World-class chefs and home cooks alike use umami-rich ingredients, often including MSG (aka “umami seasoning”), in their cooking. But many people still wonder, “what does adding umami do to food dishes?” and “how do you describe the umami taste?”.
If you have these same questions, or are simply looking for a quick and easy way to experience umami – this video’s for you!
Introducing a new “Cooking with MSG” video series: 5 videos total, on the MSGdish YouTube channel, where you’ll learn how to get delicious results when you cook with MSG!
Here’s video #3, Discovering the Taste of Umami:
The full transcript:
The taste of umami, our fifth taste, can be hard to describe, just like it is hard to describe other basic tastes. For instance, the taste of salt is well, salty. And we know instantly if something is sweet.
Umami is described as being savory, mushroomy, or meaty. I like to think of it as a deep taste upon which other flavors dance. It’s like the base note in music. Umami enhances the whole meal.
MSG is essentially pure umami. Adding it to food gives a depth of flavor and makes food craveable.
Getting to Know the Taste of Pure Umami
To help you identify the umami taste, I have the perfect Do-It-Yourself home Umami Taste Test.
- First, purchase 2 quarts of unsalted beef or chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil on the stove.
- Take three small bowls and label them 1, 2 and 3.
- In Bowls 2 and 3, ladle 3 cups of hot stock into each. Pour the remaining stock into Bowl number 1.
- In Bowl 2, add ½ teaspoon plus a pinch of fine crystal salt. Stir to dissolve.
- In Bowl 3, add ¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon of fine crystal salt AND 1 ½ teaspoons of MSG. Stir to dissolve.
- Nothing is added to Bowl number 1.
- Then, taste the bowls in order: 1, 2, and 3. Notice how different they taste!
You will notice when you go from Bowls 1 to 2, the flavor improves dramatically due to the increased salt content. When you go from Bowls 2 to 3, something else happens that makes the stock even better. The difference between 2 and 3 is the added umami from the MSG. This is what umami tastes like!
The reason for the precise measurements is to be sure that the amount of sodium is identical in Bowls 2 and 3, so that we only change the umami between these two bowls.
Adding umami delivers a deep, savory flavor and increases the overall deliciousness of the broth.
Now that you have a better idea of what umami tastes like, here are some ideas to get you started using MSG.
- Season meat, poultry, and fish with MSG, along with salt and pepper, before grilling, sautéing or roasting.
- Sprinkle MSG on your favorite sautéed or grilled vegetables just before serving.
- Try dissolving MSG into soups, sauces, and gravies while they cook.
- Stir a touch of MSG into a Bloody Mary to make the drink especially delicious.
Remember, cooking with umami simply makes food tastier, and MSG is the fastest and easiest way to add umami to your food.
By the way don’t throw out the broth – you can use it for your favorite recipes now or freeze it for later.
For more recipes and umami information, visit the “Savory Cuisine Corner” section on MSGdish.com.
Christopher Koetke, “Chef Chris”, is Corporate Executive Chef at Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition, North America. He previously was the Chief Consultant at Complete Culinary, LLC, and Dean of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. He is a past Vice President of both the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and Laureate International Universities Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts.