Every recipe on the face of this planet (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration there) ends with the same six words:
"Add salt and pepper to taste."
And so, we've dutifully followed those asinine words: at the end of everything cooked, we add a bit of salt, we add a few cracks of pepper. We eat our food, and assume that the seasonings we've added are indispensable to the dish.
But according to Anya Hoffman of Epicurious, we need to stop putting that shit on everything. That's right: from scrambled eggs to tomato sauce to even that lovely grilled hanger steak, black peppercorn doesn't add anything to the foods we love. If anything, she says, the flavor of black pepper can be so overpowering that it overshadows these foods.
Obviously, if a recipe centers around the addition of black pepper, such as peppercorn-crusted tuna, then the peppercorns are necessary. But if you're at the tail-end of cooking dinner and you have the option of adding black pepper or not—don't.
"Black pepper is a brute-force instrument that makes everything taste the same," Chef Dan Ross-Leutwyler told Epicurious. He backs up this statement with the following explanation: "It just makes the meat taste like pepper—it doesn't bring out or enhance anything in the same way a few drops of lemon juice or a vibrant finishing oil will."
Apparently, black peppercorn is a crutch that we lean on instead of discovering better seasonings, or appreciating the more nuanced flavors of what we're eating.
I've never really questioned the "add salt and pepper" mantra before, but I've never been a giant fan of pepper either; I always added pepper as a bit of an afterthought because I figured someone else would enjoy it. But I think I'm going to start omitting that crack of peppercorn once in a while—or at least experiment with other seasonings that may do a better job of complimenting my dishes. At worst, I can always count on "brute" peppercorn to mask the crappy flavors that I end up with, am I right?
Read more about why you should avoid using peppercorns at Epicurious, and let us know in the comments if you'll lay off the peppercorns in the future (or if you think this call for less peppercorns is just a load of bunk).
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