13 Easy Ways to WOW Dinner Guests (and Make Tastier Meals)

by | Oct 27, 2023

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13 “hacks” to making tastier meals and blowing dinner guests away with flavor…

1. Add Spiced Toasted Breadcrumbs to Pasta

This is a great substitute for parmesan (and really an upgrade). Toast breadcrumbs in butter, add a little salt and garlic granules or your favorite pasta-friendly spice blend to taste. Stir vigorously as you toast it for a few minutes, then serve hot on top of pasta.

Some favorites in our house for this are our organic La Dulce Vita (Everything But the Italian Sausage), Garlic Pepper and Buffy’s Slayer Helper Garlic Seasoning.

2. Serve Bread with Homemade Compound Butter

This is so simple, and such an upgrade when you have bread on the dinner table. How to make compound butter:

  1. Get butter to room temperature
  2. Mash in your favorite spices
  3. Roll it up in wax or parchment paper in round or stick form & cool in the fridge

Our favorite spices to blend into butter are Herbal Finishing Salt, Porcini Salt, Black Truffle Salt, Herbs de Provence and Magic Cinnamon Toast Dust for a sweet toast treat.

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3. Don’t Over – or Under – Salt

Salt brings out other flavors in your cooking. Too little can lead to muted dishes. Too much can lead to puckered faces. To avoid over or under salting, slowly add salt in several stages while cooking, and taste it after each dash.

If you’re looking to avoid salt altogether, check out our organic salt-free blends or try using organic sumac instead of salt (just ensure the sumac you buy is salt-free because some spice companies add salt to it).

browse gourmet salt

4. Aim for More Texture

Outside of taste buds liking good-tasting food, our mouths also like to experience/feel what they’re eating. Try adding some of these texture-boosters to your next meal:

Not only will you be adding texture, you’ll also introduce new layers of flavor.

5. Really Brown Those Veggies

There’s a reason good restaurants bring out veggies with some serious char on them. Allowing roasted veggies to char carmelizes them and brings out their natural sweetness.

Try this high-heat method the next time you have broccoli or broccolini:

  1. Put a baking sheet in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees. Get the baking sheet really hot.
  2. Toss the broccoli with a high heat cooking oil and your favorite Pinch spice blend.
  3. Throw it on the pan and roast for 10-20 minutes until it’s charred.

You will never look at broccoli the same.

spices for veggies

6. Use High Quality, Fresh Spices

When’s the last time you checked to see if your spices are fresh? This may sound obvious (or self-promoting since we’re an organic spice company), but high quality, fresh spices make a serious impact on your cooking.

High quality spices = recently harvested clean, organic spices with no additives to fake freshness, no fillers like flour to bulk up company profits, and no weird dyes to make things appear brighter than they are.

And for freshness? Here’s three things to look for:

  1. Colors should still be vibrant (can be tricky if you don’t have organic spices since many companies use dyes to fake freshness, so don’t rely on this method if you’re not using organic spices)
  2. The smell should be potent. If it’s faint, it’s probably toast and time to toss.
  3. Taste it – the flavor should pop and taste like what it is.

You might be surprised which spices are actually not doing much for you if you’ve had them for years or if you happen to store them in sunlight or near heat sources like the oven (which zaps their freshness faster).

best quality spices you can buy

7. Crack Your Own Black Pepper

While we offer tasty fresh ground pepper, there really is nothing better than fresh cracked pepper. This is because the most potent oils in pepper are located in the center, and when you crack the whole peppercorns, you get the maximum flavor and aroma right there and then.

There are many options for pepper mills. Our favorite is the classic peugeot. They aren’t expensive, and last a lifetime.

whole black malabar peppercorns

8. Buy & Grind Whole Spices On Demand

When you can, go ahead and grind whole spices like whole coriander seeds, whole cumin, cardamom pods, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, and chilies. Much like pepper, you are accessing the volatile oils inside the spice and therefore you are getting the most potent flavors the spice has to offer.

A mortar and pestle works great or you can use our favorite mill, the Krups coffee grinder. It makes fast work of grinding herbs and spices, and is easy to clean.

9. Toast These Whole Spices

Try first toasting these spices when cooking with them: Whole cumin, coriander, clovespeppercorns, cardamom, sesame seeds, allspice, ajwain seeds, whole chilies, fenugreek and fennel.

Toasting releases the delicious volatile oils and make for a more pungent and flavorful final dish.

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10. Get a Thermometer, Stop Overcooking Meat

We spent years spending too much time guessing if the steaks were done. While we sometimes got it right, oftentimes we overcooked them. Then it hit us – a thermometer is an essential kitchen tool! Use it to hit your temp goals. Typically beef is served between 135F and 165F, pork between 145F and 165F, poultry at 165F.

There are many good ones out there but we love our Inkbird instant-read thermometer.

organic barbecue seasonings

11. Reverse Sear Your Steaks Next Time

Reverse sear your steaks for a special dinner. Here’s our reverse sear steak cooking method in detail, but here’s a brief overview:

  1. Before cooking allow steaks to come up to room temperature from the fridge, bake them in an oven on very low heat (150F) until they are 10-15 degrees below your desired temperature.
  2. Get a pan screeching hot on the stove or grill.
  3. Drop in the steaks and sear them.
  4. Let them rest at least 5-10 minutes before serving (preferably with a nice compound butter on top).

best spice mix for cooking steaks

12. Say Hello to Dinner Hash Browns

Hash browns for a dinner party? Yes, please! The trick to getting them perfectly crispy? Use dehydrated hash browns. This was the big Pinch discovery of 2022.

Dehydrated hash browns are the only real choice when you care about cooking crispy hash browns, just ask the experts at Waffle House. Just quickly rehydrate in water for 10 minutes, then cook in a skillet with oil until golden brown, crispy and delicious.

13. Serve Pearl Couscous for the Win

We think pearl couscous doesn’t get the respect it deserves, paired with salad or roasted veggies, it’s the perfect little ball of pasta-like goodness that holds flavor well when mixed with spices and olive oil. Here’s a few recipes we’ve made:

all spices alphabetically

So — any dinner party recipes or hacks you love? What’s your favorite cooking trick or tip? Leave a comment here or message us on Facebook or Instagram – we’d love to learn from you and potentially share with everyone else!

Happy cooking, spicy friends!
Meaghan & Thomas

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