Seasoning Food 101 The Ultimate Guide

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Seasoning Food 101 The Ultimate Guide For You

When Did Humans Start Seasoning Food

Seasoning food is the most fundamental aspect of cooking, this will take the food you cook and eat to the next level. Seasonings, herbs, and spices were used well before writing was invented, and they were used by people all over the world.

There’s no real date to put to their first widespread use, but it would have pre-dated humanity’s ability to farm and produce surplus food; salt was a valuable trade item amongst ancient nomadic tribes.

As long ago as 3500 BC, the ancient Egyptians were using spices to season and flavor their food. The spice trade, controlled by the Arabs for at least 5000 years, grew through the Middle East to the Eastern Mediterranean and on to Europe.

Large caravans of camels carrying precious cargoes of cinnamon, cassia bark, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and salt. Let’s face it seasonings made from herbs and spices are what make food tasty, delicious, and a pleasure to eat.

Spices used when seasoning food has played a major influence in our lives and in the economic development of many countries for centuries.

Exotic and aromatic spices give us pleasure in our enjoyment of food. They are invaluable in folk medicines and modern medications.

They go into everything and also directly onto our meals this makes us want to eat. The fact that seasoning is great has been known for a millennium now.

This has at certain points in history led to tremendous changes in society, economics, and people. Seasoning brings out the natural flavor of food, enhances, enriches, and intensifies the finished meal.

To experience delectable well-seasoned food is a delight. This is what makes us human, seasoning and cooking food. The art of seasoning food right comes from our heritage, and the tastes we experienced as children.

 

Why Is Seasoning Food Important

A question I get asked all the time “why is seasoning food important”? One of the most important elements in cooking a dish is seasoning.

Seasoning can add flavor to a dish and make it more enjoyable to eat. There are many different types of seasonings, and each one has its own unique use and flavor.

When choosing which seasonings to use for a dish, it’s important to consider the other ingredients that are being used and what flavors will work well together.

Adding too much or too little seasoning can ruin a dish, so it’s important to be careful when adding it. Seasoning is an important key ingredient in cooking, and it can make all the difference and enjoyment in the finished product.

How Did Ancient People Store Food Before Refrigeration

Ancient cultures found that salt was very valuable. One way ancient people stored food before refrigeration was to season it with salt. Salt is a natural preservative that helps to prevent bacteria from growing and spoiling food.

Additionally, ancient people would dry or pickle food in order to preserve it. Drying food removes the water from the food, which makes it harder for bacteria to grow.

Pickling or brining involves adding something acidic like lemons, limes, or vinegar to the food, which creates an environment that is hostile to bacteria.

Fermentation was also used to preserve food. Food was fermented by adding yeast or good bacteria to it, which produced alcohol or lactic acid. Kimchi is a great example of fermented food.

All these processes inhibited the growth of harmful bacteria and extended the shelf life of food. Just as important salting, pickling, and fermenting are all good for you and your gut.

Seasoning Food Varieties Of Salt
Varieties of salt Himalayan pink rock salt, Herb salt, Rock salt, and Maldon salt

The Importance Of Salt In Cooking

Salt is an important ingredient in cooking for a variety of reasons. First, it helps to bring out the natural flavors of food. Second, it can help to preserve meat and vegetables. Third, it can add texture and visual appeal to dishes. Finally, salt is a necessary component of many if not all recipes.

Salt is the universal seasoning ingredient. In every corner of the world, people use salt in their everyday lives. It’s one of the few elements that unite all cuisines from around the world.

Seasoning food is important because it can make the difference between a dish that’s bland and one that’s full of flavor. Salt is one of the most common seasonings, and it can really help to enhance the taste of food.

When you’re cooking, always taste your dish before you add any salt. When you add it to food it is hard to take it back, so taste before salting. Without salt, our food tastes bland and lifeless, uninspiring, dull, and insipid.

And don’t be afraid to experiment – there are all sorts of different types of salt out there, so try a few and see which ones you like best.

  • “Salt is fundamental to all good cooking”. I say with a smile.

Shannon Young

When Can You Season Food During The Cooking Process

Do you know how to season to taste? It sounds simple, but the idea of seasoning a dish with “just enough” salt can be difficult. This is because we all have different preferences for what tastes good and it’s hard to tell if your food has too much or not enough salt.

