Cook Better By Balancing Sweet and Sour. A List of Ingredients That Add Acidity to Any Dish
Tasting your food as you cook it and balancing flavors as you go will make you a much better cook - you can't be a great cook unless you do this!
My Flavor Balancing Exercise
When I taste something for seasoning, I run through a mental list making sure that all the needed component flavors are included and in harmony.
I ask myself:
- Is it salty enough; is the taste "full" should I add some salt, or something with glutamates, such as fish sauce?
- Is it sweet enough?
- Is it sour enough?
- Are the seasonings balanced?
- Is there a balance of textures in the dish?
It's rare to taste something in creation on the stove and have it be perfect the first time (rare for me anyway...ha-ha) and so I am often needing to add bits and dashes of this and that to even out the flavors. And when doing this, it's very useful to have a variety of ingredients that will increase the sweetness, or saltiness or acidity – after all, cooking would be pretty boring if we only used salt for salty – sugar for sweet and vinegar for sour!
I have already written about ways to increase the sweetness (click here for a list of ingredients that add sweetness) so here is a logical continuation of that hub – a list of ingredients that you can use to add acidity.
A sweet dish without an acidic counterpoint can become cloying and often, dishes weak in acid taste a little bit flat. It's amazing how a squeeze of lime can add some needed excitement!
If you are serving a dish with wine, be careful of too much acidity, which can make wine pairings very difficult.
Ingredients that make things taste sour
- Vinegars (It's great to have a few vinegars in your pantry. Vinegars I like a lot include balsamic, apple cider, rice, sherry and red wine)
- Citric acid – use citric acid as you would salt – a pinch here and there can add a dramatic "liminess" to anything. This a great secret weapon in any pantry!
- Lime juice
- Lemon juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Ascorbic acid - Like citric acid, you can also procure straight ascorbic acid powder; it tastes like unsweetened Vitamin C and is great for adding a punch of sour orange flavor without the liquid.
- Tart orange juice
- Tamarind – everyone should keep some tamarind on hand. It keeps forever and it adds a great complex sourness that goes very well with things like dried chilies.
- Pickles or pickle water
- Sour cream
- Preserved lemons
Add a little acid to everything you cook, and every time you taste something for flavoring (which you need to do every time you cook!) think about whether a bit of sourness would improve the taste and balance of your food. It usually will!
Get some citric acid - costs nothing and you'll love it!
More Cooking Tips!
- Umami - How Cooking with Umami Rich Foods (Parmesan ...
Umami - you find it in foods like fish sauce, parmesan cheese and tomatoes, and understanding how glutamate rich foods can create umami will change the way you cook forever! Understand the simple science of...
- How to Be a Better Cook - Add a Little Crunch to Eve...
Want to be a better cook? Start thinking like a chef and start adding a little crunch to every meal! Easy ways to sneak in crunch and textural contrast to the meals you make at home.
- Wok cooking: A guide to buying and cooking with a wo...
Wok cooking is one of the healthiest ways to cook. Here you will find advice on how to choose your first wok, how to take care of it and some basic recipes to get you started on Oriental cooking.
- Aboriginal Australian Cooking
Australian Aboriginals have a cooking tradition all their own, most of their methods originating in and around outdoor fires. Boiling and barbecuing are fairly new for the wide variety and plant and animals foods available...
More by this Author
Before the invention of oil thermometers, cooks figured out simple ways to check oil temperature for safe deep frying. Now those secret tricks can be yours!
4 methods for toasting different nuts (Cashews, almonds, walnuts,peanuts etc.). Toasting nuts before adding them to baked goods or other recipes makes a surprising difference in taste.
A lot of people have trouble with meat. They like the idea of a great steak, and they have a general notion that the more expensive the steak, the better it is…but more than that…who knows?! I...