Many ingredients are used to enhance the taste of foods. These ingredients can be used to provide both seasoning and flavouring.
- Seasoning means to bring out or intensify the natural flavour of the food without changing it. Seasonings are usually added near the end of the cooking period. The most common seasonings are salt, pepper, and acids (such as lemon juice). When seasonings are used properly, they cannot be tasted; their job is to heighten the flavours of the original ingredients.
- Flavouring refers to something that changes or modifies the original flavour of the food. Flavouring can be used to contrast a taste such as adding liqueur to a dessert where both the added flavour and the original flavour are perceptible. Or flavourings can be used to create a unique flavour in which it is difficult to discern what the separate flavourings are. Spice blends used in pumpkin pies are a good example of this.
Knowing how to use seasonings and flavourings skilfully provides cooks and bakers with an arsenal with which they can create limitless flavour combinations.
Flavouring and seasoning ingredients include wines, spirits, fruit zests, extracts, essences, and oils. However, the main seasoning and flavouring ingredients are classified as herbs and spices.
Knowing the difference between herbs and spices is not as important as knowing how to use seasonings and flavourings skilfully. In general, fresh seasonings are added late in the cooking process while dry ones tend to be added earlier. It is good practice to under-season during the cooking process and then add more seasonings (particularly if you are using fresh ones) just before presentation. This is sometimes referred to as “layering.” When baking, it is difficult to add more seasoning at the end, so testing recipes to ensure the proper amount of spice is included is a critical process.