One of the most important lessons I can teach you is always salt meat in advance. By salting meat in advance, you will be amazed at how great the meat will taste.

Season soups and sauces at the end and season sauteed vegetables during the cooking process. Adding a pinch of salt to your baked goods when you’re adding the dry ingredients will add that little boost to the finished product.

For some people, adding more salt will make their food taste better, while others might find that it becomes too salty. Seasoning to taste is just that taste then season, if you need more flavor season again then taste again.

The most important thing is to have some restraint when seasoning, don’t go overboard and make your food too salty.

When you start to look at other ingredients and realize how many other forms of salt are available right in front of you. With olives, capers, anchovies, miso, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and fish sauce you start to realize there are some amazing seasoning options.

Soy sauce and Miso aren’t just sources of salt they are much more than that. They are also sources of umami, our fifth taste after salty, spicy, sweet, and sour. 

Umami may seem like this mysterious thing. However, it really is just this intense savoriness. It plays a big part in making food taste satisfying.

What Is Seasoning Food?

The term seasoning is in a culinary context, the flavoring in food. The word “seasoning” can be used to describe either salt or sugar, which are two of the most common ingredients added to food for flavor.

There are many different types of seasonings that can be used, depending on your preference. Salt is a common ingredient in many seasonings, as it enhances the flavor of food.

Herbs and spices are also popular additions, as they can give food a unique flavor that you might not get from just salt alone.

Seasoning your food with salt, sugar, honey, herbs, or spices is a great way to add extra flavor and excitement to your meals. It’s also a great way to customize your food to fit your family’s tastes.

How To Fix Over Seasoned Food

When you overseason food there is a simple trick that chefs use to remove the salty flavor. Adding acidic ingredients. For example, if you’ve made a curry and it is over seasoned mix in the juice of a lime or lemon.

Adding vinegar, citrus lemons, limes, or even yuzu juice will cancel out the saltiness in your food and at the same time add a zing to the dish.

So next time you have over seasoned your food try this chef’s trick, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is.

Variety Of Salt

Which types of salt should I use for my dishes? There are so many choices, and it can be hard to know where to start. Luckily, there is a variety of different salts that are popular today. These are the few that I have used in the past and liked best.

Rock Salt

Rock salt is from the earth and comes from underground deposits formed over millennia by the drying up of inland lakes and seas. Water is pumped into the salt caves and the brine is pumped to the surface.

The brine is boiled and reduced which leaves crystallized salt. From that, we obtain course rock salt and refined free-flowing table salt. Rock salt has an intense salty flavor, similar to refined table salt.   

Sea Salt

Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater, either naturally or by artificial means. It sometimes has a grayish tinge. Maldon salt is thin flakes and comes from Maldon in Essex, England.

Himalayan Pink Salt is mined from ancient seabeds in the Himalayan mountains. It is sold as rock, coarse, fine, and in bricks, is excellent as a finishing salt, and is also great for seasoning foods before cooking.

Himalayan pink salt has a mineral salt flavor, the pink-orange hue comes from the minerals (including potassium, manganese, iron, and zinc) that are present in the salt.

French Fleur De Sel

Fleur de sel is famous around the world and is made from seawater. When the seawater is solar evaporated, left are salt crystals that have a gray hue. Fleur de sel has a delicate and less salty taste than regular table salt.

Moshio Seaweed Salt

Moshio seaweed salt is made from harvesting, drying, and boiling seaweed. This releases the salt which is skimmed from the top of the water and naturally dried. This is a very fine salt.  Delicate salt taste with rich umami flavor.

Does It Really Matter What Kind Of Salt You Use

Yes, it does matter what type of salt you use. Different salts have different flavor profiles. Table salt is the most common type of salt, and usually has iodine added to it. I don’t like using table salt it has an insipid salty taste.

Sea salt is a type of salt that is harvested from evaporated seawater. It has a refined flavor that complements meat, poultry, and seafood. There are various sea salts available Maldon Sea Salt being some of the best.

Himalayan Pink Salt has a beautiful flavor with its light pink colored rocks, great for seasoning during and after the cooking process. It also is healthy with the array of minerals packed into the salt.

Then there is Japanese Moshio Seaweed Salt an expensive type of salt which is harvested from seaweed. The flavor is unique and is fantastic as a finishing salt, sprinkled on foods after they have been cooked.

