Food & Wine

The Art Of Cooking Meat Is All About Seasoning

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How many of your recipes see you serving up meat? How often do you really give the meat the extra ‘oomph’ it needs to really earn its place on the plate? If you’re getting a little tired of your meat-based dishes always tasting the same, then that’s a good sign that you need to invest some time in your seasoning game. Here, we’re going to look at a few different techniques and tips for flavoring your meat, and how you can ensure the flavor in your kitchen is never lacking.

Start with the basics

If you’re looking to improve your cooking skills, then the very first thing that you should get used to is how you add salt and pepper. They’re basic flavors, but when done well, they can bring a lot more out of your food than you might expect. With salt, you can improve the spread of it by using kosher salt, which offers thicker flakes than table salt, meaning it’s easier to spread it around by hand. You want to make sure that you dry your meat with light pats of a paper towel, then sprinkle your seasoning lightly and evenly over the surface. For pepper, try to grind fresh pepper over meat right before you slice that meat, instead of using pre-ground pepper. These tips alone can greatly enhance your flavor. It’s important to use a light touch with salt, as well. ‘Too salty’ is a very common refrain and it’s easy to oversalt foods to individual tastes.

Shake it and bake it

Being deliberate with your seasoning doesn’t mean that you always have to take the light touch with it either. A lot of people use sauces to add flavoring, but if you don’t want to alter the texture of the meal to that degree, or you want a way of cooking flavor into the meat that isn’t quite as involved, then options like this homemade shake and bake pork chops recipe here might be just what you need. The right mixture of oil, spices, and breadcrumbs lets you create a deliciously flavored coating that adds a little more bite while seasoning and letting the flavors seep through the meat at the same time, and you don’t need to worry too much about precision since the coatings use fairly liberal measures that all get mixed together.

Create a marinade

Of course, there are other ways to cook flavors in your meal than using a shake and bake. One way to do it is to let it soak in a marinade. There are plenty of great recipes for marinades that you can find online, but typically they involve a mixture of oil, vinegar, and your selected herbs and spices. By letting the meat soak in the marinade before cooking it, you allow it to soak up the flavor. This is aided even more if you poke holes into the meat with a sharp knife. Pork and beef take longer to marinade than chicken and fish due to their density, so keep that in mind.

Get to know your herbs

Of course, whether you’re making a shake and bake, a marinade, a rub, or any other kind of flavoring, you want to learn exactly what your ingredients are doing to the taste of your meal. To that end, you should take the time to get to know the tastes of different herbs, as well as what flavors they complement and what meats they work best with. There are plenty of online guides that can help you find some pairings to try but your best bet is to get hands-on with them, to use a little bit initially to taste for yourself the influence of different herbs and build up that knowledge base so you can use it more organically in your cooking.

Smoke with a difference

If you’re looking to grill or barbecue some meat, then one great way to enhance its flavor is to look at some of the different cooking wood chips that you can get. These chips are infused with flavors and the smoke genuinely does help to transmit them to the meats that you’re making. Even if they’re not flavored, experimenting with different types of wood, such as oak or cherry can leave a different taste on the meat itself.

Seasoning meat has to be done with care and with intention. Of course, if you make a mistake here and there, there’s nothing wrong with learning from it. Hopefully, the tips above can get you set off on the right path.

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