5 Cooking Principles for Success

Nov 13, 2019 | Cooking Tips

Whether you are just starting out in the kitchen or have been cooking for years, it is important to have a strong foundation in the principles of cooking. In this blog post, we will delve into the five most essential principles that will help you create delicious meals and improve your culinary skills. From understanding the importance of balance in flavours to mastering the technique of browning, these principles will provide a solid foundation for your cooking journey. Keep reading to learn more and take your culinary skills to the next level.

Principle of Cooking 1 – Balance

What is balance?

When it comes to cooking, balance is key. This refers to the perfect ratio of sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, sour, and umami flavours in a dish. While you don’t necessarily need all of these flavours in one dish, incorporating three or four of them can really take your dish to the next level. However, simply having three different flavours isn’t enough; they must work together in harmony to create a well-balanced dish.

How do you know if a dish is balanced?

So how do you know if a dish is balanced? It’s simple – it should taste delicious. Ideally, no one flavour should overpower the others. There may be one main flavour, with the others supporting it, but all flavours should work together seamlessly. To achieve a balanced dish, it is essential to taste your food as you go and make adjustments as needed. This can include adding a squeeze of lemon or a touch of vinegar to add acidity, a bit of sweetness to balance out any bitterness or saltiness, or a touch of heat to bring out the other flavours in the dish. It will take time to develop your palate and learn what flavours work well together, but it is an important skill to have in the kitchen. As you continue to taste and adjust, you will start to recognize when a dish is well-balanced and when it needs a little something extra. Remember, the key is to taste and adjust until the dish tastes delicious to you.

Principle of Cooking 2. Seasoning Is Key

Proper seasoning is crucial in bringing out the full flavour of your dishes. It’s not just about adding salt and pepper until it tastes good to you, although that’s certainly a good starting point. Different spices and seasonings can add depth, warmth, and a variety of other flavours to your dishes. For example, salt helps to balance the overall flavour of a dish by highlighting the other flavours present. Pepper adds a touch of warmth to the mouth, which can help to open up the palate. By understanding the role that each spice and seasoning plays in your dishes, you can create more complex and nuanced flavours that will elevate your cooking to the next level.

Principle of Cooking 3. Open The Spices

Spices can be an integral part of any dish and can greatly enhance the flavour profile. It is important to think of spices as a raw ingredient, much like a carrot, as they can be transformed through cooking. Raw spices are good, but cooked spices are even better. One way to bring out the natural flavour of spices is to cook them in oil. This is especially effective for ground spices, as the heat helps to release the essential oils that contain the flavour. These oils are more easily extracted in oil than in water, making this method effective for adding depth and intensity to the flavours of your dish.

When adding spices to a recipe, such as a pot of chili, it is common to add them after browning the meat and cooking the onions and garlic. However, for maximum flavour impact, try adding the spices in before the wet ingredients. Once the onions and garlic have softened, add in the spices and cook for a minute or two before adding in the wet ingredients like tomatoes. This allows the spices to be gently cooked and their flavours to be released and intensified.

Overcooking spices.

It’s important to be mindful of the cooking time when it comes to using spices in your dishes. While cooking spices for a longer period of time may seem like it would allow the flavours to fully infuse into the dish, it can actually have the opposite effect. The essential oils that give spices their flavour are volatile, meaning they can easily evaporate or dissipate. If spices are cooked for too long, the heat can cause the essential oils to break down, resulting in a loss of flavour. This is especially true for ground spices, as their surface area is larger and they are more exposed to heat. It’s generally recommended to cook spices for no more than an hour or two, as anything longer could lead to a loss of flavour. This is especially important to keep in mind when making dishes like chili, where it’s common for the ingredients to simmer for an extended period of time. While it may be tempting to let the chili simmer for hours on the stove, it’s important to be mindful of the cooking time for the spices to ensure that the dish still has a robust, flavorful taste.

Principle of Cooking 4. Colour = Flavour

The Maillard reaction, also known as browning, is a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and sugars when food is cooked at high temperatures. This reaction is what gives food a browned, caramelized appearance and a deeper, more complex flavour. When it comes to cooking, more color often equals more flavour, and this is especially true when it comes to the Maillard reaction. Foods like onions, carrots, pork chops, and steak can all benefit from browning, as it adds depth of flavour and can even add a touch of sweetness to certain dishes.

For example, when making tomato sauce, it is common to add sugar to help balance out the acidity and remove any bitterness from the tomatoes. However, if you take the time to carefully cook the tomatoes until they start to brown, you can achieve a natural sweetness and depth of flavour without the need for added sugar. The same is true for tomato paste or any other food that has a relatively high sugar content. By sautéing the ingredient until it turns brown, you can bring out its natural sweetness and add depth to the flavour of the dish.

Overall, the Maillard reaction is an important principle of cooking that can add depth, complexity, and sweetness to a wide range of dishes. Whether you’re an experienced chef or just starting out in the kitchen, learning how to utilize the Maillard reaction can help you take your cooking to the next level.

Principle of Cooking 5. Patience

When it comes to cooking, patience is a virtue that cannot be overlooked. While it may be tempting to rush through a recipe or try to speed up the cooking process, the extra time and care that you put into your dishes can make a huge difference in the final outcome. For example, a tasty stew requires time to braise the meat and cook the vegetables to perfection, and this process cannot be rushed. On the other hand, a rushed and poorly prepared stew will not have the same depth of flavour and overall appeal.

In addition to providing your dishes with the time they need to cook properly, patience in the kitchen also involves being thoughtful and mindful of what you are doing. This means taking the time to properly caramelize tomatoes, allowing spices to open up and release their flavours, and constantly tasting and adjusting the seasoning as you go. While these steps may only take a minute or two, they can greatly impact the final flavour of a dish.

Success in the kitchen often leads to increased confidence, and by adhering to these principles of cooking and taking the time to be patient and thoughtful, you can achieve small victories that will ultimately boost your confidence in the kitchen. So the next time you find yourself tempted to rush through a recipe, take a step back and remember the value of patience in the kitchen. Your taste buds (and those of your loved ones) will thank you.


  1. Anonymous

    Great article Chef Ben.

  2. Marjorie Gayle MacLean

    Great article, Chef!!

  3. Favour

    Thank you.

  4. Millycent Daudi

    thank you..


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