My Number One Go To Himalayan Pink Salt

SaltWorks Ancient Ocean Himalayan Pink Salt

I always use Himalayan pink salt in the food I cook it’s way better than using refined table salt.

  • This salt has a much more complex taste. Best of all it adds a refreshingly pleasant savory taste to every dish you put it on without overpowering the flavor.
  • I love Himalayan pink salt, I use it in dishes and also as a finishing salt. The pink flecks make for an interesting garnish on a plate, a talking point.
  • Use this high-quality salt to create an amazing culinary experience in your kitchen.
  • The Ancient Ocean Himalayan Pink Salt is pure and unrefined, meaning it has not been pre-processed or filtered fully resulting in more nutrients.

What I’m Using At Work Maldon Sea Salt

Maldon Sea Salt

Maldon Sea Salt is a prestigious and unique product among chefs around the world. Known for its amazing flavor and quality.

  • This special salt I use to season steaks and seafood before cooking as it adds a distinctive taste to the food I cook. This is due to its natural soluble minerals.
  • I love rubbing the Maldon salted flakes between my thumb and forefinger and sprinkling them over food before cooking.
  • I don’t use Maldon salt so much as a finishing salt, I find it packs more flavor when used before or during the cooking process.
  • Maldon salt I never use in sweet dishes as the flavor is too intense and tends to make them noticeably salty.

I Love This Moshio Seaweed Salt

Moshio Seaweed Salt

Moshio Sea Salt is a natural and healthy salt with a delicate flavor and umami savoriness.

  • I had never used Moshio seaweed salt up until 5 years ago when I was gifted some. Awesome stuff, with outstanding flavor.
  • Only to be used sparingly due to the flavorful savoriness. I use this seaweed salt as a finishing salt, it has a fragrant smell of the sea, truly unique.
  • The light grey grains stand out sprinkled onto plated meals especially when they’re on a dark plate, they also sparkle. Everyone always asks about it.

What Are The 4 Basic Types Of Seasoning

Seasoning food is all about finding the right balance of flavor, and there are four basic elements of seasoning that you can use to achieve this.

Salty, spicy, sweet, and sour, there are 2 more elements umami and fat which are sometimes overlooked and sometimes not considered when flavoring food.

Salty flavors can come from capers, olives, and the most obvious salt. Spicy flavors are from curry powder and leaves, Sichuan pepper, and of course chilies.

Sweet comes from honey, maple syrup, and the most common sugar. Sour flavors can be introduced into food with ingredients like citrus, lemons, limes, also vinegar, rhubarb, and tamarind.

Umami that inherent savoriness in food which can be achieved with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies. Finally, fat is also a great way to season food, as it adds richness and depth of flavor.

Seasoning your food properly is all about finding the right balance of these four elements, so experiment until you find what works best for you!

Spice Is The Variety of Life
Spice Is The Variety of Life

Seasoning Food With Spices

Imagine the smoky scent of grilled lamb infused with cumin and garlic. Or the fragrance of a curry garnished with fresh coriander.

Even before you taste the food the intoxicating aroma of the spices will stimulate your appetite. Your scenes become heightened in the anticipation of what you are about to eat. 

Indian food though not necessarily hot, or distinctively spicy is characterized by the use of a greater range of dried spices. Sometimes up to fifteen unique spices are contained in one dish.

Chinese cooks use liberal quantities of fresh ginger and garlic. They use their famous five-spice blend, star anise being the predominant flavor. The spices in this blend are finely ground so that they release their unique flavor quickly in stir-fried dishes.  

Thai food tends to be very hot, with the addition of those tiny fiery hot birds-eye chilies appearing in many dishes. The heat however is tempered by fresh flavors of lime, lemongrass, and coriander.

Mexican food is also characterized by the liberal use of chilies. Several different types are often combined in the same dish.  Each chili fresh or dried contributes its own distinctive flavor.

Caribbean foods and their famous Jerk seasoning, with allspice, fresh thyme, and scotch bonnet chilies. This fabulous spice mix with its intense heat and extremely aromatic flavors.

Around the Mediterranean, it is the warm spices such as cinnamon, coriander, saffron, and cumin. These spices create the traditional flavors of Turkey, Greece, and Morocco. These spices are frequently combined with fruits and nuts.

