Seize the Spice Rack to Cook Courageously

There’s a good chance you have a shelf or rack full of spices, herbs and other seasonings, most of which you never or seldom use. You may feel a little embarrassed about the fact that your spice rack intimidates you, but your uncertainty is both common and easily overcome. A handful of simple approaches will motivate you to have faith in your flair for flavoring and strengthen your confidence in the kitchen.

Cooking with Classic Combos

When you’re building confidence in any facet of cooking, mastering the basics is always a good place to start. When it comes to seasoning food, combinations of herbs and spices that pop up over and over again in many recipes represent a cornerstone of those basics. While some herbs were originally paired with others because they were believed to share medicinal properties, most combinations are born for taste instead of therapy! Take the time to consider why basil, rosemary and oregano are such frequent companions. What makes nutmeg and cardamom so cozy? Which seasonings seem to reinforce each other, and which ones are used to balance each other instead? Knowing a few eternal spice partnerships gives you a handy flavoring toolkit to reach for whenever you need it. It also can provide some insights into how you can invent new mixes that will work well together.

Sniff Out a Winning Formula

You probably know that smell is a huge part of our sense of taste, and that connection is even more important when it comes to spices and herbs. If you’re feeling experimental, it’s time to get out your seasonings and give them the sniff test. Rank your spices and herbs by how appetizing each of them smells to you. Then try sniffing two or three together or one after another, almost as if you were choosing scent notes for a perfume. Which ones seem to work together, and which ones clash really badly? What mixture surprises or inspires you? If the smell of some particular combo immediately makes you think of a dish you’d like to try, you could have a winner!

Take a Virtual Voyage

If you have spent your life mostly eating American food or similar lightly-seasoned cuisines, it’s time to expand your cooking horizons. Maybe you’re not quite ready to trust your own judgment enough to make up unique flavoring blends. If you want time-tested help, many Eastern and other international cuisines have centuries of seasoning experience you can rely on. Online cooking sites like the Kitchen Community have masses of international recipes that can be your jumping-off point for seasoning inspiration. You’ll likely discover some spices you’ve never heard of before, while also learning exciting new uses for old favorites.

Maybe all your flavor experiments won’t be successful, but every one of them will be educational. Every time you try some new seasoning or mix up your own “secret blend” of spices, your enjoyment of cooking increases along with your belief in your skills. Becoming bolder about using spices and other seasonings makes cooking feel more like an adventure than a chore.