Chefs v Home Cooks, seasoning

Joined Nov 5, 2007
Chefs think home cooks underseason food.

Home cooks think chefs overseason food.

Joined Nov 6, 2004

   Did you find that inside one of todays fortune cookies?


Joined May 5, 2010
The fact of the matter is that Chefs try to season food so that the customer doesn't have to. The idea that the food should come out of the kitchen ready to eat with no seasoning needed is a testament to the experience and knowledge of the kitchen.

Also take into consideration that many restaurants use convenience products which contain a lot of sodium. So that this is not something they have control over.

Now in reality.........most people eat pretty plain at home. If they use convenience products there's sure to be extra sodium in all of it, but if they stay away from frozen dinners and Banquet chicken the need for salt diminishes.

I believe the use of salt is related to how you grew up eating and your fondness for it.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
I would say the average home cook is not really at ease with what's in their spice cupboard and so goes with a light hand.

The average restaurant cook. is working with a pre-fab factory mess that was overseasoned at the factory.

True chefs season well just like the true home cooks.
Joined Jul 28, 2006
I would say the average home cook is not really at ease with what's in their spice cupboard and so goes with a light hand.
To elaborate on this insight: It may also be that the average home cook is not even very familiar with which spices and foods go together well, or  not knowledgable about combining spices for a desired flavor profile.  So the tendancy is to be timid with the seasonings. 

As for the use of salt.  My husband always salts at the table, without even tasting the food first.  (maddening...grrr).  I finally realized that in his case, it was the "raw" salt he was craving.  It had nothing to do with whether the food was already seasoned well. 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
IMHO, Salting at the table is to late, a Chef brings the entree together with salt. If a person adds it at the table they are just salting the top of the entree and loosing the whole taste the Chef was trying to accomplish. The only time I could see salting at the table would be for side items, or starters, like Salads, baked potatoes, vegetables and so on................Chef Bill 
Joined Jul 28, 2006
From the chef's perspective, Chef Bill is correct.  However, I seriously doubt my hubbydearest cares what the chef (or his little home cook, for that matter) is trying to accomplish.  He just wants the sensation of the "raw" salt touching his taste buds first.  It's that simple.  To him,  not salting at the table is the same as eating a naked salt, no taste. 
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Salt and mustard both, Grace, or it's not a pretzel. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

A lot of what you say is true. But much of it, too, is what you grew up with. Both my grandfather and father-in-law, for instance, could never have enough salt. Like your hubby they never even tasted first; the food was set before them and they reached for the salt shaker.

Pappy-in-law used to say it was necessary because his tastebuds had been shot off in the war.
Joined Jan 2, 2007
When cooking for family or guests they don't get the opportunity to add salt at the table. I don't posess a salt shaker! If a guest requests more salt I just bring in my big 'ol salt pig full of Maldon to the table and they can help themselves. Only happened once though!
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
your sense of taste.

[font=verdana,arial,helvetica]What Your Symptom Is Telling You [/font]

Remember when you tried your new recipe for that delicately flavored carrot soup?how marvelously interesting it tasted? Thank your nose for that memory.

The taste buds on your tongue are actually quite limited?they recognize only four tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It's your nose that sniffs out the subtleties of flavor. (That's why you should be sure to read Smell Loss on page 480, after you've finished this chapter. The same factors that cause you to lose your sense of smell will often interfere with your sense of taste.)

In fact, 80 to 90 percent of people who think they've lost their sense of taste haven't?they've actually lost their sense of smell. For those other 10 to 20 percent, the problem is with their taste buds, and it can be caused by (hold on to your hat?we're about to throw another sense into the mix) ear infections or middle-ear surgery. That's because a major nerve for the taste buds passes through the middle ear. These ear problems don't cause an outright loss of taste sensation, but they do cause strange tastes in your mouth. (Most taste problems reduce or distort your sense of taste. It's rare for your sense of taste to vanish completely.)

