Tips & Hacks to Amp Up Flavor in your Everyday Cooking

A man in a blue collared shirt with sleeves rolled up, chopping and preparing onions, carrots, and other ingredients on a cutting board in a kitchen.

Your cookware — top notch. Your YouTube library of cooking videos — inspired. Your knife techniques flawless. Now, let’s take the taste of your dishes to the next level. While taste is an intricate dance of five basic types of flavors, here are some easy tips & hacks to make the taste of your everyday cooking fire:

  • Pat dry for crispy skin  Another key tip for guaranteed browning is to pat meats dry before searing in a hot pan. Too much moisture on the surface leads to steaming instead of searing.
  • Use salt to your advantage Salt will draw out water from proteins, so you either want to salt immediately before cooking (before the liquid is drawn out and collects on the surface) or at least 45 min before cooking when that same liquid is reabsorbed into the fibers of the raw protein.
  • Nuttier nuts Never skip the toasting step for nuts. Toasting nuts not only crisps up the outer surface, but it also brings out the aromatic oils that will contribute more complex flavors and aromas to your dish.
  • Save Parmesan cheese rinds After using up a Parmesan wedge, save the rind in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer. Adding the frozen rind to simmering soups, stews or broths is an easy, age-old Italian trick to add depth and tons of umami.
  • Intensify spices Revive the pungency of dried spices by toasting in a dry pan on low heat 1-3 minutes, just until "bloomed" or fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent burning and bitterness. Cool in a clean bowl before using.
  • Save your stems Save the stems of your herbs after using the leaves for garnishes. Soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint and basil, have stems that are often packed with flavor. They work great blitzed in a food processor to make pesto or dressings, or tied in a bunch and simmered to build flavor in a broth or soup.
Herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage have stems that are too woody to eat, but are a quick way to infuse flavor into oil when preheating a pan. Add the stems to the pan with the cold oil. The oil will slowly extract the flavors and aromas of the herbs as it warms up. Remove the stems before adding the food to the pan.
  • Water to the rescue - Always save a little bit of pasta cooking water and add it in with your sauce when tossing with hot cooked pasta. Not only will the seasoned pasta water season your dish, the starches in it will help the sauce cling to the pasta.
  • Save your veggie scraps (and skins & tops) - Repurpose all of your veggie skins, tops and scraps to make a homemade, flavorful veggie broth. (You already know we’re all about using as much of the whole veggie as possible here at ZENB!) Fill your slow cooker about half-way full with your veggie scraps and add water to the top. Cook on low for 8-12 hours. Cool and strain. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze up to 3 months. Start a veggie scrap bag in your freezer and add to it as you meal prep. Make stock once you have enough scraps to fill your slow-cooker half-full.
  • Flavor booster citrus to the rescue - If you happen to add too much salt or too much heat to a dish, citrus can help salvage your dish. The acidity from freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice can help restore balance in your dish. If a dish is missing..."something", citrus often adds a bright pop of flavor to wake up flavors without adding additional fat or sodium.

There’s plenty of literature out there to help you learn more, but we think the best way to learn about taste, flavor, and cooking is to get out there and do it! Our library of 100+ recipes is a great place to start experimenting with different combinations of flavors and ingredients and to test out these tips & hacks. When you do, don’t forget to share it with us on Instagram and Facebook!


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