A pinch of spice or dash of herbs can make an ordinary meal into something much more delicious, but it's not all about flinging random spices into your food. Most of us experiment with spices, but chances are you're making some key mistakes when it comes to how you spice your food.
Want to stop that? Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when cooking with spices.
Wrong Spice at the Wrong Time
Cooking is all about timing, but that doesn't just mean how long you put something in an oven. When you add your spice is as important as how long you leave something on a burner for. For instance, when a recipe calls for garlic are you chopping it up and adding it right in the beginning?
Garlic burns quickly, and will lose most of its flavor after just a few minutes at high heat. For more pronounced flavor of garlic add it near the end, or use it raw. Same thing for basil, cooking it will radically change its flavor.
Spices like paprika and rosemary don't change very much as you cook them, but a spice like cumin actually gets more powerful as it cooks - making it a great spice to add in early.
Not Enough, Or Way Too Much
If Andre the Giant added a "pinch" of salt to something, chances are it would taste like the water of the Dead Sea. (That's very salty btw.) Measurements for spices are notoriously relative, so it's really up to your discretion for how much to use.
Some spices, particularly the hot ones like cayenne, black pepper, chili powder, will need a lower quantity than more mild spices like oregano or paprika.
For best results take taste tests while you're cooking, and go from there. Remember that you can always add more later for some spices, but once you go too big there's no going back.
Using The Wrong Spice
Spices obviously have different flavors, which means some spices are perfect for certain meals, and others would be a disaster. Think you know what spice goes where? Click to the next page to find out.
So you love oregano. You just grab your shaker of it and sprinkle it on everything. Eggs, beef, stews, soups. You need to stop that. Spices are not created equal, and while a good cook always experiments, there are some guidelines that you might want to stick to.
This hot spice is a favorite in many households, and adds a lot more than just heat. It's a natural pain reliever, and will actually boost your metabolism too. It's best used in sauces with a vinegar base, so most hot sauces or meat marinades. Great with chicken, but it can also be used for pork and beef too. Add citrus to help release more flavor and cut the heat a little bit.
Basil is a staple of Italian cooking, so just throw it in tomato sauce and you're good to go right? Not so fast. Basil is very very good on chicken, and doesn't add much to ground beef or sausage. For best use put it with pesto dishes and white meats like chicken and pork. It's also surprisingly good with berries.
Dill isn't as common as the other two listed above, but many people have it in their homes, or in their garden. It's great with fish, and works well with fresh veggies like carrots. Mix it with yogurt for a very pleasing flavor that comes close to sour cream, without the extra calories.
More like ROASTmary! If you're going to be roasting your meal, think beef, pork etc, then you want to be adding rosemary. I've also taken to cooking my steaks right in with the rosemary and some butter, it's delicious. It won't hurt any meal, but it won't have the same effect if you combine it with creamier dishes like a chicken Alfredo. Best to let it stand with the meat it's prepared with, rather than getting lost in a sauce.
This spice became a darling of the natural health food lovers a few years ago, and that makes sense because it has loads of nutrients. It also has a very strong flavor, so unlike Rosemary, it's actually best diluted in sauces, especially curries.
These are just some of the ways to use spices, but you'll learn more as you cook and experiment!