Chef’s guide to combining & balancing flavours in your cooking

Highly underestimated and taken for granted, your taste buds deserve more credit than they receive. With cooking and eating being two of life’s great pleasures, they are used daily and help increase our enjoyment of food. Sadly, they are not used to their fullest capabilities, but we’re here to change that. We’ll explain the important role they play in helping you to combine and balance flavours in your cooking for maximum culinary enjoyment.

Five Tastes Which Help Our Food Come Alive

There are five basic tastes which encompass all food types. They are:

  1. Sweet – brings out other flavours in food
  2. Salty – reduces bitterness and helps other flavours to stand out
  3. Sour – gives foods the oomph factor
  4. Bitter – helps to create balance in a dish or meal
  5. Umami – brings a meaty or savoury taste to food

Each of these five tastes can be used independently or mixed with another in our food. It’s needing to find the right balance by combining them in just the right amounts which is the challenging bit!

Guide to Balancing Flavours in Your Cooking

Here’s a quick guide to understanding when to use each of the five tastes and how to correct your mistakes with them in your cooking:

  • Sweet – if the food is too sour or bitter, it’s time to add some sweetness to it. If it is too sweet, add sour ingredients, not salt! Sweet foods include sugar, fruit, maple syrup and honey.
  • Salt – add salt when your food is too bitter or some of your ingredient flavours are not being noticed. If you add too much salt to a dish, you can try to reduce the saltiness by diluting the liquid, add a potato or additional sugar to the dish. Salty ingredients include salt, soy sauce, olives, some cheese and cured meats.
  • Sour – add sour foods when a dish tastes bland, too sweet or too spicy. If you have a too-sour dish, try adding sweet ingredients to counteract the sourness. Sour ingredients include lemon, lime, vinegar and cultured dairy products such as sour cream and buttermilk.
  • Bitter – use bitter tasting ingredients if your cooking tastes too sweet or rich. If a dish is too bitter, then try adding salt or sugar to reduce it. Bitter ingredients include dark chocolate and horseradish.
  • Umami – add umami when your dish is balanced, but you feel like it is missing that something special. If it is too savoury, consider adding additional ingredients until it balances out. Umami ingredients include mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese and meat broths.

Now it’s time to head to the kitchen and experiment with these fabulous tastes! We have plenty of amazing recipes ready for you to try – come take a look!