This Is The Biggest Mistake On Chopped, According To Geoffrey Zakarian

Given some of the wild ingredients "Chopped" contestants have to use, you might think the judges wouldn't notice if a chef went a bit lighter with salt and other seasonings. However, salt is such a critical addition to any dish because of the role it serves. As Fine Cooking explains, salt is essentially a flavor enhancer and will amplify all the other flavors you've cultivated in your dish. It can also balance out issues with particular ingredients, taming the flavor notes in a dish that may be erring on the side of overly bitter or sweet. And if you use kosher salt, as "Chopped" judge Geoffrey Zakarian recommends, it often impacts the texture of your dish as well, adding a bit of crunch, per The Spruce Eats. In fact, The New York Times calls the humble seasoning the single most important ingredient in your kitchen, a sentiment that Zakarian may agree with given his previous statements.

In terms of salting your food, the timing is almost as critical as the amount. While you can tweak your salt levels by adding a bit towards the end if you're tasting the dish and feel it needs a bit more, you should be incorporating it from the very beginning, as Cook's Illustrated explains. Salt that's added earlier can really penetrate your food, whereas adding it at the end ensures it just coats the exterior, creating a less balanced flavor.

Nevertheless, "Chopped" contestants often forget to season their food fully, missing one crucial ingredient.

He wishes Chopped contestants used more salt

"Chopped" contestants have a lot to deal with when competing on the popular competition culinary show. Not only are they under a time crunch, but they also have to combine what are often bizarre ingredients into some type of delicious dish, with barely any time to brainstorm after learning what their baskets contain.

Given the stress of the competition, it makes sense that "Chopped" contestants would make a few mistakes. However, according to chef and television personality Geoffrey Zakarian, there's one huge mistake that many of them make, per Food Network. It's such a basic culinary rule that you likely wouldn't have guessed the pros would overlook it. As Zakarian bemoans, they forget to season their food — and we're not just talking about a failure to incorporate various herbs and spices. Zakarian claims the contestants simply don't use enough salt and pepper, the two most essential seasonings, in their dishes.

He took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the frequent mistake, finishing the April 19 tweet by emphasizing, "Salt, people. Salt!" In fact, as he stated in a 2019 interview with Bottom Line Personal, one of his key tips for any home cook is to salt freely. Zakarian suggests that home cooks often hold back, as they perceive that chefs are a bit heavy-handed with the staple seasoning. Still, he does warn that table salt isn't ideal for cooking; kosher salt is a better choice to ensure you don't oversalt your food.

How to fix oversalted dishes

So, you've followed Geoffrey Zakarian's advice and, in fear of creating a dish that the "Chopped" judges would deem too bland, you've accidentally gotten a bit too overzealous with the salt. Not to worry — there are a few ways to fix it without having to toss your entire dish.

One method involves diluting the salt quantity by doubling or tripling whatever you're creating so the salt in the dish is more balanced. This can be done by adding in a flavorful liquid such as unsalted chicken broth or tossing in a few additions, such as vegetables or greens, to balance the salt out a bit, per Food Network.

If you don't want a super-sized batch of food or you're making the type of dish where it's not easy to add liquids or bulky ingredients, there are a few specific add-ins that may do the trick. As Brit + Co reports, on an episode of "Chopped," chef Marc Murphy suggested yogurt could help to both dilute some of the saltiness as well as tame it, courtesy of the tangy flavor. And chef and television personality Giada De Laurentiis swears by a bit of lemon juice, with the acidity balancing the salinity. A small amount of sweetener, such as sugar or honey, might also work to counteract excess salt, as SheKnows suggests.

Always season as you go — and be mindful of technique

As with all cooking, you want to make sure you taste your dish as you go. This way, you'll avoid reaching the point where you have to save the dish with a salt-taming hack. If your recipe calls for a certain amount of salt, consider not adding it all at once, as it's far easier to add more than to take it away once it's already incorporated. As The Kitchn outlines, you should ideally add the salt in stages as you cook for best results.

Technique also matters. We're not saying you need to transform into Salt Bae every time you whip up a dish at home. But as Food Network explains, the higher you raise your hand to sprinkle that salt into your dish, the more evenly you'll incorporate it.

And finally, while Zakarian differentiates between kosher and table salt, the reality is that there's even more variations out there, as Serious Eats highlights. Keep an eye on which salts are meant for use during cooking and which are best used as finishing salts.