General Question

laureth's avatar

Cooks: What is a simple ingredient or method that makes your recipes a whole lot tastier?

Asked by laureth (27199points) February 21st, 2009

One of my favorites is toasting nuts in a skillet with a little oil before using them. Walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, any nut. Low flame, keep them moving, and remove when golden – it improves the flavor of any dish where nuts are used.

What are your favorite tricks?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

49 Answers

Response moderated
poofandmook's avatar

a little bit of cream in eggs instead of milk… salt all meats a little (a lot if it’s in the crockpot)... um… I don’t really get adventurous so that’s all I’ve got. lol

Oh, and my biggest trick is with my potato salad. Grind the onion into a pulp, very few (if any) chunks. That way get the great onion flavor distributed evenly without a chunk of onion flavor with an odd texture that doesn’t fit the smooth potato/egg combo.

90s_kid's avatar

I thought it was a pinch of salt? :S

ubersiren's avatar

Crushed red pepper flakes enhance everything. 2 pressed garlic cloves and a dollop of sour cream in your already buttery mashed potatoes is like sex for the mouth. Heart attacky sex.

babiturtle36's avatar


AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Morton’s Nature Seasonings. In everything except desserts.

KrystaElyse's avatar

I heard that substituting eggs with mayo in specific desserts tastes amazing, like chocolate cake.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Minced garlic and vidalia onions, sauteed in a bit of olive oil.

I find I use that as a base for a lot of cooking.

DrBill's avatar

Had a handful of salt to the water when boiling pasta.

cak's avatar

Ground nutmeg, not in the spice jar, fresh nutmeg! In lots of things!!

I learned to season things really well, but not to over do it!

Best thing, never be afraid to experiment.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Garlic is the number one…but a great one for almost any dish is a dash or more of Cinnamon

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

just a smidge of hot sauce.. adds a nice little oh momma to any recipe

srmorgan's avatar

If a recipe calls for shallots, use shallots, not garlic and not onions. Took a neighbor’s insistence on doing it this way to convince me.

Leftover wine never hurts when a recipe calls for liquids.


eponymoushipster's avatar

Use real butter, or mix some real butter with olive oil.

Freshly ground pepper.

Garlic, as said, but crushed.

Kosher salt.

90s_kid's avatar

That’s it I think. Add a lot of butter and sugar for sweet treats. Not margarine, though. But hey I’m 14! My family is known for using less butter and sugar, though, which may be the better path.

Darwin's avatar

For savory foods:

Definitely garlic and sometimes a touch of a good red wine (or even a bit of dry sherry).
Good Japanese fermented soy sauce or a touch of Maggi
A red wine or port wine reduction – syrupy goodness, oh, yes!
Real butter
Kosher salt
Fresh ingredients
The best olive oil you can afford
Coconut milk
Fresh lemon or lime (or sour orange juice)
A spice grinder
A kitchen garden

For sweet foods:

A touch of almond extract does wonders
Coco Lopez
Real butter
Lemon zest and a touch of fresh lemon juice
Raspberry vinegar
And in apple pie, put the best cheddar you can find inside the crust in small bits so it melts as it cooks.

My husband’s favorite trick is to add a touch of horseradish to his coleslaw, and to marinate brisket for three days in homemade Teriyaki sauce.

charliecompany34's avatar

onions. always have onions.

Darwin's avatar

Another one: Marinate your chicken in buttermilk before cooking it. I was told that is what restaurants do to make their chicken so plump and juicy. Whether restaurants do that or not, it works a treat.

charliecompany34's avatar

and a footnote here: i say onion as the basic staple. yeah, there are shallots and scallions and garlic and leeks, but if you are at camp or over a friend’s house who knows nothing about cooking essentials, you need an onion.

cak's avatar

@Darwin – how long do you marinate your chicken in the buttermilk? (I’ll try this one, very soon! )

Darwin's avatar

About an hour or so, up to six hours – put it in a zip lock bag with the buttermilk and put it in the fridge.

laureth's avatar

Definitely trying the buttermilk and the mayo. Butter, onions, shallots, garlic, olive oil, coconut milk, salt, almond extract, nutmeg, and wine are regular stock items in my kitchen. These all sound so good!

cak's avatar

I’m so hungry for good food!

eponymoushipster's avatar

when i’m cooking chicken or a roast, i’ll sometimes mix several spices together to produce a nice “herb crust”: fresh-y pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, perhaps celery salt and rub it on thoroughly, on both sides of say a chicken breast, or all over a roast (pork or beef). Rub a little canola oil on the roast FIRST.
and be generous with the mixture. it produces a nice crust like you get in a restaurant.

