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11 Tips For Perfectly Seasoning Your Food

Everything you ever wanted to know about properly salting your food — from how much you should be adding, to what kind you should be using.

Everybody knows that salting your food is an important part of cooking — but not everybody knows how to do it right.

Salting your food is not as easy as throwing it in a dish and hoping for the best, so we rounded up 11 practical tips to help you do it right.

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1. For most cooking applications, kosher salt should be your go-to salt — not table salt...

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Kosher salt (most chef's salt of choice) has crystals that dissolve quickly and without any strange flavors. Table salt, on the other hand, is much finer and a little goes a long way. Table salt often contains additional additives (like anti-caking ingredients) that can slightly alter the taste. This type of salt is best for keeping on the table so people can add it on top of foods, but not for actual cooking.

2. But other types of salts do come in handy.

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Although kosher and table salts are the most popular varieties, they're not the only ones. Flake salts (such as Maldon) are used for finishing dishes and add a nice crunchy texture. More niche salts, like pink or black varieties, can add a slightly different flavor and each have their own unique characteristics. The best way to find one you love is to simply try them out.

Learn more: Check out a guide to all the different salt varieties.

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3. Season during every step of the cooking process...

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When following a recipe, make sure you season your food during every step. This will help your final dish taste balanced and allow every flavor to pop. If you're making a soup, for example, season the veggies, the broth, and the entire mixture as it's bubbling away so you build a perfectly balanced dish with flavors that shine.

Learn more: Read more about why you should be seasoning during every step of the cooking process.

4. But make sure you don't overdo it. You can always add salt, but you can't take it away.

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As you're seasoning your food, remember that you can (and should!) still season at the very end — so don't think that you need to add all of your salt during cooking. You can always add more salt at the end, but you can't take it away — so season conservatively during every step and then aggressively (if need be) at the end.

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5. But if you do accidentally add too much, try adding an unsalted liquid (like broth or stock) to thin it out — and don't buy into the old "potato trick."

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The only way to significantly lower the salt level of a dish is to dilute it with something unseasoned. For example, if your pasta sauce is too salty, adding extra unseasoned tomato sauce can help balance it out. The old saying that a few chunks of peeled potatoes can help soak up excess salt is not really true. The potatoes will absorb salty liquids, but they won't soak up excess salt like a magic sponge.

6. If you're salting the surface of something (like a steak or a sheet tray filled with vegetables) season from high above to evenly distribute the salt.

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Besides looking cool, seasoning foods from high above allows you to evenly distribute salt over the surface of something without ending up with spots that have too much or too little. This is why you see chefs doing this — not because it's cool, but because it's practical.

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7. Remember that salt is not just for seasoning but can play a crucial role in some recipes.

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While salt's primary function is to add flavor to a dish, it sometimes plays a functional role in the actual recipe and cannot be removed. For some items, like eggplant, salt can be used to draw out excess moisture. It's also commonly used to brine items (such as poultry) to help them retain moisture.

Learn more: How to brine a chicken.

8. Depending on what ingredients are in your dish, you may not need to add very much (or any) salt.

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Some ingredients — such as soy sauce, capers, and olives — already contain a high amount of salt, so you can almost treat them as if they are salt in a dish. If you use enough of an already salty ingredient, you may not need to add very much salt, or any at all.

Learn more: Check out five ingredients you can use instead of salt.

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9. Sweet items, such as desserts, benefit from proper salting, too.

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Think of salt as a flavor enhancer and not an actual flavor. Salt can take sweet items to the next level and let their flavors shine — and it can balance sweetness as well. If you've ever had a salted chocolate bar, you know this. When preparing baked goods or other sweets, make sure your recipe contains salt to help round out the flavors.

Pro tip: Although table salt is not generally recommended for cooking, it's actually a great choice for baked goods. The grains are super fine and dissolve in batter and doughs, and it's easy to accurately measure out in a measuring spoon.

Learn more: Read more about properly adding salt to baked goods.

10. Salt lasts pretty much forever, so don't worry about it going bad — but seasoned salts do go bad.

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Unless your salt gets wet and starts clumping together, there's no reason to worry about it going bad. However, seasoning salt (the kind with seasonings mixed in) can go bad. A general rule of thumb for most ground spices (which is what seasoning salt contains) is that they should be tossed after two to three years. An expired seasoning salt will lose it's flavor, color, and might even begin to taste bad — so make sure you check the expiration dates.

Learn more: Read more about how long spices typically last for.

11. Finishing a dish with salt is also important and can help round out flavors and add texture.

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Right before you eat your food, taste and adjust it for seasoning. Things like salads and raw veggies are typically not seasoned, but should be. Flavors also change over time, so something that tasted perfected salted an hour ago might have matured and needs a bit more salt. This final salting is about making the dish taste complete and balanced, so definitely don't skip it.

Looking for more helpful cooking tips? Check out these posts:

12 Little Seasoning Tricks To Take Your Cooking To The Next Level

27 Diagrams That Make Cooking So Much Easier

12 Expert Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Food In The Kitchen

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