How to season your food like the pros

Finally, an answer to “what is this missing?”

Frequently the difference between home-cooking and what you get in a restaurant is the way the food is seasoned. All those herbs and spices can really make a big difference. For some advice on how to season your dishes like the pros, we turned to the Executive Chef of Smith & Co., Greg Antioho.

Organize your spices by what goes together

Have you ever started a recipe, only to realize partway through that you are missing one of the spices required? One way to help avoid that scenario is to organize your spice draw in a way so spices that are frequently used together are next to each other. If you like cooking a variety of types of cuisines, consider organizing by regions, like Italian herbs (Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, etc.), Mexican flavors (Cumin, Cilantro, Chili Powder, etc..), or Asian spices (Turmeric, Ginger, Sesame, etc.). This also works well if you are free-styling your recipe. Seeing spices and herbs grouped together like this might remind you what your dish is missing.

You probably need to season more than you think you do

According to Antioho, the biggest, most common mistake at-home chefs make is under seasoning their food. In general, he recommends you just start by adding more than you think you do (besides maybe salt). Keep tasting as you continue to cook. If you taste it and wonder “what is this missing?” start by adding more of everything.

Salt is probably your most important spice

Salt is a flavor enhancer and key to almost every dish. When seasoning your meats and proteins you typically want to salt them and let them rest for about 20 minutes before cooking them. By giving them some time before you cook, it allows the salt to seep into the meat, flavoring the whole thing. With fish, since it is more delicate, you can season it right before you put it in the pan/oven. Often times Chef Greg recommends you use Kosher salt to season things as it is a good size for flavoring things. Iodized salt is best for baking or salting your pasta water. Large flakey salt is best for finishing a dish and is mostly for show.

Find a balance of the 5 tastes

If you ever tasted a dish and wondered “What is this missing?” You probably want to consider the 5 tastes - Sweet, Spicy (Bitter), Savory (umami), Sour, and Salty. A well-balanced dish will have at least some of all of those flavors. If you feel like your dish is missing a base, some meatiness, you want to add something with umami flavors like soy sauce, or Worcestershire sauce. If the flavors feel all muddled together try adding an acid, like any type of vinegar. If it tastes too sour, add fat like some oils. To counteract sweetness, acids or salts work well. Anytime you add something new to a dish, look at it as an opportunity to add flavor. Instead of adding water to something that is too thick, instead, try chicken stock. This will make your dish have more complex flavors and really taste like a pro’s.

Watch the video above for more information.

About the Author:

Michelle Oliver is a Multimedia Journalist for the 10 a.m. lifestyle show, "Live in the D." She is known as "the food girl" because of her two popular food franchises, Dine in the D and Find Your Fix. Michelle also covers stories on homegrown businesses, style, and other fun things happening in the D.