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What do you cook with that you've never tasted raw or plain?

Excluding things contraindicated for safety reasons, I taste everything I eat or cook with plain at least once. Some items that have been pointed out as "you would never eat/taste that plain" on another thread:
Baking chocolate
Fish sauce

I have tasted all of these things plain. It's part of how I know whether it's worth it to pay $30/lb for chocolate or $3/lb, whether the $25 a bottle vanilla is better, or just how salty the fish sauce is. I don't expect these ingredients to taste great on their own or raw, but I find the flavor knowldge of them solo useful. I find I am more aware of subtleties in the finished dish when I have a mental flavor reference of the individual ingredients.
We all recognize that some things just taste better made a certain way, or the wisdom that quality ingredients make for a better product. I think knowing what specific things taste like alone is educational on these points and helps make me a better cook.

There seems to be a conceptual dividing line for tasting things plain that certain foods just do not cross in peoples' minds. Apparently mine is either broken or was deleted at some point.

Do you do this? What is your dividing line, or how do you classify things that you want to taste plain or raw vs. those you wouldn't? Is this based on a fear of the yuck factor, or something else?

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  1. Raw sweetbreads, brains & kidneys.
    Raw Chicken.
    Raw pasta dough.
    Raw pizza dough.

    I have zero qualms eating other raw meats. The dough is just... eh. No point.

    6 Replies
      1. re: linguafood

        I agree on all of the above except the pasta dough...not fresh dough but as a kid I loved to chomp on macaroni noodles.

        1. re: linguafood

          I love eating raw dough of any kind. Even pasta or pizza dough.

          But yeah, I don't think I'd eat any meat raw except some high quality beef or fish raw. Just the fear factor there.

          I also have not tasted fish sauce by itself... the smell is enough. Same w/ most vinegars.

          I did eat baking chocolate when I was a kid thinking it would taste just like real chocolate. I thought my mom was holding out on me by keeping it in the cupboard for so long.

          1. re: juliejulez

            yea, I always taste my raw pizza and bread dough. With sourdough, I like to have a reference of how sour it is relative to whatever I did with my starter, but also to make sure I didn't forget the salt.

            Fish sauce smells way funkier than it tastes, actually. It's one of the ways I got less afraid of adding it to things that wouldn't ever call for it.

            1. re: juliejulez

              Me too. As a kid my mom had to chase me away from any kind of dough. I don't bake often, but when I do, it's a doughtastic day :)

              1. re: Nudibranch

                Haha me too. The best is the potato cinnamon rolls, I always leave the little end bits after rolling up the dough to eat raw :)

          2. Cooking oil. I mean grapeseed / peanut / canola etc.

              1. Prairie oysters. Lungs. Nervous tissue.

                I've tried other abats raw but for the first two I just didn't think of it. Can't see the lung being any better raw than cooked (and it's pretty bad cooked with that spongy texture). As for the nervous tissue (brain, spinal cord, eyes, large nerves), I know what EAE is so that would be a "no".

                Can't think of a vegetable that I haven't tried raw (that would include fiddleheads), and as for pantry staples, I've gone so far as to taste things like flour and corn starch.

                2 Replies
                1. re: wattacetti

                  Ot, but Is EAE different from CJD in that cooking destroys the offending proteins?

                  1. re: splatgirl

                    EAE = experimental autoimmune encephalopathy, a disease that looks very much like multiple sclerosis. I know the guy who accidentally came upon it and described it in literature while attempting to make antibodies against myelin basic protein. MBP is thermolabile but the antigenic fragments don't necessarily get fully destroyed with cooking, so I still steer clear.

                    The prions in CJD are heat-resistant, but chances are excellent that I will never get CJD by ingestion because the source would require dabbling in a bit of cannibalism. I've also done the calculation to figure out the approximate amount of purified prion from say BSE to be able to jump the species barrier - *way* more afraid of EAE.

                2. meat
                  sauces (marinara, gravy)
                  bread dough

                  1. I don't expect these ingredients to taste great on their own or raw, but I find the flavor knowldge of them solo useful.
                    This. I can't wrap my mind around the concept of NOT being familiar with how a specific ingredient tastes before you add it to a dish. If we're talking about something like vinegar I don't taste it every time I use a splash from the same bottle, but when I open a new one I *do* taste it before using. You can never guarantee that every batch - even from the same producer - will be identical in taste, body, & acidity. The same issue applies to all seasonings & condiments for me, and of course to all fresh produce. If it's not a danger to my health, I taste it. I've even tasted cooking oil to be sure the flavor [or lack thereof] was what I wanted it to be.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Very well put.
                      Again excluding safety issue foods, what I find interesting is that some people seem to limit taste testing based on convention (you don't taste that plain because you just don't because why would you?), fear of the yuck factor, or both.

                      1. re: splatgirl

                        I can sort of understand the yuck factor, but I'd rather suck it up & endure a moment of displeasure than potentially compromise the final dish because I couldn't accurately gauge how much of an ingredient I should have used.

                        As far as limiting taste testing based on convention, I'll say what my mother often did when I was a child..."because" is NOT an answer. ;)

                    2. A number of spices - cinamon, cumin, paprika - I won't taste raw. I'll smell, but then rely on tasting while it's part of the dish and go for taste from there. I find that trying paprika on its own doesn't usually give me insight for how much to add to this dish I'm cooking.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cresyd

                        Really fresh smoked paprika! On my list of things that I probably don't need to taste plain again soon. OTOH, now I have a reference for what really fresh should be like...

                        1. re: cresyd

                          I do a lot of smelling to season food, and I think that I have a pretty sensitive nose. I make things for my husband and step daughter that I'm allergic to, so I rely on smell a lot to season them correctly.

                          My husband brags about my cooking a lot, so I must be doing something right.

                        2. Vinegar I drink like a fine wine. I was just in an oil & vinegar shop yesterday and bought 4 diff flavors of vinegar which I'll use in many preparations but also for sipping or a splash on Greek yogurt (like chocolate vinegar is amazing on plain Greek yogurt).

                          I enjoy vanilla bean raw right out of the pod.

                          Actually the only food items I just plain don't care (after trying many times) involves some form of gelatin (like headcheese or aspic). Otherwise, I can't think of a single food I'd avoid raw, plain, yuck factor..too curious to avoid.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: HillJ

                            I drink vinegar as well and have to restrain myself in the vinegar aisle. I spotted an enticing basil vinegar today.

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Basil vinegar is a good one! Right now I'm enjoying the chocolate vinegar and I picked up a pretty incredible honey-ginger vinegar along with a pineapple vinegar I add to smoothies.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Vinegar in smoothies never thought of that one.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  The same way a citrus brightens up the flavor...so does vinegar with fruit or vegetables in a smoothie.

                          2. Baking soda, baking powder, raw eggs, various spices, oil, cooking spray, raw bacon, and I'm sure a whole lot more. That's what I came up with off the top of my head...

                            1. I had to think long and hard about this one - I think I've tried everything on its own - except for: saffron.