A yeast (candidiasis) or fungal infection of the tongue can also play tricks with your taste buds. Poor oral hygiene, tooth infections and cavities can blunt your ability to taste. And if you're using antibiotics, a mouth infection called glossitis can dull your palate.

Too little iron in your diet can lead to anemia, which can cause a tongue inflammation that interferes with your sense of taste, says James Stankiewicz, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Researchers have also found that deficiencies in vitamin B[sub]12[/sub], folate and zinc can cause problems with taste.

And if you light up a cigarette after a dinner that's low in these nutrients, you're in double trouble: Smoking can burn out your taste buds.

People who have been through radiation therapy for cancer often report a loss of taste, as do those who've had major head injuries. Upper respiratory infections can also lead to loss of taste. And, rarely, tumors of the oral cavity, brain or brainstem can damage the sense of taste.

[font=verdana,arial,helvetica]Symptom Relief [/font]

As with loss of smell, in many cases your loss of taste will reverse on its own or with help from your doctor. Here are ways to spice up your taste experience.

Use spice?twice. "Switch to highly spiced foods if you feel taste is a problem," suggests Donald Leopold, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins University's Francis Scott Key Medical Center in Baltimore. "Make liberal use of hot, sour and bitter flavors, such as mustards, hot pepper, chilies and lemon juice for eating enjoyment."

Delight your dentist. Renew your commitment to proper oral hygiene, suggests William H. Friedman, M.D., an otolaryngologist, facial plastic surgeon and director of the Park Central Institute in St. Louis. Make a point of getting regular dental checkups, and while you're there, ask for instructions in proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Quit smoking. "Smoking itself is a very common cause of blunting of the sense of taste," Dr. Friedman says. Smoking causes inflammation, which gets worse the more you smoke. Give up the habit and your food will taste better.

Get enough vitamins and minerals. To make sure you're getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals?especially iron?consider taking a daily multivitamin supplement.

"Take iron supplements only as recommended by your doctor," suggests Dr. Stankiewicz. "B[sub]12[/sub] injections and prescription zinc medications are also available from your doctor." Over-the-counter zinc medications are not recommended, he says.

Wash away mouth infections. If glossitis develops while you're taking antibiotics for another infection, using a salt mouthwash can ease the assault on your taste buds.

"Use one tablespoon salt in an eight-ounce tumbler of warm water to relieve glossitis," Dr. Friedman suggests. If that doesn't do the trick, your doctor may recommend a prescription antifungal mouthwash. Prescription mouthwashes or lozenges can also clear up a yeast infection in the mouth, he says.

Give it time to heal. If you've had an ear infection, your dulled sense of taste should recover after you fully recover, says Richard Doty, Ph.D., director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. It just may take a while. <!--google_ad_client = "pub-6837434326778801";/* 468x60, created 5/18/10 */google_ad_slot = "3843093622";google_ad_width = 468;google_ad_height = 60;//-->google_protectAndRun("ads_core.google_render_ad", google_handleError, google_render_ad);
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Joined Feb 4, 2010
I see the problem is more the question of the collection of spices and herbs. Professionals always use reasonably fresh seasonings, whether dry or fresh, while many, many home cooks' collection is badly dated, often many years old and stored improperly. I have been in kitchens where the spice container was sold old it could have been in a museum collection. Yet the cook still added that totally flavorless, ancient spice or herb.

Another problem I see home cooks being cheap. They buy, e.g. the huge 1-lb ground pepper container at Costco because it's cheaper. Several years later the ground pepper lost most of its flavor.

Of course the dish appears to be underseasoned.

And most recipes are far too shy with seasonings.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
"Seasonings" is an elastic term.  "Hebs and spices" are one thing, "salt and pepper" another.  Let's set aside "herbs and spices" and stick with salt and pepper for the nonce.

