Tasting as you cook is arguably the most important part of cooking. Seriously, cooking without tasting would be like painting a picture without looking at it. I’ve watched cooks shepherd dishes from a mere scattering of raw and unrelated ingredients to plated works of art that, when tasted, suffer from unbalanced flavors, lack of seasoning or worse, no taste at all. Yes, we all eat with our eyes long before the food ever hits our taste buds and I’m all about presenting beautiful plates, but aesthetics aside, the point is to eat (and enjoy) the food. So make it taste good.
And how will you know it tastes good without tasting it? Tasting and seasoning your food as you go should fast become a regular part of your routine while cooking, regardless of what your recipe says. I’m not giving you carte blanche to double dip with your tasting spoon or fork or to dump loads of S & P willy-nilly into everything, but tasting is a critical part of preparing food. Trust me, if you season and taste as you go, your food will taste better.
Here are a few tips to help you season to taste:
1. Pinch. Don’t Sprinkle. Replace your salt shakers with a small bowl or ramekin of salt. Salt shakers make it near impossible to determine how much salt you’ve actually added. Over time you’ll learn how many of your pinches it takes to get the amount of salt just right. Course kosher salt has a more mellow taste than table salt and its larger grain makes it easier to pinch.
2. Add a little at a time. Add salt in small amounts then taste the food before adding more. Be sure to give the salt time to dissolve into the food before tasting. You can always add more salt if your flavor’s not quite right, but you can’t take it out if you add too much at the start.
3. Add a little more. Most people would never dream of adding as much salt to their food as most restaurants do. That’s the reason your home-cooked food is rarely as flavorful as your favorite restaurant meal. A good rule of thumb is to add a pinch more than you’re comfortable with. If you’re tasting as you go, you won’t over-do it.