust yourself, of course, but be considerate of others, too. They can always add a dash of salt and pepper once the meal is on the table.

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Use the correct coarseness of salt and pepper

How big the salt and pepper flakes are has a big impact on the flavor of food. Let’s talk about salt first. Coarse salt is actually less strong in flavor than refined table salt. But its flavor stays, whereas refined table salt seems to vanish more quickly after its initial punch.

Cracked and ground pepper are very different spices. Cracked pepper has a more coarse texture, naturally, as the flakes are bigger than ground pepper. Ground pepper lends a fine, delicate taste to your whole dish, and tends to evenly distribute because the flakes are so small.

Generally speaking, the finer the grind the more refined the flavor, of both salt and pepper. Fine grinds smoothly deliver delicate flavors, while coarse grinds pack more of a wallop. Think of it like this: the bigger the flake, the bolder the taste!

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The right salt and pepper grinders are essential

Using freshly ground salt and pepper is an absolute must! When spices are freshly ground, their flavors come front and center and they make all the difference to how food tastes. If you are purchasing pre-ground salt and pepper, stop! It’s time you invest in a set of salt and pepper grinders. You won’t believe how different your food tastes when you season it with freshly ground salt and pepper! The moment just-ground salt and pepper hit food, they make it sing!

The grind should change depending on the recipe you’re using. Some call for coarsely ground pepper (a Cesar salad, for example) while others call for finely ground, like a cream soup. When you’re choosing your new salt and pepper set, make certain the grinder is adjustable. The grind you want for salt on popcorn, for example, is a whole lot different than the delicate grind you want for baking fish. And pepper? Cracked black peppercorns are perfect for crusting meat for the barbecue, but a finer grind is right for a tossed green salad or an omelet.

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It’s easy to understand why seasoning with salt and pepper is so universally popular – they make just about every savory dish taste better. Your body needs salt, and while pepper isn’t as physically beneficial, it tastes equally delicious. Seasoning with salt and pepper is the way to make all your meals taste terrific, but don’t forget to get a good grinder. The proper tools are key to a successful kitchen, and that goes for home cooks every bit as much as it does for professional chefs. Adjusting the grind so the flakes are just the right size for whatever dish you’re making is how you make food with zest and zing.

It’s a fun bit of trivia to remember and tell others – we put salt and pepper in our foods and on our tables because of a French chef who was trying to please a picky royal eater. Who knew that a king is responsible for this great culinary pairing?

When you season with salt and pepper, the results are – as the French might say – tres bonne! Very good!

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