When you hit the good to exclellent range of cooking, you need to incorporate the practive of layering seasoning.  This means adding salt (and usually pepper as well) at least once during the cooking process and ALWAYS tasting and adjusting for salt at the end. 

The seasoning used during the cooking gives the food a different flavor than that used to adjust.  It's better married, and lends a sense of complexity

There is an appropriate seasoning level -- well, a tight range.  It's neither particularly salty or not salty.  Also, an appropriate range of salt to pepper ratios.  It's very consistent through European and North American cuisine styles.  The only good excuse for not hitting that range is when you're cooking for a person who doesn't like it.  Still, if you want to think of yourself as a good cook, you should learn it and be able to hit it in your sleep.

Salt must almost always be balanced with pepper; when it is not balanced with pepper (heat), it must be balanced with one of the other primary taste bud sensations, sweet.  Sour or sweet and sour almost always require some sort of pepper as a blance -- but will work with chilis or bell peppers.

Pepper doesn't always need to be ground black or white.

When using either of those two, it's ALWAYS better to grind fresh.  If you don't use a pepper mill for routine seasoning, chances are very high that you're not a good cook.  Commercially ground pepper has no place in a good kitchen.

George was right about buying pre-ground in large quantities, but didn't use enough cuss words.  Dagnabbit.

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Joined Feb 1, 2007
and stick with salt and pepper for the nonce.

And for those who've been afraid to ask, a nonce is a trice with one of its wings clipped. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

This means adding salt (and usually pepper as well) at least once during the cooking process and ALWAYS tasting and adjusting for salt at the end. 

In a serious vein, that adjusting for salt at the end advice often leaves people confused; particularly novices.

Balancing the salt actually means not tasting it. If the food tastes salty, then you've used too much. But, by the same token, if the salt is left out, or not enough used, the person eating the dish should feel that something was missing.

That's why good cooks don't like to have salt shakers on the table. Adding it at that point almost always means the salt flavor will dominate.

That's the situation with Amazing Grace's husband, and others like him. They want that dominating salt flavor, and don't really care what underlies it.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
ChefBB - interesting information - thank you for the post.

It is true in the case of some home cooks that the spices in the cupboard do get old, and lose much of their flavour. When we moved recently I checked the dates on mine, and half at least got binned.   Haven't bought those ones again.  Where I can, I buy in seed form so I can toast then grind them just before using.

But, as has been said, you need to flavour layer by layer.  You add an ingredient - season it well.  Add another in gredient that hasn't been seasoned - repeat.  Then check you seasonings at every stage.  Got to taste the food to know it's right.

I love using spices and by this stage of life know pretty much what goes with what, so I refresh my spices which get frequently used pretty often, e.g. smoked paprika, dried oregano, chilli powder, tumeric, dried ginger powder, ground coriander, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves- all those kinds of things.

But I definitely *never buy pre-ground peppercorns - blecch.

While we're speaking on salt,  I mostly notice the more advanced generations slathering their meals with salt before consuming, then several times throughout the meal.  Our boarder (young  man of 19) salts heavily too - I guess that's the way his family goes about it.

The only thing you need loads of salt with is hot chips /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif   (Oh oh - want chips now....dang)
Joined Nov 5, 2007

   Did you find that inside one of todays fortune cookies?


Actually I was going to expand a bit, but the fellow who came to get his car was a bit early.  I thought I hit 'clear' and not 'submit'

But still some interesting discussion.  My maternal grandfather was also a salt heavy then taste sort of fellow.  I remember he'd always hold his other hand out as a backdrop so he could make sure salt was coming out of the shaker.

As for the comment about prepared foods being overseasoned from the factory, I'll have to agree.  Last night for dinner I made some jambalaya.  Not from handfuls of fresh ingredients like most of my meals, but using a box mix my wife purchased.  That stuff was quite salty.  In general I tend towards lightly salting and keeping an eye on sodium intake, so when something like this box mix comes along that just slaps you in the face with salt you notice.

