Why Black Pepper Doesn’t Actually Belong On Everything You Cook

published Apr 29, 2015
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(Image credit: B. and E. Dudzinscy)

“Season with salt and pepper.” This is one of the most commonly used instructions in cooking, and as a result, we probably instinctively season almost all of our food with these two ingredients.

But let’s take a step back and really think about this. Is pepper really an all-purpose seasoning that works with everything?

When I first started dating my husband, we didn’t cook together very often. Even though we were both in culinary school, cooking was relegated to what we did at school since we usually left each day with plenty of leftovers and our respective rental kitchens left much to be desired.

The first time we finally did cook together, however, I remember asking him to hand me some black pepper so I could season the food. To my surprise, he said he didn’t have any, and to my even greater surprise, he said he didn’t really like the taste of black pepper!

My first thoughts were, “How could you not like black pepper? It’s a basic ingredient that gives food flavor!” followed by, “Are you sure you should be in culinary school?”

But what he said next made a lot of sense to me. He said that salt brings out and enhances the natural flavors in food, but black pepper is really a spice, like cumin or coriander, that adds an additional layer of flavor. Sometimes the spice works in whatever you’re cooking, but sometimes it doesn’t. While some people love the taste of black pepper and can eat it on anything, my husband finds it distracting and not always complementary.

Black pepper is now rarely used in our house unless it’s really a key ingredient, like a pepper-crusted steak. I don’t blindly reach for it anymore, and I don’t find my food any less flavorful! In fact, it’s encouraged me to explore other seasonings and spices instead.

Do you think black pepper is an all-purpose seasoning? I would love to know your thoughts!

Two More People Who Agree With Me