Black Pepper: Which Spice Should Replace It?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

There comes a time when it’s nice to take a step back from the way we always do things in the kitchen. Cast-iron skillet for pancakes? Great. Mineral oil to keep cutting boards supple? Perfect. Pepper used in virtually every dish? Questionable.

A few days ago in Slate, Sarah Dickerman wrote a piece called Against Pepper: Salt Needs a New Companion. In it, she says “pepper, as I learned, is a fickle spice–it can be used well, but add too much, and your food tastes cheap and crass. Because pepper is applied to mask poor quality, too much of it smacks of a cover-up.”

Last year, Emma Christensen wrote about a very similar discussion she’d come across on Gilt Taste, questionning why so many Americans freely use black pepper without really questioning why.

While salt is an obvious choice because, if used well, it amplifies the flavor of food and makes it taste more like itself, Dickerman poses that it might just be time to rethink its cousin, pepper. Maybe we’d appreciate the spice if we used it more sparingly and actually started to understand which foods and flavor profiles it amplifies.

What do you think? Besides salt, what spice do you rely on the most in the kitchen? Slate is asking folks to think about which spice they feel should replace pepper and cast their votes in their detailed online survey: see if your choice is represented there.

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(Image: Flickr member Lori_NY licensed for use under Creative Commons)