THE KEY TO GREAT FOOD IS GREAT SEASONING.
Experts agree that proper seasoning is critical for making great food. Often, the one thing that separates the great chef from the good cook is a superior understanding of seasoning. Understanding salt, and using it to enhance ingredients to their full potential, is the key to a great dish.
The most fundamental concept of seasoning is to realize that the goal of adding salt is not to make the dish taste salty but to enhance and bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients in the dish.
The Broth Test
Many experts recommend a simple exercise to train your palette for recognizing the perfect amount of salt. First, heat up some unsalted broth in a bowl. Then add salt, one pinch at a time. Taste between each pinch paying careful attention to the flavor and saltiness.
At a certain point, the broth will taste less like water and achieve a more full flavor. This transition may be quite abrupt which shows why proper salting can have such a huge impact on flavor.
Keep going with the exercise. There will be another point, maybe a bit less pronounced, where the broth begins to taste mostly of salt. This is over-seasoning.
When seasoning food, we want to be right between those two transition points — we want full flavor without too much "salty" flavor.
5 TIPS FOR SALTING TO PERFECTION
Developing your palette and fine tuning your ability to season perfectly is probably a lifelong journey. But luckily we have five tips to help you get the most out of your dishes.
TIP 1: UPGRADE YOUR SALT
Most home cooks use the well known table salt, the sand-like tiny granules that fill salt shakers across the world. While this salt is fine for your table salt shaker, it isn't particularly suited for cooking.
Most chefs prefer kosher or sea salt — both are a little larger and more flake shaped with jagged, rough edges. This salt sticks better to foods and it is much easier to see and feel how much salt has been applied.
TIP 2: TRADE IN YOUR SALT SHAKER FOR A SALT BOX
While your salt shaker is great for adding some salt at the table it isn't ideal for seasoning to perfection while you are cooking.
There are a few reasons why the salt shaker isn't great for cooking. First, you have very little idea how much salt is actually going into the dish. Between clogged holes and hard to see crystals, you are guessing every time you turn it over. Second, as mentioned in Tip 1, salt shakers are usually filled with table salt which isn't the preferred type of salt for many applications.
Epicurious editors put having a salt keeper on their top 57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now:
48. ESTABLISH A SALT BOWL.
Having a stash of salt always within arm’s reach when you’re at the stove is the first step to [becoming a] better seasoner
Instead of reaching for that salt shaker, upgrade to our Ceramic Salt Box with Bamboo Lid to keep salt within easy reach at all times.
TIP 3: GIVE YOURSELF A PINCH (OF SALT)
With your new salt box on the counter, you literally have salt at your fingertips whenever you need it.
The easiest way to sprinkle some salt on the food you are preparing is to use your fingers. A three finger pinch will yield a pretty equivalent amount of salt each time and you will soon learn how much that is and be able to adjust accordingly.
Salt your food from a height of about 10 to 12 inches above. This will allow you to see how much salt you are applying and it will spread more evenly over the surface. Plus you will look and feel like a gourmet chef!
TIP 4: SALT EARLY. AND OFTEN.
Adding salt in layers helps ensure that all components of the dish are adequately seasoned. Making sure your components are properly seasoned will ensure that each bite is a little slice of culinary perfection.
But don't overdo it. Remember it is easier to add more salt than to fix an over-salted dish. So while you are seasoning early and often, make sure it is a little bit at a time. And remember, some ingredients may already have salt and cooking can impact the saltiness of an ingredient. Which brings us to tip 5:
TIP 5: TASTE EARLY. AND OFTEN.
It is probably common knowledge that frequent tasting is an important part of getting the dish right. As the chef's mantra goes, "Taste everything! Taste, taste, taste!"
As your dish progresses, you want to keep tabs on how the flavors are developing and what the seasoning level is. This way, as you are layering the seasoning in and adding components you know that you have just the right amount of salt.