A Guide to Building Flavor

Building flavor in your home cooking can be achieved by key techniques, planning ahead and choosing the best ingredients to cook with.

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Have you ever wondered how great restaurants achieve flavor-packed dishes? Or maybe you’ve been to a dinner party and wondered, “why doesn’t my food taste this good?” The truth is that there are a few key techniques (and some secret tricks) to making food taste incredible. Read on as we share our favorites! 

TECHNIQUE AND TIME

It’s no secret that homemade stocks contribute to deeper, more intense flavors. Whether it’s seafood or vegetable stock, the slow evaporation process coaxes the flavor out of the ingredients you’re using and when used as a base for other dishes, this extra step will pay off. 

Braising is a cooking technique beloved for the delicious textures and flavors it creates, as a result of the breakdown of tough, connective tissues. There are four main steps when it comes to braising meat. First, you’ll want to sear your meat evenly on all sides in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Next, you’ll need to cook a mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot combo) in the drippings that remain from searing. Add your braising liquid, stirring and scraping up those tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pot. After all that, return the meat to the pot, bring the liquid to a simmer, cover and slide into a hot oven. Then braise until the meat is fork-tender (usually a few hours).

When making homemade pan sauces, it will really amplify flavor if you incorporate any fat drippings from an accompanying protein.

When making homemade pan sauces, it will really amplify flavor if you incorporate any fat drippings from an accompanying protein. A roasted chicken is a perfect example. Adding the delicious juices and drippings from the bottom of the roast pan after the chicken has cooked will take enhance the flavor of sauces and roasted potatoes, alike. 

CHOOSE WELL

To achieve the most flavorful dishes, you need to be mindful of what to select when shopping. Produce is at its most flavorful when it is in season and the shorter the distance is from the farm to the supermarket. 

When it comes to choosing protein – again, the fresher the better! There’s no comparison between a fresh catch of salmon and a frozen one. If it’s a steak you’re after, you’ll want to check out the prized cut known as the rib eye, which has an abundance of fat marbled within it. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘meat lovers cut’ due to its intense, ‘beefy’ flavor. They can come boneless or with the rib bone still attached (known as a cowboy steak). Just be aware that cooking this cut past medium will make the meat quite chewy.

If you’ve ever wondered why your chicken isn’t flavorful, even after marinating it, the reason could be that you’re using the breasts, which contain the least fat (thus, the least flavour). Instead, try skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs which hold a tonne of flavour, due to the fat content in them. They’ll also stay juicier since they don’t dry out as easily when cooked. 

Produce is at its most flavorful when it is in season and the shorter the distance it travelled from the farm to the supermarket.

MARINADES

Marinades are a sure way to kick flavor up a notch! Smaller pieces of meat and poultry will benefit the most from marinades, and it helps to slash cuts in the protein with a sharp knife beforehand in order to create more surface area. Marinade times vary depending on the recipe, with most acidic-based solutions averaging about 5 hours but even a short window of 25 minutes will impart flavor. Remember, high heat helps caramelize any sugars, so grilling, pan-frying or roasting marinaded meats will create a delicious, flavor-packed crust. For a Mediterranean influence, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and dried oregano. For a mildly sweet flavored steak, try a combination of soy sauce, ginger, honey and fresh chilli. A dash of rice wine vinegar added to marinades never hurts either!