Building Flavors

Building flavors makes all the difference in the world. You can take your normal dinner that you throw everything in your pan at the same time that tastes kinda boring to a whole new level.
So how do you “build flavors”? Lemme splain.

SEAR..Sear your meat. To do this, start off with a piece of meat that you have dried off with a paper towel. Season it to your liking. In a pan(preferably a stainless steal pan) add a TINY bit of oil over medium high heat. Add your meat to the hot pan and let it be. Do not touch it. Let it sear for about 3-4 minutes before you flip or stir it. It should have a nice brown crust on it.
Now the meat has most likely released some of it juices and started to form some brown bits in the pan. This is good! Now onto the next step.

DEGLAZING THE PAN.. So you think those brown bits from the searing look nasty in your pan? Nope they are not, promise. They are little bits of concentrated flavor from the juices of whatever you just seared. Brown bits=good bits. To deglaze your pan, you need a liquid. I prefer wine(red or white), but you can use stock or even water. Pour the liquid of your choice into the hot pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all that yummy brown gunk from the pan.

REDUCING YOUR LIQUID.. You just deglazed your pan with a bit of liquid, now you want to make a simple pan sauce. Easy. Add  more liquid to the pan. Season and let the liquid simmer until half of it has evaporated. Letting the liquid reduce by half concentrates the flavor.

If you are cooking with onions, you either want to put a little sear on those or camralize them before adding them to the dish. If you add them to your dish raw, you will not get that sweet and delicious flavor from the precooked version. I usually add my onions right after I sear my meat.

Spices.. I have seen chefs on the food network toast their spices and they say this also builds flavors. But honestly, I am not a chef and I don’t have the time to get that fancy. So I just use the highest quality herbs and spices I can get and generally use fresh instead of dried.

Salt..Salt can be your friend. I ONLY use Coarse Kosher salt when I cook. I keep it in a container with a lid by my stove so I can take pinches of it for my food. If you feel that your dish is flat or your just can’t put your finger on what you need. Try adding a pinch of salt.

Still flat in the flavor department? You might need a little bit of acid. no, not salicylic acid, we are not making zip cream here people..I mean a food acid. An acid like lemon, lime, vinegar or soy sauce. They can brighten up any meal.

Sugar.. you made spaghetti sauce and it is just too acidic…try adding a table spoon of sugar to cut down on the acidity.

Anyone else have any good flavor building tips? Please do share.


  1. 1

    And I love the sound the liquid makes when you deglaze the pan….

  2. 2
    The Morris Family says:

    I use dried herbs. But what I do is crush the herbs in between my hands to help release the flavors.

  3. 3

    Dukkha adds some intense flavors as a crust to red and white meats too.

  4. 4

    That's a good lesson, Chef Leslie! A little pinch of sugar in most vegetables perks up the flavor and makes them taste fresher. I put a pinch in potato salad, pasta sauce, chili and when I oven-roast tomatoes, I sprinkle a little sugar on those, too. OK, let's face it, I put a pinch of sugar in almost everything.

  5. 5

    Good tips.

    If you don't have time or inclination to toast your spices, McCormicks has a relatively new line of stuff in their gourmet line and many of them are pre-roasted. The roasted cumin is quite good.

    Another way I build flavor is using a flavored brine when appropriate.

    My favorite way to build flavor? Smoke! Cherry and hickory wood are my favorites.

    Great post!

  6. 6

    Awesome post, Leslie! Great tips, and also a great reference for all those terms like "deglazing" that I never understand when I'm looking up recipes. Woohoo!

  7. 7 says:

    great tips, I love using wine when I cook it adds so much flavor!

  8. 8

    excellent tips!

  9. 9

    Great tips Leslie!

  10. 10
    Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Great tips!

  11. 11

    Great post.
    The chef I was taking classes from before we moved mentioned if you think a dish needs a little something else, try a splash of lemon juice (especially if you're watching your salt intake. She recommended only using coarse Kosher salt, too.

  12. 12
    Mateja ^_^ says:

    Wonderful tips, thank you for sharing šŸ™‚

  13. 13
    Heather @ Sweet Sins 2 Share says:

    I love a little learning post! Yay for flavor building!! I always use wine in my cooking! I love the flavors it brings to the table! I try to use fresh spices whenever possible!! It makes a huge difference!

  14. 14
    Frau Guten Tag says:

    Great tips, thanks so much for sharing–I have always wondered about WHEN to add the onions! I also sometimes use vinegar for deglazing.