Fresh and dried herbs and spices can take everyday cooking from good to great. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to use herbs and spices in ways that maximize both flavor and health. Here are 5 common mistakes that many people make with seasonings. I’m also sharing my free guide to help you use herbs and spices for flavor and nutrition.
First, you should know that herbs and spices have health-boosting effects beyond simply using them to reduce your sodium intake. Like fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices are loaded with disease-fighting compounds. Though research is just emerging, compounds in herbs and spices likely shield our health in many ways. They may:
- act as antioxidants
- act as antimicrobial agents
- protect against cancer
- fight pain
- aid blood sugar control
- reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- improve blood vessel function
Mistake #1: You shake over a hot pan
Shaking a seasoning bottle over a steamy stew pot or a hot pan of roasting chicken will allow moisture to creep into the bottle. The remaining seasonings will lose flavor, clump together and may lose health benefits. Instead, poor herbs and spices into your hand or use a measuring spoon. My favorite spoons are shaped to fit nicely into a spice jar.
Be sure to store dried herbs and spices in a cabinet or drawer to keep them from heat, moisture and sunlight, all of which deteriorate those fragrant, health-shielding gems.
Mistake #2: You add herbs and spices too early or too late
Thyme, rosemary and bay leaves hold up to the heat, so add them early in the cooking process. The flavor of most other herbs will fade with too much cooking time, so add them late in the cooking process or add them more than once. Basil, tarragon and cilantro are delicate. It’s best to stick to the fresh versions and to add them at the end of cooking or even after cooking. They make a tasty garnish that really finishes a dish.Make seasonings last longer and 4 other tips to use herbs and spices for flavor and health.Click To Tweet
Mistake #3: You don’t add enough herbs and spices
If you like a particular flavor, go for it. Add a little, and if your dish can stand some more, add a bit more. I typically add more cinnamon, cumin and coriander than many recipes call for because I love these flavors. I also prefer a heaping of fresh herbs in a grain-based or bean salad. If I’m going to chop 3/4 cup of parsley, for example, I may as well chop a full cup for a much better tasting tabouli.
Mistake #4: You stick with the same old thing
Find your adventuresome side, and try something new. So you don’t waste money, buy dried herbs and spices from a store that sells them in bulk. You can purchase as little as a spoonful or enough for a single recipe. I buy mine at Whole Foods. That may strike you as pricey, but since I can buy such a small amount, I am actually saving money.
Not sure how to find something new? Start with whatever ethnic foods you enjoy in restaurants and search a few recipes online.
Mistake #5: You’re adding sodium without knowing it
Premixed seasoning blends are a terrific way to save space in your spice cabinet as well as a way to save money. Try lemon pepper, Italian seasonings, garlic and herb, jerk seasonings and more. Just be sure that they are sodium free. I know that it doesn’t sound like it should have salt, but lemon pepper usually does. Many others do too.
Don’t forget to download my free guide How to use Herbs and Spices for Flavor and Nutrition.
If you have a favorite tip to using, storing or growing herbs and spices, please let me know.
Cheers to delicious, disease-fighting food!