Your Guide to Adding Complex Flavors to Food

By The Bearded Butchers

Virtually everyone has the experience of making a dish that just seems to be lacking something. The problem is, though, you can rarely figure out what that is. Well, you can let yourself off the hook. In reality, most recipes tend to be rather basic.

So, they will have you add a little bit of this and that but not really consider how these flavors will work together. Not to mention, they rarely teach you to add little touches that take your dish to the next level:

Adding Acids

It is great news that adding acids to various dishes is becoming a more well-known practice. This is because acids have a way of transforming other ingredients in a dish. For instance, it can help to counteract bitter components. At the same time, it also works wonders for brightening up a dish.

Now, on the surface, the idea of using acids in your food can seem like a rather daunting one. However, acids actually refer to citrus, vinegars (white, balsamic, apple cider), white wine, and acidic dairy (sour cream, yogurt, and buttermilk).

Curious about how acids would work in a dish? Well, check out this following tuna recipe that uses orange and lemon juice for just the right amount of tartness:

Tuna with Citrus Sauce

Serves 4

  • ½ tsp. of Chinese five-spice powder
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • ¼ tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • 4 tuna steaks
  • 1 tbs. of canola oil
  • ¼ cup of orange juice
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs. of lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. of rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. of fresh ginger, minced
  • Mix the five spice powder, the salt, and the cayenne pepper together. Sprinkle the mix on each side of the tuna steaks.
  • Pour the canola oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the tuna. Cook each side for about two or three minutes, or until the center is pink. Remove from the pan.
  • Mix the orange juice, onions, lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ginger and combine well. Then, pour the mix into the skillet. Cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve with the tuna.

Consider this wonderful “Ultimate Fish Taco Recipe.

Going Rogue with Spices

Most recipes will have you add a few spices to a dish. What you probably don’t realize, though, is that these amounts aren’t enough to add too much of an impact. Think about the sheer amount of meat and vegetables in a dish – does it seem fair to add just a pinch or two of spices? No!

This is why you always need to taste your food once you have added your spices. If your taste buds aren’t set alight with flavor, then you need to add more. However, you should be mindful of the ratios in which you add spices – if you are adding a bit more of black pepper for instance, don’t forget to ramp up the salt, cumin, etc. as well.

There is also no need for you to stick to the spices that have been mentioned in the recipe. If you feel like a dish could use a bit more of your favorite seasoning, then go ahead and add it. You will rarely go wrong with adding a bit of garlic, ginger, etc. even if it isn’t called for.

Learning the Art of Deglazing

Have you ever seared meat only to be left with burnt bits stuck to the pan? Now, if you are like most people, the sight of these pieces probably annoys you. It means that you are going to have to soak the pan thoroughly and then use some serious elbow grease to pry the pieces loose.

Well, there is some excellent news for you. If you ever lift your meat out of the pan and see these burnt pieces – rejoice! It means that you now have the base to make an excellent pan sauce that will go beautifully with the meat that you have cooked.

See, what most people fail to realize is that those few burnt pieces are actually flavor explosions. And, with the help of deglazing, you can unleash the complex flavors hidden here and transfer them to your dish. 

All you need to do is add stock, vinegar, wine, beer, or leftover cooking liquid to these charred pieces. Then simmer until it has thickened. Here is a great pan sauce recipe to get you started:

Pan Sauce

  • Pan with charred bits from cooking meat
  • Leftover liquid from cooking meat
  • 1 tbs. of shallots, chopped
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 tsp. of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tbs. of butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • In the pan with the charred pieces and leftover meat liquid, add the shallots. Sautee until they become translucent.
  • Pour the wine into the pan and scrape all the burnt bits until they are free of the pan. Cook until the liquids have reduced by half. Take the pan off the heat.
  • Stir in the mustard and the parsley. Whip in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Season to taste. Serve the sauce with the meat.

So, there you have it – the top tips (and recipes) for adding more complex flavors. Use these and you will be amazed at how your food is transformed.


Go shopping at The Bearded Butchers for spices and cooking tools. The orientation is heavily towards meats with some great ideas on the The Butcher’s Block Blog such as “Spare Ribs vs Baby Back Ribs,” “The Ultimate Cast Iron Guide,”Chicken Stock vs Chicken Broth: Making and Using Both,” “How to Sharpen a Knife,” and “Pro Tips: Grilling Every Classic BBQ Food.”  

There are also guides to grilling tools, buying knives and using different kinds of grills.

Seth & Scott Perkins  are avid outdoorsmen and talented Butchers who grew up hunting, harvesting, and butchering all types of wild game, as well as domestic livestock at the family butchering business. This led them on a quest to create a blend of salt & spices that are not only perfect for all types of meat, but just about anything you eat, and why they say “Use it on Everything!”

“Butchers, Outdoorsmen, Fathers, Sons, Brothers…The Bearded Butchers are a lot of things. What we love most is creating not only good food, but great eating experiences. That’s where the seasoning came in. We got tired of buying whatever was on the store shelf, and getting everything you don’t want with it. Sugar, anti-caking chemicals, MSG, and more. So, Seth got to work mixing and blending spices, choosing flavors and blends that complement our rich heritage and bright future. It was a job he was familiar with from growing up doing the same thing in the family butcher shop. We continue to grow and expand our offerings.”


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