Persian Saffron
Persian Saffron

My Favorite Spice

Highest Quality Saffron Threads

Saffron is one of my favorite spices it has a unique flavor and color.

  • When I use saffron, I get the most out of it. I steep the saffron in hot water for the perfect flavor solution. I will also steep it in heated vinegar to make the most amazing saffron aioli.
  • I will add it to the water when cooking rice this will stain the rice a bright yellow with an exotic aromatic unique taste.
  • I will never add it directly into food, you won’t get the same flavor. It’s expensive so you don’t want to waste it.

Professional Choice

Rainbow Peppercorn Blend With Pink Salt And Grinders Included

Rainbow Peppercorn Blend is the world’s most beautiful pepper.

With colors of red, green, and black it tastes superior to refined ground pepper. And it smells really awesome too!

  • I pick out all the red peppercorns and use them to season fish especially salmon. They have a sweet spicy flavor.
  • This unique blend is an excellent choice for marinating foods and can be freshly ground in dishes that are being cooked or used as a finishing touch on fully prepared dishes.
  • As well as all the flavor benefits, these peppercorns will add a pop of color and flavor to any dish they grace with their presence.

How To Season Food With Herbs And Spices

When buying herbs and spices for seasoning food, where possible select fresh herbs, whole seeds, berries, buds, and bark. Such as rosemary sprigs, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, peppercorns, allspice berries, whole cloves, cassia bark, and cinnamon sticks.

Fresh herbs are excellent to add to dishes during and after cooking, fresh herbs add aromatic and herbaceous flavors. Whole spices will keep their flavor and pungency far longer than powdered spices and can be easily ground as needed.

Fresh roots such as ginger, galangal, and turmeric are essential for some dishes and have an entirely different flavor than their dried versions.

Preparation Techniques

Spices are prepared in many different ways, depending on the form of the spice and the dish in which it is being used.

The desired result is always the same to release the optimum amount of flavor and aroma. Fresh herbs can be prepared in a few different ways, infusion, crushing, and finely chopping.

Seasoning Food Dry Roasting Spices
Dry roasting spices

Dry Frying Or Roasting

This process sometimes called dry roasting, is often used in Indian cookery and intensifies the flavor of such spices as cumin, coriander, fennel, mustard, juniper berries, and poppy seeds.

Heat a small heavy-based pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Put the whole spices in and cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring the pan frequently to prevent the spices from burning.

After 2 – 3 minutes the spices will start to give off a warm, rich aroma. Remove the pan from the heat and tip the roasted spices into a bowl. Grind with a mortar and pestle.

Grinding And Crushing

Fresh Herbs and Spices are frequently ground to release their flavor and intoxicating aroma. For the best result grind spices and herbs as you need them. 

When grinding dry spices such as cumin, fennel, caraway seeds, cloves, and star anise use a mortar and pestle.

Cardamom, juniper berries, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass are often lightly crushed to release their aroma. In the case of cardamom, it releases fragrant seeds. 

Grinding fresh herbs you can use a blender by adding rice bran or olive oil to create herb oils. Crush fresh herbs and rub them on the surface of meat like chicken, beef, and pork.

Here are some tips for extracting flavor from herbs and spices.

CHEFS TIP:

  • Spices and seasoning like rock salt, peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, and allspice berries can be easily ground in a salt or pepper mill.
  • Hard spices like nutmeg, ginger, and galangal can be grated on a micro-plane.
  • Lemongrass can be bruised with one or two sharp blows, until the fibers are lightly crushed, on a chopping board with the flat of the blade of a large chef’s knife.
Seasoning Food Mortar And Pestle
Grinding spices in a mortar and pestle

Infusing

Spices can be infused in warm liquid before use. When saffron is infused it not only imparts a wonderful aroma, but also a vibrant yellow color. Tamarind is infused to produce a tangy juice.

To infuse saffron strands bring water or vinegar to the boil, remove from the heat and let stand for 3 – 4 minutes. Place in the saffron strands and stir, let stand until cool.  This can be kept in the fridge until needed.

Saffron water can be used in risottos, exotic casseroles, and to color fish or white vegetables. Saffron infused vinegar can be used as a base for pickling vegetables or to make saffron mayonnaise.

