6 Tips for Choosing Food Ingredients Like A Chef
Choosing the right ingredients is one of the most important steps to creating a delicious dish. Of course, you don't need a professional to tell you that choosing quality ingredients are going to make the most essential impact to your cooking. But to ensure that the meals you serve your partner, family, friends or customers are of the highest quality, we've compiled our top tips for choosing produce, meats and spices.
Fruits & Vegetables
Tip #1: Fresh is best
When it comes to selecting the most flavorful fruits and vegetables, the general rule of thumb is that fresh is best. Instead of heading to a chain grocery store, locate a nearby farmer's market to take a look at the seasonal produce. This is produce that is harvested at its peak ripeness, which means it will be more delicious and nutritious.
Tip #2: Utilize the senses
Sight: Color can also be important in creating a visually appealing dish. Try to choose ingredients that will contrast or complement each other in terms of color. For example, pairing a green vegetable with a red sauce can create a beautiful plate of food. Ensure that there are no dark spots, mold or signs of wilting. In addition to being aesthetically appealing, fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors generally have higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Taste: Consider the flavor profile that you're trying to create. What flavors do you want to include in your dish? Do you want it to be savory, sour or sweet? Think about the overall flavor profile you want to create before selecting your fruits and vegetables.
Touch: The texture of your ingredients can be just as important as flavor. You want to choose ingredients that will complement each other in terms of texture. For example, pairing a crispy ingredient with a soft one can create an interesting contrast in your dish. In addition to texture, gently press on the fruit or vegetable to check for ripeness. Depending on the ingredient, you want it to be either soft or firm.
Smell: Take a sniff of your produce before purchasing it. Fruits and vegetables that are fresh should have a pleasant smell. If they smell dull or off, it's best to choose something else.
Meats & Poultry
Tip #3: Give a full look over
Similar to produce, it's just as important to utilize your senses when selecting meat and poultry. Does it smell rancid or have a more pronounced odor? Does the meat bounce back when pressed in? Is the color dark? A darker color of beef would typically indicate that it's old, as beef should have a bright red color when it's fresh. Similarly, if you are purchasing poultry, make sure that there's no sign of bruising and that the flesh is firm to the touch. The skin should also be intact and free of any cuts.
Tip #4: Find a local butcher
When purchasing meat, quality is of the utmost importance. We recommend going to a local butcher that specializes in meat cuts, rather than a grocery store. Butchers are able to provide you with a wide variety of cuts, as well as tips on how to cook them. They can also answer any questions that you may have about the quality of their meat.
Spices & Seasonings
Tip #5: Check the expiration date
While spices don't typically go bad, they can lose their potency over time. Make sure to check the expiration date before purchasing any spices or seasonings. The general rule is that ground spices will last for about 3-4 years, while whole spices can last for 4-5 years. If a spice has a bland smell or taste, it's best to replace it.
Tip #6: Go for whole spices
Whole spices are fresher and more flavorful than pre-ground spices. They can also be stored for longer periods of time without losing their flavor. If you don't have a spice grinder, you can purchase whole spices and grind them yourself using a mortar and pestle.