On the other hand, though, I rarely get enough salt on potatoes.  When we had a fritatta and hash browns the other day I loaded up the hash browns with salt and black pepper - they were great!

Joined Dec 23, 2000
" My husband always salts at the table, without even tasting the food first.  (maddening...grrr).:

Grace -

Whatever you do, DON"T read the James Thurber short story that describes a man whose wife, at any party, always refuses a martini... and drinks half of his. She was found stabbed to death with a family heirloom letter opener.

Brought before a judge for murder, he was acquitted.  A few hours later, the judge's wife was found stabbed to death.. with a family heirloom letter opener.

DON'T read that one.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

Joined Aug 13, 2006
I'm sorry, but maybe I'm missing something.

I thought taste was an individual thing. 

How can anyone prescribe what will "taste good" to someone else?

I am a heavy salt user.  My mother "oversalted" her food (to everyone else's standards - oh, and always had low blood pressure) and I use more salt than most people i know (I'm the one you'd have to pull out the box of salt for at the table) and my daughter used to eat it right from the box.  Is it genetic?  from the environment?  does it matter? we like more salt. 

When I cook, I use slightly less salt than I think is ideal, for my taste, and ALWAYS have a salt shaker on the table.  I don't assume everyone has my taste in salt.  Why should you? 

I can see that chefs have big egos, but do you really think you know better what someone else likes?  and isn't food about liking it, rather than living up to some abstract standard?  As far as I'm concerned, you can go through all kinds of elaborate procedures to make a wonderful dish, but if it has too little salt for my taste, I don't appreciate it at all.  A little salt on it and all the complexity of flavor blossoms, like adding color to a black and white photograph. Please put the salt shaker on the table.

People in tuscany and umbria seem to like unsalted bread - i guess they're used to it.  To me it tastes like solid water. 

Oh, and just as a curiosity, when my daughter was born the literature all said that you shouldn't salt babies' food, they aren't used to salt and don't need it.  I tried in vain to get her to eat vegetables, but she didn;t want them.  One day, in exasperation, i dipped the tip of a string bean in a little salt - she greedily ate it up and asked for more!  Some people just like salt!!  I guess it just tasted grey to her, and then it tasted green!
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Joined Jan 9, 2008
Taste is subjective.

   I know personally that I avoid one national restaraunt chain as I have found their entire menu to be very eye appealing but very bland tasting.  I can see having salt shakers on the table but with this place you should have a bucket of salt with a scoop.  I would have fired the chef responsible for that nationalised menu.  Yet the chain does well and probably will continue to do so as many seem to find the menu appealing. 
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Siduri, I understand your basic point. But the fact remains, if one particular flavor so dominates a dish that that's all you're tasting, than too much of it is being used---or you happen to crave that flavor.

A dish is like a symphony. Each instrument contributes to the harmonic whole. When you listen to a symphonic production, you don't hear violins, and oboes, and French horns. At least, you shouldn't. What you hear is a blend of sounds that create something greater than the sum of its parts.

A well-made dish should be the same.

Salt is in a class by itself, in that it is, when used properly, a flavor enhancer. That is, it makes things taste more like themselves than they do when eaten alone. There is a point, however, where it stops doing that and becomes the dominant flavor. If that's what you're tasting then it isn't the dish you like, so much, as the taste of the salt.

For most people, it's actually the flavor-enhancing properties of salt that they like---whether they know it or not. Which is why so many cooks and chefs feel they should determine how much salt goes in a dish. They want their patrons to enjoy the dish, rather than a plate of salt.
Joined Aug 25, 2009
I never put salt and pepper on the table (home/work) Unless it is corn on the cob at home.

The fIrst time I ever served a meal for my boss, I made sure the food was done to perfection, plated beautifully and the table set. When my boss sat down to eat he asked me one question , " Why is there a saltiere on the table and pepper ?"

He later told me that the dishes I was to serve in the future should come to the table not needing any extra of

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