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Six Food Seasoning Mistakes to Avoid

a chef seasoning chicken before cooking it
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Ever taken a bite of a meal you’ve worked so hard on only to find it’s way too salty, or hardly has flavor at all? Avoid these seasoning mistakes and learn how to balance your flavors with these simple techniques.

Not Sampling as You Cook

If you’ve gone through the trouble of chopping your veggies, sautéing chicken and adding all sorts of fun colors to your meal you want your efforts to be rewarded right? Sitting down to eat only to discover the flavor is way off can be discouraging.

Avoid this by testing your food out during the cooking process. A great way of getting yourself in the habit is by using the two-spoon trick, which also prevents double-dipping.

When you have a recipe to follow, putting all of your ingredients out on the counter is a great way to prepare for cooking your dish. Add a side plate with two different spoons too.

Using two different looking spoons works excellent to ensure you don’t mix them up. Always use one spoon to pick up the food you want to try and place it into the other spoon for tasting.  Make sure your two spoons never touch. That way, you are never cross-contaminating your food with germs, and you won’t have to wash multiple spoons.

Not Using Enough Salt

Understanding that everyone has a unique preference for taste is essential, but did you know that a balanced meal should have these five types of tastes? They are salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Umami is Japanese for “delicious taste.”

Sprinkling kosher salt on raw chicken breast with vegetables in the background.

Salt is one of the most integral parts of your meal. Not only is it an essential nutrient, but it interacts with the food and helps release molecules in the air—giving your food a lovely aroma and contributing to your enjoyment of the meal. If done right, salt should enhance your meal, but if done wrong, your food will be bland or extremely briny.

When cooking, adding too little salt or choosing not to add salt can be a huge mistake. While some ingredients have a specific role of providing their natural flavors to the dish, some foods need that extra kick of flavor to stand out.

Try using Kosher salt instead of table salt for your cooking needs from now on. It is flakier and coarser than table salt, but it’s perfect for throwing into your pot of boiling pasta and goes great on meat before searing.

Overseasoning Your Food

Overseasoning your food is a simple mistake (and it’s easy to add too much too quickly), so remember to test your food as you go. It’s never fun to fight through a meal that tastes too strong, but what’s worst is throwing it out because the seasoning is outright overwhelming

This happens to most of us at some point, so if you happen to shake that seasoning shaker a bit too hard, here are a few tricks you can do to fix it.

Depending on your meal, sometimes a squeeze of lemon or drizzled honey will help. Using sweetness or sourness to counter the other intense flavors usually does the trick. If your soup or sauce is too salty, dilute it with water or cream.

Remember, to prevent over seasoning sample as you go to ensure you hit that sweet spot without overpowering the dish.

Not Using Fresh and Dry Herbs

Dry herbs and fresh herbs each have an essential purpose that differs from one another, and understanding when to use each will exponentially benefit your cooking.

Fresh and dried herbs including parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, and bay leavesSummertime is a great time to make a mini herb garden, so you have fresh herbs on hand throughout the warm months. Not only will you have a selection of herbal ingredients, but you’ll save money by having them right outside your door. Using fresh herbs to finish or garnish a dish is the best way to reach all the natural flavors, so make sure it’s added towards the end of cooking.

Dried herbs are much more convenient and cheaper to buy, and if used correctly, the flavor will be just right. Make sure your dried herbs are added early on in the cooking process if you want the robust flavors to stand out. Anything that needs to simmer for over an hour does better with dried herbs.

Not Using Lemons

Lemons can do so much to a meal, especially when it lacks something extra. Making a pan sauce for chicken? Add some freshly squeezed lemon right at the end, and you’ll be taking that sauce to the next level.

Fresh lemon juice also does wonders to fish entrees and takes away the “fishy” taste that many people don’t enjoy.

Don’t forget to squeeze some lemon juice on your fresh veggies either. It goes great on asparagus, green beans, broccoli, and salads.

Not Using Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Cracked black pepper is made by hand using a pepper mill to grind peppercorns at the time you need them. Regular ground pepper, the stuff you buy in the tin at the grocery store, is ground weeks to months before you buy it.

Why does it matter? When you use cracked black pepper not only are you creating a more pungent flavor to your dish, but you are also adding texture that regular ground cannot offer.

Cracked pepper is great for meat rubs, and makes an excellent finish for most savory meals. If you’re in a pinch and only have ground pepper, it’ll do, but we recommend you keep a pepper mill by your stove to take advantage of the rich flavor of fresh ground pepper.

There are many ways to create a delectable dish and so many ways to ruin what could be a delicious meal. But with these tips under your belt, you’ll avoid ruining your dish by over or under seasoning it.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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