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Old 08-14-2007, 11:34 AM   #1
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Differentiating/Detecting spices and herbs

I have always had a problem with recipes that say "adjust to taste". I dont think my taste buds are sensitive enough to detect or differentiate spices and herbs in something like a pasta sauce or chili. I cant tell if I have too much, too little, or what exactly is missing. I live alone and dont usually cook for anyone else but if I ever did Id be mortified wondering what their taste buds are telling them...LOL!!

Is there an easy way I can learn or practice.... any tips or tricks to training my taste buds??

How do they teach people in Culinary Schools?

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Old 08-14-2007, 11:56 AM   #2
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Adjust to taste is a very subjective thing. What tastes good to one person can taste horrible to the next. When a recipe says adjust to taste then they are talking about your taste and no one elses. if you taste it and it tastes good then no need to do anything else. If you taste it and it seems kind of bland then add some salt. If you taste it and it seems too salty then you are basically out of luck. With practice you will learn how to add a little at a time until it tastes right to you.
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Old 08-14-2007, 11:58 AM   #3
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I guess I should add that the ones I have problems tasting are like basil, oregano, chili powder, thyme, paprika, rosemary.

The ones I can definitely taste are crushed red pepper, nutmeg, vanilla.
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Old 08-14-2007, 12:01 PM   #4
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It just comes with practice. the more you taste them the more you will get a feel for it and be able to recognize those tastes when you encounter them.
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:00 PM   #5
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I have to second GB on this one. Experience is the best teacher.

I won't tell you to purposefully over-season some food and ruin it, but, once you've tasted something that is over-seasoned, you'll know the next time.
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:34 PM   #6
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AllenOK hit on EXACTLY what I was going to say. Once you over use an herb or spice or other ingredient you WILL know it! If the flavors seem well-balanced to you then that's the best you can do. I do tend to like more cilantro in some of my foods than other people. However, once my son voiced his dislike for cilantro I left it out of his fish stew totally. He then realized that he did like some, just not as much as I use for my taste!

The next time you make something with one of those herbs you think you can't distinguish try taking some of the food out and playing around with over seasoning.
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:36 PM   #7
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Yeah, experimentation is key. I've watched my brother put in the slightest pinch of something, taste-test it, run back and put in another slight pinch, and then again, etc, etc for like half an hour until he got his flavor exactly the way he wanted it.

Not that I'm recommending you get that obsessive about it.
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:39 PM   #8
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a GENERAL rule of thumb is that you Taste spices, you smell herbs (there will of course be several exceptions to this and overlaps).

both can add color and we eat with our eyes too.

as GB said, it`s Very subjective. the key is striking a happy medium whereby Most will like it.
there`s no hard and fast rules either, if it works for you and your Family or guests, then it`s Right :)
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:42 PM   #9
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Yes, just others have said...experiment. As a general rule, I use slightly less of an herb, spice or salt when I prepare a dish and taste as I go along, adding if necessary. It's far easier to add than to remove.
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Old 08-14-2007, 01:59 PM   #10
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I think I just have numb taste buds to certain spices. Then with others I am ultra sensitive.

I was thinking I was going to take a few herbs to work with me and nibble on them to try and get the taste of them. Is that strange or what?? Not a whole lot... just a spec of each. I feel like its not knowing the herb itself that hinders me. I couldnt tell you what herbs are in a specific dish by tasting it so I couldnt tell if it needs more or less.

The best way I can explain it is.... some people have a sense of taste and smell to detect the particulars of wine.... while some will never the difference from one to another. Theres no way I think I could tell which ones are oak or pick out what fruits were used. Sometimes I think people just make it up ..LOL!!
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