Friday, October 25, 2013

Perfect Seasoning -How To !

Most food blogs have fancy recipes,fancy ingredients and real fabulous photos that sometimes many of us feel apprehensive to even try cooking them.However what often the authors fail to state is that 'no meal is worth its salt',if it is not perfectly seasoned! And that goes no matter how good it looks.How one seasons his/her food sets them apart and distinguishes a novice from a real great cook, a palatable meal to a sumptuous delight.

It therefore has been at the back of my mind to write a post on how to perfectly season a meal.But take note perfect seasoning depends on various factors including the following:

  • Knowledge of our taste buds i.e  how the tongue works
  • Knowledge of our ingredients
  • Technique-when to season, how much to season and taste,taste taste as you cook.
Before we proceed to look at this factors its imprtant to understand what Seasoning is.
By Definition according to Wayne Gisslen ,Essentials of Professional Cooking ,"Seasoning means enhancing the natural flavors of food without significantly changing its flavor" .Salt is the universally acceptable primary seasoning agent. This essentially means that when seasoning one must not change the flavor or integrity of the original meal. Seasoning differs from flavoring which means giving food a different flavor from its original one. Other seasoning agents include Pepper(White Black, Green or Szechuan Pepper) ,Garlic, fresh herbs, dried herbs,Onions,Mustard (ground or prepared) ....etc.

 Knowledge of our taste buds :
No matter how good your meal is in terms of ingredients ,smell and visual appeal :taste is where the marks lie!The tongue is the true judge of food. Yes its true that smell and visual appeal build up on taste, but what our tongue deciphers is what makes a meal great.The tongue is truly a marvel of creation and to understand how it works greatly assists any cook on how to season.For quite some time scientists were able to perceive the four basic taste's and the areas where our tongue sense this tastes.The four basic taste are Sweet,Salty ,Sour and Bitter.Recently however they discovered a fifth taste: Umami(Mono sodium Glutamate) or Ajino Moto which is a pleasant savory common in mushrooms, meat and tomatoes. 
 "The Tongue is True Judge of Food"

If you are in Kenya you will probably find a sachet of Umami at your local supermarket (Uchumi or Nakumatt) sold in a transparent sachet labelled The Essence of Ajino Moto, looks like salt crystals.I find it a ready treat if you add a teaspoon to your beans when soaking them.

The above diagram illustrates the marvel of the tongue.It was designed first and foremost to sense sweet foods which have lot of calories to give us energy, then salty foods which contain minerals and vitamins, sour food which are healthy and bitter food (somehow in my opinion to discourage us from poisonous items which tend to be bitter).Scientists are yet to authoritatively pinpoint the exact area where we taste Umami indicating that it is generally tasted in all areas of the tongue. Therefore good food will always have its sweetness and saltiness well balanced and highlighted at the first taste.

Knowledge of Our Ingredients:

 One of the main reasons that you end up having food that is over salted or too sweet is often due to the cook having limited knowledge of his ingredients and often not adjusting the recipe to taste.It is important to learn and know your ingredients for example if you are using Soy Sauce, Fish sauce,Tomato Paste,Ketchup  or Commercially made seasonings ( For example Royco- commercially made equivalent of french roue -i prefer making my own thickener from scratch keep reading this blog will definitely do a post on that ) it is important to read the label first to see if it contains a measure of salt and they often do.Thus you should only add salt after tasting the meal and probably reserve that to the last bit. Remember seasoning is an art, don't put too much or too little, leave enough room for those who like savory to add some.But remember no one will pour water on an already prepared meal to dilute the taste of salt when the meal has been set before them at the table.At the same time a meal that is not seasoned is drab,takes out all the fun from the natural ingredients.


Always reserve seasoning for the final bit. When dealing with large foods for which seasoning may little be absorbed at the final process ,it is usually best to marinate the meat with some salt before hand.However do not put too much as this will dehydrate the meat drawing out all the moisture and flavor. For large meals add the seasoning well in time to allow room for absorption.Allow room for adjusting of the seasoning by not putting too much.
Remember spices and other flavorings do little to rescue a meal badly seasoned.

If you are boiling or stewing a mea;l remember that as the liquid evaporates the seasoning in the meal gets concentrated hence the meal can end up over salty over time.Therefore ,here also discernment is required in knowing how much is too much and flavor versus liquid ratio.

Taste, taste taste and taste some more before serving food.As a matter of hygiene ensure you have many spoons especially the little plastic ones that you can taste with and then dispose away.Do not return the same spoon you have used to taste with into the cooking pot/vessel.This will contaminate the food and is a particular turn off for your guests.

Learn to season fiercely with moderate restraint ,distinguish yourself in this manner and your guests will love every meal you make !


vincent said...


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