How you really should use spices – secrets from top chefs

Herbs and spices can make or break a dish. Sure, you can stick perfectly to the recipe and it probably won’t go wrong. But if you go ahead and improvise on your own, a mistake is easily made anyway. But risk can also be rewarded. Choose the right combinations, and you will take your dish to the next level with your chosen herbs and spices. How you should really use herbs – secrets from top chefs:

Many dishes cannot be made without herbs and spices. They add flavour, finesse and can give just that twist to the taste. They also personalise dishes. You can enrich recipes with some extra spice if you like it, for example, or an extra fresh taste. But how do you use herbs and spices in such a way that they maximise the flavour of your dish? Top chefs know how, but some of their habits are also easy for the home cooks among us to copy.

What do chefs use

Myth debunked: chefs don’t just use fresh herbs and spices. It is often thought that top chefs only use fresh herbs and spices. The truth is that this is often not the case. While fresh herbs and spices are in some cases more potent in flavour, they are more difficult to store. Especially for herbs that are somewhat less common, this can be a problem. But more importantly, many dishes are heated for so long during cooking that the delicate fresh herbs decompose to a similar substance to dried herbs. Now of course there is no arguing about taste, but after a long time of heating, the difference between fresh and dried herbs and spices is actually impossible to taste.

So most chefs do not use fresh herbs and spices for all dishes. It is a waste when heated for a long time, difficult to store and, moreover, the flavour of dried herbs and spices is now so good that it is far from always necessary to buy herbs and spices fresh. Provided you buy good quality herbs and spices, of course.

How you should really use herbs – secrets from top chefs

Dried herbs

How to distinguish moderate from excellent when it comes to herbs and spices.

Chefs often use them dried, because that way you add maximum flavour at less cost. Ok, we know that again, fresh is not always better when it comes to herbs and spices. But one jar of dried herb is not the other, of course. How do you know you are dealing with good quality herbs and spices?

Unfortunately, you can’t just smell the herbs if you’re not going for fresh, but there are some simple tips you can use to assure yourself of the best herbs. First of all, check whether they are herbs or spices from organic production. This will not only ensure that the production has been respectful of nature, but also that no chemical pesticides or artificial fertilisers have been used. And that, in turn, benefits the taste.

Although on the one hand it is nice to be able to see the herbs for a while and thus visually inspect them, it is actually better if they are stored in sealed cans or jars that are not transparent. In this way, the herbs and spices remain good quality in the dark and airtight. And let’s face it: such a nice opaque jar can be another aesthetically pleasing addition in the kitchen.

Free of salt

Finally, check whether the herbs or spice mix is free of added salt. Sometimes there is no other way, but actually you buy the herbs or spices as seasonings and you want to add salt separately or not to the dish. If there is a lot of added salt in the spices themselves, it can unintentionally affect the flavour of your dish.

In short, choose organic, salt-free if possible, in dense, non-transparent jars to maximise the flavour experience. No idea where to find them? Natural Spices’ herbs and spices, for example, meet all these criteria.

Chef’s secret

Use spices better late than never, but never too early.

The chef’s last secret: adding spices before cooking is not always a good idea. Of course, if you marinate a piece of meat, use the spices before heating. In dishes that are not heated much, if at all, you can also do it quickly. But are you going to heat a dish for a long time? Then make sure you don’t add the spices too quickly where you don’t need to!

By letting the spices cook for a very long time, a lot of the flavour can be unintentionally lost. So it is not necessarily true that the longer the herbs and spices cook with you, the more flavour they impart. Many dried herbs and spices can be added just before the end of the cooking time, or sometimes even after.

How you really should use herbs – secrets of top chefs

In addition, think carefully about whether the herbs you use only add flavour or both taste and smell. Strong-smelling herbs like mint and sage or spices like turmeric and ketoembar, for example, add both flavour and taste to the dish. Time the addition of these spices as best you can by not adding them to the dish unnecessarily early and dose moderately: too much of strong-smelling spices can unintentionally become too overpowering.

How you should really use spices – secrets from top chefs

With these simple tricks, you should be able to make the best use of herbs and spices yourself to make your dishes even tastier. Just like a chef, with dried herbs and spices.

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