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Salt and Black Pepper?

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Is there anyone else out there in Chowhound Land who thinks that TV chefs and cooks overdo the salting and peppering before cooking anything? I have nothing against the use of salt if I cook something. If it needs salt, I add it after tasting what i've prepared. Often some of the ingredients already have salt added. I rarely use black pepper because of my obsession with hot pepper (chile, peperoncino, capsicum) in any form.

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  1. Well, some things must be salted before they're done cooking, like rice, and pasta. But yes, you have a point. You should add the pepper you like, not just black without question.
    Nobody doesn't like salt and black pepper -- the same as nobody doesn't like vanilla. But often many people like other flavors and peppers more, like you.

    12 Replies
    1. re: BangorDin

      The British food writer Elizabeth David thought vanilla was a terrible thing that should not exist!! Makes it hard to believe anything else she wrote, IMHO.

      1. re: sandylc

        Good for Elizabeth Davis! While I love vanilla in certain doses, I am very tired of pastry chefs and dessert creators who believe that vanilla should be a main ingredient in everything they bake or freeze or bring to a hard-ball stage. It should NOT be the base for other-flavored ice creams, such as strawberry or butter pecan; it has NO business in a fruit pie (unless the flavor profile you're aiming for is Hostess). It is one of the most over-used flavors in western civilization, and I don't understand why so many people believe it should be a prominent flavor in EVERYthing that has butter, sugar and flour as its main ingredients. It is so ubiquitous, its overuse now makes many baked goods taste cheap and commercial, imo.

        As far as the salt and pepper go, I usually add salt towards the end or when I'm serving it because I don't like a lot of salt. You can always add it at the table--but you can't take it out! Same thing with pepper.

        1. re: staughton

          As much as I love vanilla, you do have a point when it comes to things like fruit pies!

          1. re: staughton

            D'accordo (I agree) Staughton with your last paragraph.

        2. re: BangorDin

          Anne Burrell detests ground pepper and won't use it in anything she makes.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            Not strictly true about Anne Burrell. Although she doesn't normally use black pepper (she uses a lot of crushed red pepper) she will sometimes add it to a recipe when appropriate. Pasta Carbonara, for example, where she specifically mentions that she uses it because it is a traditional or important component of that particular dish.

            1. re: pamf

              OK, I don't watch her (or Food Network) anymore, but I did see her say she doesn't like it and doesn't use it on SOARC awhile back. Had also read it here on Chowhound.

              And everyone knows anything you read on the Interwebz is TRUE! ;-)

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Sorry, LindaWhit, didn't mean to sound harsh. My point was just that even someone like Anne who admits to a general dislike of black pepper will use it when she thinks it's appropriate.

                I should have gone on to say that I personally don't care for black pepper that much either. I think it overwhelms a lot of other flavors. But I keep some on hand and use it when it seems right.

                I agree with the OP that a lot of cooking show hosts seem to use it indiscriminately on everything. That's why I appreciate Anne's approach. Use what you like and be open to different options.

                Salt is a completely different thing because use of salt, can also affect the cooking process as well as the flavor.

                1. re: pamf

                  The only thing that bothers me about Anne's approach--and I do love her cooking--is that she uses crushed "red" in virtually every dish she makes. I don't think that is any better than using crushed "black" everywhere.

                  1. re: pamf

                    I could be wrong, but I suspect Burrell's use of red pepper flakes instead of black pepper is the result of her close association with Mario Batalli. It's Italian! Or is it just Italian American?

                2. re: pamf

                  I saw her make Porchetta recently and she emphasized that she was using a lot of black pepper, noting that was unusual for her but it was important for the recipe.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I saw that, too.

            2. I think many of the chefs now on TV work in restaurants and that is how they are used to seasoning their dishes. I tend to salt and pepper as I go like many of the "TV chefs" do, but that is only because I emulate the ones I respect, like Jacques Pepin, Sara Moulton and Lidia Bastianich. Once I learned not to be afraid of salt my cooking took a step up in the taste department.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ttoommyy

                That's pretty much it. The amount of salt used in a commercial kitchen is staggering.

              2. my experience has been that restaurants use much more salt than most home-cooks do. it's why the food generally tastes better. home-cooks often have no clue how to use salt and acid to punch up flavors.

                i don't have a tv, so don't know what happens on cooking shows. :P

                1. I like to add salt at intervals while cooking so it actually works with the other ingredients. However, the little dishes of "fresh ground" pepper that so many TV chefs have make me crazy. All the aroma disappears before it gets into the dish.

                  1. I can't taste the results so I've no opinion about the seasoning. And if the TV chef is Jacques P├ępin or Julia Child, or measures precisely as Alton Brown often does, I'd trust their judgment about how much and when applied - until I've made the dish myself.

                    1. Salt does different things to the taste of food when added at different times during the cooking/baking process. Additionally, many foods, especially some starchy ones, must be salted during cooking or they will never taste salted no matter how much you add at the end. Another example is deep-fried foods; if there is no salt in the item that you are frying, burying it in salt afterwards will still not do the job properly.