Awesome Mortar And Pestle

ChefSofi EXTRA Large 8 Inch 5 Cup-Capacity Mortar and Pestle Set

This chef’s best friend is this large mortar and pestle quintessential for my kitchen.

  • First, was that the size is perfect – not too big or small but just right. You can start crushing ingredients without them flying out all over the place.
  • The other thing I liked was the rubber footing which prevents any movement (or slipping) when using it.

Spice Rubs

Being a chef I always like making my own spice rubs and mixing seasonings and spices together. However, there is now some excellent quality spice rubs out there.

If you know what flavors you like it’s easy to choose the spice rubs you want to use.

If you’re not sure of what you like then try a couple of different rubs, you don’t need a barbecue you can cook your rubbed meat in the oven or a cast iron pan.

Buying rubs will save you time. But more importantly, it will give you ideas on how to create your own rubs, almost like a baseline on where to start.

Flavored seasonings like salt infused with smoke are fantastic. The amazing smoky flavor they add to dishes is outstanding.

I use smoked salts when preparing soups, pasta sauces, and risotto. I also add smoked salt to potato, pumpkin, or kumara purees.

The flavor from the smoked salt will give your food depth and character without going overboard with the smoke flavor.  

Should You Buy Pre-Made Spice Rubs?

Yes, buying premade spice rubs is an excellent idea. It will save you time, but more importantly, it will give you ideas on how to create your own rubs, almost like a baseline on where to start.

Easy Steak Seasoning You Can Make

  • ¼ cup Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 Tbsp Ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic powder.

Place all ingredients into an airtight container and shake to combine. Let stand so powders can settle, and transfer into a dry rub shaker I got from Amazon

Smoked Salt My Choice

Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes

Maldon Smoked Sea Salt is a versatile product with a flavor profile ranging from delicate and light to richer and deeper.

  • Smoked salt, I think it is awesome, and easy to add to dishes. I’ve been experimenting with smoked sea salt for years and it can add another level of flavor.
  • It goes well in soups, pasta dishes, sauces, and meats for more depth as well as seafood or clam chowder.
  • I wouldn’t use it as a finishing salt, it packs more of a flavor punch when added to dishes during the cooking process. Just don’t use too much as the smokey flavor is strong.

Chilies

Fresh Home Grown Chilies
Fresh Home Grown Chilies Habanios, red banana, and a Jalapeno hybrid

Chilies were and still are used to make bland food taste better. Before cold storage was invented chilies were used to mask the rotten or rancid flavor of foods and make them editable.

Chili as a seasoning is still widely used today as a powder, whole dried, and fresh. Chili powder and flakes are used in spice rubs and curries.

I’ve always had a fascination with chilies, a unique ingredient, there is no substitute that comes even close to chilies. These spicy little morsels are amazing and have a diverse flavor range from mild, to hot, to insanely hot.

Fresh, whole dried, flakes, or ground into a powder. There is something about chilies that I love the flavor, amazing colors, and shapes.

I use chilies in sauces, curries, pasta, seafood dishes, and salads fresh and dried.  

Chilies are the most popular spice in the world, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean where there are hundreds or even thousands of different varieties.

Ghost chili peppers also known as bhut jolokia are the hottest chilies in the world. Chilies have a chemical effect on our bodies which some of us enjoy and find pleasurable more than others. 

My youngest son loves chilies and will eat them fresh and whole, whereas my oldest son won’t touch them.

If You Love Chilies Try These

Spice Gift Set Ghost Pepper Scorpion Chilies And Hot Sauces

I love chilies and I’ve always loved discovering the next level of flavor.

In particular, when it comes to extreme heat with intense flavor, there is nothing better than a ghost pepper, scorpion chili, or hot sauce.

Final Words

I hope I have helped you when it comes to seasoning food. If you take just 1 piece of advice and apply it to your everyday cooking I will have achieved my goal.

Seasoning food is the most fundamental aspect of cooking. Also, it is important because it can make or break a dish. Seasoning is way more than just salt.

There are many different types of seasonings, each with its own unique use and flavor. We’ve explored the world of seasoning and I’ve shared with you a chef’s perspective and a comprehensive guide to seasoning food.

There is no secret to seasoning food. Have some restraint, with all the different seasonings and flavors available today and with a little experimentation, you’ll be able to create delicious dishes and start seasoning like a pro.

When it comes to seasoning food this is what nature provides us, so don’t waste it.