Skip Nav
Food News
Target Just Dropped a Sugar Plum Icee, and Thank Goodness Calories Don't Count in December
Spaghetti Pomodoro Recipe
This Is the 7-Ingredient Spaghetti Pomodoro Recipe That Won the Pasta World Championship
Banana Almond Smoothie Recipe
Fast and Easy
Skip the Smoothie Joint and Make Your Own Banana Almond Shake
How to Roast Broccoli and Cauliflower
Fast and Easy
The Completely Addictive Method of Cooking Broccoli and Cauliflower
Food News
I Went to the Pasta World Championship in Italy, and It Was a Carb-Lover's Dream Come True

How to Season Food

A Simple Trick That'll Make You a Better Cook

Season to taste: three simple words that can, and often do, mean the difference between a bland and a boisterous dish, but what does it mean exactly? It may seem like a cop-out directive added by lazy recipe writers, but truly, even if a recipe does not explicitly call this step out, it's best practice to include it in your cooking process.

In an ideal world, a recipe would turn out the same regardless of who's at the stove, the ingredients and tools they used, and their interpretation of instructions, but that's simply not the case. While most foods should not taste explicitly salty, tart, hot, or oily, the inclusion of small amounts of ingredients with these qualities can take a dish from bland to exceptional in a flash.

Try this general plan of action the next time a dish falls flat:

  • Taste as you're cooking: This may seem obvious, but half the battle to seasoning food properly is understanding what you're starting with. Rather than seasoning blindly, taste the dish before amending with salt, acid, or spice. Chances are it'll need an extra pinch or glug of this and that, but it's much easier to add in flavor than to take excess away.
  • Don't oversalt: As a general rule of thumb, start by adding about half of the salt you think a dish will need, or half a teaspoon at a time, whichever will be less. Stop when it tastes almost salty enough, as oftentimes a dish will benefit from the addition of other seasonings, so as to avoid food that simply tastes salty. If you've made your dish too saline, then try adding starch to even things out.
  • Assess acidity: A spritz of lemon juice of a splash of vinegar can truly make a dish sing without imparting a tart or acidic taste. Like salt, acid enhances other flavors in a subtle way without necessarily making its presence known. Try adding small amounts at a time, tasting along the way. My go-to acids for seasoning: freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, vinegars (sherry and red wine in particular), and vinegar-based hot sauce.
  • Round out flavors: Does your dish still need a little extra something? Try a pinch of sugar to round out naturally acidic foods like tomato-based sauces and soups, or tart and tangy barbecue. Alternatively, add an extra pinch of red pepper flakes, a glug of hot sauce, or a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper, all of which can add interest. Lastly, think rich: try adding extra oil, butter, or cream, all of which can tone down a heavy hand with other seasonings while creating a velvety texture on the tongue.
Image Source: Shutterstock
From Our Partners
How to Use an Instant Pot
How to Reheat a HoneyBaked Ham
How Chefs Make Gravy
How Long Should I Reheat a Casserole?
How to Cook Zucchini Noodles
Easy Way to Peel Potatoes
How to Tell If a Turkey Is Done Without a Thermometer
How to Get Crispy Turkey Skin
The Right Way to Cook Things
How to Frost Cupcakes Like a Rose
How Long Defrosted, Refrigerated, and Cooked Turkey Lasts
Best Grocery List For Someone on a Budget
From Our Partners
Latest Recipes, Menus, Food & Wine
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds