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Michael Symon Shares Tips on Flavor and Spice

"I like to do demos because they let me vent," Michael Symon admitted in Aspen. Which was fine by the crowd. It was only 10 a.m. on Friday, but the audience was roaring with laughter. At his In Praise of Pork seminar, the Iron Chef, who's set to release a book with Michael Ruhlman this November, showed that he's just like us. He accidentally lights up the wrong burners and secretly loves Miracle Whip (he buys a giant tub incognito and has to hide it in the back of the refrigerator). Still, the renowned chef had a lot of knowledge to impart on the audience when it came to seasoning and spices. Learn Symon's tips for enhancing food's flavor when you


  • Michael admits he wants to "kill the guy who invented the garlic press." Always chop garlic by hand. A food processor makes garlic taste bitter and "hot."
  • Go Greek and put cinnamon — the world's most underrated spice — on everything from meatballs to lamb.
  • Buy spices in whole form, not ground. When you buy ground, it's impossible to know whether the spice was ground last week or four years ago.
  • Likewise, buy fresh herbs. When you buy dry herbs at the grocery store, you just don't know what you're getting.
  • Don't discard the stems of vegetables such as watercress; they contain much of the vegetable's flavor.
  • When zesting, only complete one pass, otherwise you'll hit pith, which imparts a bitter flavor.
  • For flavor without heat, remove the seeds — and ribs — in hot peppers. There's actually more heat in the rib than in the seed.
  • Don't cook with extra-virgin olive oil; blended olive oil is sufficient. For added flavor, cook with rendered animal fat.
  • Unlike Italian olive oil, which may contain olives from other regions or countries, Greek olive oil is required to contain olives from only that region. Greek extra-virgin olive oil is a great, affordable addition to your kitchen.

On my next attempt at meatballs, I'll be adding in a dash of cinnamon. I'm also surprised to hear him sing the praises of Greek olive oil. Do any of these tips come as news to you?

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