Blondesjon's avatar

I would tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

you’d die with a full belly and a greasy smile

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Blondesjon sounds like your secret is to make us a white house intern.

Blondesjon's avatar

@eponymoushipsterI knew there was a reason i like/hate you.

Blondesjon's avatar

@eponymoushipster…Just checking to see if you had any emotional issues…

<whistles and sidles away>

eponymoushipster's avatar

nope, no wiggly finger uncles in my past.

augustlan's avatar

Smoked paprika. Yummy goodness.

cyndyh's avatar

If a recipe calls for cinnamon it can usually be improved by added half that amount of ground cloves, and/or a fourth that amount of ginger and/or nutmeg.

My husband’s grandma says if you don’t know what to cook for dinner chop up an onion. By the time you’re done you usually know what you want to make and you’ll probably need the onion.

Get to know safe temperatures for different meats and use a digital thermometer. It takes a lot of guesswork out of cooking large meats of various shapes. Then you can concentrate on your spicing.

janbb's avatar

Secret of cooking good Mexican food: fresh cilantro and lime.

I put some ground cumin in my potato salad and everyone loves it.

Always use real butter when baking.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

My favorite to throw into just about everything is Mrs. Dash Original Blend. It adds a lot of flavor to anything you cook. Lots of spices all rolled into one bottle.

cooksalot's avatar

I call that too generic a question. It all depends on the recipe.

laureth's avatar

@cooksalot: You are allowed to pass on questions that are not to your liking. Also, I wanted to keep it fairly general because everyone has their own special techniques and ingredients. A specific question about how to make, say, better lasagna would have closed the door on most opinions (such as something they might do to improve chocolate cake or potato salad) and would also fail to address my curiousity about a wide range of hints from the minds of the Fluther at large.

sdeutsch's avatar

Sea salt. And roasting in a really hot oven. Roasting things almost always makes them extra-tasty (especially if you roast them with a little olive oil, pepper, and sea salt!)

augustlan's avatar

Oh, speaking of roasting… Sear the meat on all sides before you put it in the oven.

susanc's avatar

A little bit of bacon will intensify the depth of flavor and texture in meat and vegetable dishes. I render a couple of slices of regular breakfast bacon in a cast-iron pan before I brown beef for a stew. I get to eat the bacon while I brown the meat and then the onions/carrots in the rendered fat.

Also, unless you cook kosher (which I obviously don’t) you can substitute sour cream for
eggs in meatloaf. Moist, rich, slightly mysterious.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@susanc i’ve done that with spaghetti sauce. everything’s better with bacon.
also, i don’t put it IN the meatloaf (though that sounds good), but i love it ON meatloaf.

susanc's avatar

@eponymoushipster: yum, I haven’t used bacon in spaghetti sauce. My father-in-law used to put pork chops in his and leave the bones floating around in it. Crude, but the greatest.

But please. I don’t put bacon IN meatloaf. Yes, on top is really nice. Read my modest little post again – sour cream in meatloaf. Surprisingly good.

eponymoushipster's avatar

No. i meant sour cream. :)

laureth's avatar

Bacon spaghetti is totally yummy.

eponymoushipster's avatar

then, of course, that leads to carbonara. bacon + eggs + pasta = pretty much the best damn thing ever.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

one of my favorites is to coat white fleshed fish with a combination of garlic powder, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and mayo. really brings out the subtle flavors of the fish when cooked on the grill.

I’d share my recipe for oven roasted turtle with you, but I think there might be a word limit on fluther.

princessvince's avatar

It’s the little things that count. Fresh herbs (instead of dried). High quality ingredients—good extra virgin olive oil, good balsamic vinegar, fresh cracked black pepper (not the stuff that’s pre-ground), a good mustard. Produce that is in season and grown locally so that it’s at its peak in terms of taste.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’ve started adding a few shakes of mint flakes to various foods, and it is really good.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@YARNLADY fresh mint is great in lemonade, and makes a nice addition to just about anything grilled.

CMaz's avatar


Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther