Sometimes it's the small touches that make the biggest difference when you're in the kitchen. Here are some simple tips from America's Test Kitchen for prepping, cooking and seasoning designed to boost flavour in everyday cooking.
These tips are excerpted from The America's Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook
1. Don't Prepare Garlic and Onions in Advance
Chopping garlic and onions releases sharp odours and strong flavours that become overpowering with time, so it's best to cut them at the last minute. Soaking sliced or chopped onions in a solution of bicarb soda and water (1 tablespoon per cup of water) tames their pungency for raw applications; just be sure to rinse them thoroughly before using.
2. Don't Seed Tomatoes
The seeds and surrounding "jelly" contain most of the flavour, so don't seed tomatoes unless called for in a recipe where excess moisture will ruin a dish.
3. Keep Fats Tasting Fresh
The fats in butter, oils, and nuts can go rancid and impart off-flavours to your cooking. Minimise their exposure to oxygen and light to slow down this process. Store butter and nuts in the freezer, keep nut oils in the fridge, and store vegetable oils in a dark pantry.
4. Strike Only When The Pan Is Hot
The temperature of the cooking surface will drop the minute food is added, so don't rush the preheating step at the start of most sautés. Wait for the oil to shimmer when cooking vegetables. When cooking proteins, wait until you see the first wisps of smoke rise from the oil.
5. Never Discard The Fond
Those caramelised browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan after cooking are packed with savoury flavour. Deglaze the hot pan with liquid (wine, broth, or juice) and scrape the bits free with a wooden spoon to incorporate the fond into sauces, soups or stews.
6. Season With Sugar, Too
Browned food tastes better, and the best way to accelerate this process is with a pinch of sugar sprinkled on lean proteins (chicken and seafood) or vegetables.
7. Bloom Spices And Dried Herbs In Fat
To intensify the flavour of ground spices and dried herbs, cook them for a minute or two in a little butter or oil before adding liquid to the pan. If the recipe calls for sautéing aromatics (like onions), add the spices to the fat in the pan when the vegetables are nearly cooked.
8. Brown Breads, Pies And Pastries
Browning equals flavour, so don't take breads, pies, or even cakes out of the oven until the exterior is deep golden brown. We bake all pies in a glass plate so we can track colour development. When working with puff pastry or other flaky dough on a baking sheet, we lift up the bottom of individual pieces and look for even browning.
9. Add a Little Umami Or Savouriness
Soy sauce and anchovies contain high levels of glutamates, which give dishes a savoury, meaty boost. Add a teaspoon or two of soy sauce to chilli, or cook a few minced anchovies along with the vegetables in a soup or stew.
10. Incorporate Fresh Herbs At The Right Time
Add hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, and marjoram to dishes early in the cooking process; this way, they release maximum flavour while ensuring that their texture will be less intrusive. Save delicate herbs like parsley, coriander, tarragon, chives and basil for the last minute, or they will lose their fresh flavour and bright colour.
10 Simple Tips to Make Food Taste Better [America's Test Kitchen]
The test kitchen team spent more than a year rebuilding our classic landmark family cookbook from the ground up, continuing its quest to create the absolute best versions of recipes everyone counts on. The America's Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook contains more than 1100 new recipes accompanied by new photography and a brand-new package.
Illustration by Natykach Nataliia (Shutterstock). Photos by America's Test Kitchen.