                      A dish often needs to be salted at many stages along the way and then finished with salt after the cooking process in order to taste its best. Salt phobes, this does not mean there is a ton more salt in the dish; it just means that the salt has been used in a deliberate and thoughtful fashion during the cooking process. In fact, if something hasn't been salted along the way, the eater might add a LOT more salt at the table.

                      The size of the salt crystal also makes a difference - but that's another thread!

                      As far as pepper goes, it does not belong in every dish automatically - it should go in at the discretion of the cook/eaters. Black pepper is not interchangeable with chiles/hot peppers; they are two entirely different things. They offer different flavors to a dish and can be used together. White pepper is the inside part of the black peppercorn and tastes different than black pepper, also.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sandylc

                        This. Salt is not just an ingredient - it is a tool that affects the way other ingredients behave. It draws out water of meats and vegetables, raises the boiling temperature and lowers the freezing temperature of water, enhances the sweetness of sweet foods, masks bitterness in others, etc. Because of this, I don't stint on salt when cooking, but I am aware of when and how I add it to a dish depending on the affect I want it to have on the finished product.

                        Black pepper is something else altogether. I enjoy the flavor of it, but as sandylc said, it doesn't belong in everything automatically, and I do think that the "chefs" on Food Network shows are injudicious with their use of it.

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          Really good points....! Salt is the original multi-tasker!

                      2. Food not salted before or during cooking tends to taste flat and the "salted on top" taste can be sharp and unpleasant. I salt while I cook, we do not have a salt shaker on the table.

                        And I happen to be a big fan of black pepper so.....

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: weezieduzzit

                          I never had the experience of eating food that was 'flat' because of no salt being added. Maybe it's because when a recipe calls for salt, I add Kosher salt in the amount referring to table salt. The latter is much more saline and is iodized.

                          When I cook without a recipe I do not use salt or black pepper. My tolerance for hot peppers (chiles, peperoncini, capsicums, which ever term you wish) is pretty high. I use lots of different varieties of them in different forms (dried flakes, dried ground or fresh).

                          1. re: weezieduzzit

                            Exactly. When I was in cooking school, the chefs were constantly on us about using more "seasoning," meaning salt. It really does enhance flavors. I agree, as well, about the salt on top, it really is just a tease for the tastebuds, but not really satisfying. If one salts while cooking, one need not salt after "to taste."

                            1. re: wyogal

                              Yeah, I've posted before about the new euphemism for salt. Salt, being non-PC, is now called "seasoning" - !

                              1. re: sandylc

                                Hm.... So what does that make "Seasoned Salt"?

                                1. re: acgold7

                                  "Hm.... So what does that make "Seasoned Salt"?"

                                  Ha! A throwback from the seventies???

                                  And have you noticed that "seasoned salt" has become "seasoning salt"?

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    Well, yes and no. I think Lawry's may own the trademark on Seasoned Salt so everyone else has to call theirs Seasoning Salt.

                                    1. re: acgold7

                                      Ah-hh....

                                2. re: sandylc

                                  ha! Although some people might have reasons not to use salt at all, for most people it is just fine to use salt, probably necessary. I think I heard that there were more people suffering from iodine deficiency because of the non-iodized sea salt craze. Not sure, so no reference here.

                            2. The food you are seeing on TV is not real, Dude. It is an image, and you cannot taste it.

                              1. My family was big on black pepper and we always had a pepper mill on the table. About 5 years ago I stopped putting pepper on my fresh tomatoes dressed with olive oil and salt. I never put black pepper on good tomatoes again since I think it "interferes" with their great natural flavor.

                                1. i'm a pepper monkey!!! i use a lot of black pepper when i'm eating at home. i'm not sure if it has to do with me liking or i just don't know what to put to make something taste better.

                                  i think tv chefs add too much salt but most of them work in a restaurant and most restaurant food i find too salty so...

                                  1. On a related note, I was wondering the other day why black pepper became such a routine thing. It goes right along with salt in most recipes and is on most tables, but it's really just a spice like any other. Why and when did it become a staple, and why didn't (for example) coriander? Anyone know the history of this or have a speculation?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: juster

                                      I'd recommend two books for you that I adored:

                                      Salt by Mark Krulansky
                                      At Home by Bill Bryson

                                      Many mysteries solved in both! :)

                                      1. re: sf415

                                        Thanks! I read "Salt" but don't remember an explanation about the pepper. Time for a reread sometime soon, I guess! It was a fascinating book. Can you recap what he says about pepper? I'm going to reserve "At Home" from the library.

                                      2. re: juster

                                        On one of the very early episodes of Iron Chef America, Jeffrey Steingarten made exactly this point. Salt on the table, he said, made sense because everyone has different sensitivities to it and ought to be able to adjust at will, but pepper is arbitrary, as it's just another spice. You might just as well, he said, put cinnamon on the table too.

                                      3. The judges on Top Chef regularly boot cheftestants for oversalting. It's like THE single most surefire reliable way to get booted.

                                        I like other peppers too, but black pepper imparts a distinct flavor. I'll add it even when I'm using much more exotic peppers. It's got, I dunno... a "stabilizing" quality to it.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cringle22

                                          Well, THE most surefire way to get booted quickly is to be from Seattle. The next surest way is to make a risotto. THEN it's over salting... followed very quickly by UNDER salting.