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The Crucial Error on Chopped: Geoffrey Zakarian’s Take

This is the biggest mistake on Chopped, according to Geoffrey Zakarian

“Chopped” is a popular culinary competition show that challenges contestants to create delicious dishes using a combination of unusual and often bizarre ingredients. With limited time to brainstorm and execute their culinary creations, it’s no surprise that contestants make mistakes. But according to celebrity chef and television personality Geoffrey Zakarian, there is one glaring mistake that many Chopped contestants make over and over again: they forget to properly season their food. In this article, we explore the importance of salt in cooking, Zakarian’s views on the importance of seasoning, and how to fix overly salted dishes.

The role of salt in cooking

Salt is not just a seasoning, but a fundamental ingredient that plays a crucial role in enhancing the flavors of a dish. As Fine Cooking explains, salt acts as a flavor enhancer, bringing out the flavors of other ingredients. It can balance the flavors in a dish by moderating excessive bitterness or sweetness. In addition, when kosher salt is used, it can add a pleasing crunch and texture to food.

Zakarian’s perspective on salt

Geoffrey Zakarian, one of the esteemed judges on “Chopped,” firmly believes that contestants often neglect the proper use of salt in their dishes. According to Food Network, Zakarian emphasizes that contestants fail to incorporate enough salt and pepper, the two essential seasonings. In a tweet, he expressed his frustration by simply saying, “Salt, people. Salt!” Zakarian advises home cooks to be more liberal with salt, as they tend to hold back for fear of over-salting their food. However, he cautions against using table salt for cooking and recommends kosher salt as a better alternative to ensure the right balance of seasoning.

Salting timing and technique

In addition to the amount of salt used, the timing of salting is also important. Cook’s Illustrated suggests adding salt at the beginning of the cooking process. This allows the salt to penetrate the food and enhance the overall flavor. Conversely, adding salt at the end of the cooking process will only coat the outside of the food, resulting in an unbalanced flavor.
Zakarian also emphasizes the technique of salting. While you don’t have to mimic Salt Bae’s flamboyant style, the height at which you sprinkle salt into the dish can affect its even distribution. Food Network explains that the higher you raise your hand while salting, the better the salt will blend into the food.

Fixing over-salted dishes

If you happen to oversalt a dish, there are several ways to correct the situation without throwing out the entire preparation. One approach is to dilute the saltiness by doubling or tripling the recipe, thus balancing the excess salt with other ingredients. Adding flavorful liquids, such as unsalted chicken broth, or incorporating vegetables and greens can help achieve this balance.
Alternatively, specific garnishes can help counteract saltiness. Chef Marc Murphy, featured on an episode of “Chopped,” suggests using yogurt to both dilute and tame saltiness because of its tangy flavor. Another recommendation comes from chef and television personality Giada De Laurentiis, who swears by a dash of lemon juice. The acidity of lemon juice can balance the saltiness of the dish. In addition, a small amount of sweetener, such as sugar or honey, can help counteract excess saltiness.

Season to taste

To avoid ending up with an overly salted dish, it is important to season as you go. By tasting the food throughout the cooking process, you can gradually add salt to achieve the desired flavor. It is easier to add more salt than to remove it once it is fully incorporated into the dish. Adding salt gradually as you cook gives you more control and ensures a balanced result.

Explore different types of salt

While Zakarian specifically mentions kosher salt as his preferred choice, it is worth noting that there are different types of salt for different culinary purposes. Serious Eats highlights the differences between salts used for cooking and those best suited for seasoning. Each type has its own unique characteristics, so it is important to choose the right salt for the intended use.


In the high-pressure environment of Chopped, many contestants overlook a fundamental aspect of cooking: proper seasoning. Geoffrey Zakarian emphasizes the importance of using salt to enhance the flavors of a dish. By incorporating salt from the start and seasoning as you go, you can achieve a balanced and delicious result. In the event of over-salting, several techniques and additions can help correct the situation. Remember, salt is not just a seasoning; it is an essential ingredient that can elevate your culinary creations to new heights. So the next time you step into the kitchen, remember Zakarian’s advice: don’t forget to season with salt!


Why is salt important in cooking?

Salt acts as a flavor enhancer, bringing out the flavor of other ingredients and balancing the flavors in a dish.

According to Geoffrey Zakarian, what is the biggest mistake contestants make on Chopped?

The biggest mistake is not seasoning their food properly, specifically not using enough salt and pepper.

What kind of salt does Geoffrey Zakarian recommend for cooking?

Zakarian recommends using kosher salt for cooking to ensure the right balance of seasoning without over-salting the food.

How do I correct an over-salted dish?

One approach is to dilute the saltiness by doubling or tripling the recipe or adding flavorful liquids. Alternatively, certain ingredients, such as yogurt or lemon juice, can help counteract excess salt.

When should I add salt to my food?

It is best to add salt at the beginning of the cooking process to allow it to penetrate the food. However, you can also add salt gradually as you taste the dish to achieve the desired flavor.

Can I use different types of salt in my cooking?

Yes, there are different types of salt for different culinary purposes. While Geoffrey Zakarian prefers kosher salt, it’s worth exploring different salts and understanding their characteristics for specific cooking and seasoning uses.

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