Tis The Seasoning

In a recent article in The New Yorker, writer Adam Gopnik discusses how professional chefs tend to use salt more judiciously than home cooks and goes on to say that this, in part, is what distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs. I tend to think it goes beyond quantity, however, and liken a chef's use of salt more to that of an artist who innately understands how to get the most from their medium. Just as the photographer knows when the aperture is properly adjusted to best capture the warmth of the late afternoon sun or the trumpet player who, with the slightest shift of his lips, instantly finds the sweet spot where his note is perfectly in tune, the experienced chef, with one taste, can discern when salt is required to bring a dish to proper balance. In each of these examples, I think the skill lies first in being able to recognize what it is that's not right and then understanding how to adjust it.

I will say that Gopnik is probably onto something, but I have a different take on it. It's not so much that professionals are ubiquitously heavy handed with salt, but rather that most amateur cooks just tend to err on the side of under-seasoning. This mostly comes from lack of experience, but also probably stems from that one batch of soup or pasta gone horribly wrong, that incessantly haunts many cooks, making them all a little gun shy with the seasoning. There is really no mystery to salt, though, and to use it properly simply requires having an understanding of some of its properties, such as how salty a pinch of salt really is, the differences in types and coarseness or how its flavor blooms and changes as it dissolves into a dish. For the professional cook, who spends hours on end making, tasting and seasoning dishes over and over again, these things become second nature.

Want to know the real secret to our success? Cooking with coarse, kosher salt and using our fingers, not a shaker or a grinder, to measure out what we need. Cooking is an activity that requires all of the senses and in this case the sense of touch is the key to getting the seasoning right. If you are shaking nearly invisible, finely ground salt out of a huge shaker from which you have no idea how much is coming out, how do you have any idea how much you've added? You don't, and this is how you get into trouble. But seeing and feeling what you're working with helps you to build an understanding of how much is enough and helps to build confidence.

So, the first step is to get rid of that box of Morton's and go out and buy a box of coarse, kosher salt. Then, put that salt shaker away and pour your coarse salt into a dish that you can easily reach into. The rest is simple– taste, taste and taste again. Add salt sparingly until you get it right. It's easy to add more salt and nearly impossible to correct an over-salted dish, so proceed with caution, but also with confidence. In no time at all you'll be seasoning like the pros and I'm certain that you'll find the flavor of your food will rise to a whole new level.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]
            1 Program(s) Found

            Lackawanna College is the premier, private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. With a focus on keeping higher education affordable and accessible to our immediate community, Lackawanna draws 80 percent of its student population right from our own region.

            With a main campus situated in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna’s expanding footprint also includes satellite centers in Hawley, Hazleton, New Milford, and Towanda.

            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            3 Program(s) Found
            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits