Hello again everyone! Thanks for checking out the posts here on TrueGrub. Today’s topic has to deal with one the most important aspects of working in the kitchen: flavoring your food! Flavoring your food has many components to it such as the utensils you use, the pan, the ingredients, and something that people often under-utilize or don’t use at all: spices!
Spices are an amazing addition to any meal that can arguably make or break the dish. People sometimes avoid spices for fear that they will overpower a dish, or their palates simply cannot handle the intense flavor that they can bring.
Some families will choose to forgo spices in regular cooking due to digestive issues that may result from a dish that is too “spicy”, and that is totally acceptable. If you avoid spices for that reason then it is understandable, but if you’re avoiding them simply out of habit then I urge you to reconsider, and begin exploring with the wonderful flavor additions that spices can bring to the table.
I’m not going to outline every spice here in this post, because there are many out there that I don’t use but I would like to point out a few of my favorite staples that I recommend every amateur cook should have in their kitchen.
Salt & Pepper: There is a reason these two spices are a must-have in every American home. There is a large difference between the containers on your kitchen table, which are seasonings, and then the more robust stuff that we use in cooking and consider as spices. I recommend obtaining some Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper for cooking purposes. Most modern spice containers with these in them will have a grinder on top for easy application while cooking. Use these generously in the preparation process as well as throughout cooking, because there is nothing worse than an under-seasoned dish!
Garlic Powder: Don’t get this confused with garlic salt as the two are considerably different. Fresh garlic cloves are a great addition when you need that garlic flavor, but we don’t always have access to fresh garlic cloves so the powder is an excellent substitute. I advise using Garlic Powder sparingly at first, and then more after tasting if needed. Garlic can be an overpowering flavor and even lead to heartburn if used too much, but it is a great spice for most dishes, especially pasta!
Onion Powder: This spice is similar to Garlic Powder but with the obvious addition of onion flavoring. I often prefer to caramelize onions when adding that onion flavor to a dish, but the powder can be used in a pinch.
Cayenne Pepper: This is quite possibly one of my favorite spices, but it absolutely has to be used with caution. Cayenne Pepper adds a good deal of heat to any dish, and using too much will almost certainly overpower the dish. When used in the right amount, this spice can really bolster the flavor of anything that you are cooking. I will sometimes add a few dashes into my Alredo sauce and it gives it a comfortable heat balanced by the cream in the sauce.
You will need to start tasting your dishes if you don’t do so already, and this will give you a good idea of what spices to add. When I am seasoning meat to be seared in Cast-Iron, I will often mix all of the spices above to create a unique rub that I have dubbed: Zach’s Blend. There are many other great spices out there so be adventurous and bold, try ones that you haven’t used before and I’m sure you won’t regret it!