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Jul 8, 2009 10:50 AM

Ranking the importance of the five human senses for cooking

My order would be the following:

1. Touch
2. Smell
3. Taste
4. Sight
5. Hearing

But here's my question. You could probably rearrange Nos. 1-4 in almost any order and not get much of any argument from most people, but would it be appropriate to rank Hearing anything higher than No. 5?

I'm not saying that the sense of Hearing is never used in cooking, it's just that in comparison to the other senses, it seems to me that Hearing is the least important.

If you do think Hearing should be higher than last, I'd be curious to hear (pun intended) about how or why Hearing is important or critical to your cooking.

In other words, how do you use your sense of Hearing in your cooking?

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  1. I'd probably rank it:
    1. Sight
    2. Smell
    3. Taste
    4. Touch
    5. Hearing

    Hearing, that's a good question. I know that when my sauce has been going for a few hours, it should make a gentle "glurp" sound occasionally. And when my egg hits the fry pan, there is a certain timbre of "szszszszsz" that tells me the pan is the correct temperature. Or the rapid-fire "swwapswwapswwap" that my chef's knife makes when it hits the cutting board tells me when I'm in my groove. Of all of those, the fry pan sound is the most important to me, but none of them is really as necessary as something like sight or smell to my cooking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cachetes

      I think sight for me is always first, smell and taste second and third could easily be switched. Touch, only if the food is one you would touch and hearing only if it is a food that you hear cooking, like a seared steak, fried egg as cachetes said.

      Hearing and touch wouldn't be the top 3 for the most part.

    2. I'm not ranking right now, just commenting.

      When we were cooking from the Fish Without a Doubt COTM the instructions for sauteeing a fillet of fish was to place it in a hot, oiled pan, press down with a spatular, and Listen For The Sizzle. That's how we would know the fish was searing or the skin was crisping.

      1. Are you talking about purely the cooking experience, or also the purchasing of ingredients? While I use touch for meat etc. to feel if I think it is done, I don't think I use touch in any other aspects of cooking that I can think of.

        4 Replies
        1. re: MMRuth

          I would include the purchasing process as well.

          1. re: MMRuth

            There are just a few aspects of cooking that require touch - such as feeling the consistancy of dough, or as Ruth mentioned to feel if meat is done.
            I love the feel of food in my hands as I'm mixing something like meatballs, or certain salads.
            I will mix a salad by hand to get a feel that everything has been properly mixed, melded, and coated with the right amount of oil/dressing/whatever.

            But for me it's -

            1. re: NellyNel

              I agree with NellyNel completely

            2. re: MMRuth

              possibly touch would matter as relates to kneading bread. I am only know learning to determine meats doneness by presses it with my fingers. Mostly I have burned fingertips (g)

            3. I'd probably put smell first...chicken can LOOK okay but if it smells off, forget it--fish fillets too--I smell things constantly before cooking or eating.
              1. Smell
              2. Taste
              3. Sight
              4. Touch
              5. Hearing

              1. Generally speaking, I'm with Val and NellyNel on the order - arguing with myself over the equality of 1 and 2. But there are certainly foods that I'd much rather associate a related sound as opposed to a sight.

                I certainly have some food items I enjoy eating but certainly don't want to linger over a visual dissection. I'd think we all have foods that we wonder "Who was the first person to decide THAT disgusting looking thing lying there on the beach (substitute your venue) may taste good".