Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat — Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking is a highly rated cookbook and a limited Netflix series (4 episodes, 1 for each of Salt, Fat, Acid, & Heat) by Samin Nosrat.
But you don't need the book or the show to start making your food more delicious (most of my cookbooks are from America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated). It's primarily a framework, so all you need to do is just check whether you've included each in whatever you're making. (I think "Texture" is missing, so I'll run a check for that too, and for whatever reason, I don't think as much about heat as a variable to switch up).
So let's say you were just going to have some rice. You might consider adding salt, but what about butter? or sour cream? what about squeezing some lime on it? 😋
Mashed potatoes? Salt, butter, maybe sour cream (to hit fat + acid), and I'll crumble some salt and vinegar potato chips for more acid and some texture diversity.
I also recommend MSG — I don’t really know why it has a bad reputation in the US. I do think some people have MSG sensitivities, especially if they have leaky gut issues (these people should also avoid bone broths that have cooked for more than a few hours).
My first Korean friend was a grad student at UCI and came to a BBQ with a shaker of MSG and it blew my mind; apparently the rest of the world has embraced it.
Salts (kosher, sea, table, etc.)
Bragg liquid aminos (gf)
Rice wine vinegar
Red wine vinegar
White wine vinegar
Heat & Texture
- I have come to work with a number of different salts for different purposes. One thing to keep in mind if you’re following a recipe: different salts have very different volumes.
- so if the recipe is assuming regular iodized table salt, you’ll need to make adjustments for a different salt. (e.g. my Kimchi recipe calls for 2.5 teaspoons canning and pickling salt, but 3.75tsp Morton's Kosher or 5tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, and specifically cautions against using table salt or iodized salt)
- If you’re not using iodized salt, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting iodine from other sources. I’m a fan of , dairy, eggs, and fish, so I don’t worry too much; here’s a chart with foods and their iodine amounts.Roasted seaweed
- I have low blood pressure and my GP (a DO) has me putting Grey Celtic Sea Salt on all my food due to the naturally included trace minerals (for some reason it has the constancy of wet sand, so I’m glad to have a grinder of it from Whole Foods that I refill).
- Because it’s not as common to need extra salt, I generally recommend people try Lo Salt, which is a split between salt (sodium chloride) and potassium.
- I use Kosher salt for finishing, though the guy who seems to be the master of swears by Murray River salt (from Australia).Congee (and related Chinese medicine/energetics)
- I have pickling salt on hand for (very fine grained)Fermented Kimchi: easy, healthy, delicious