COOKING GLOSSARY

A dictionary of culinary terms

Flavor

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Definition:

What’s the difference between flavor and taste?

Flavor is a combination of taste and other senses (primarily, but not limited to, smell/aroma) that’s responsible for the pleasure we get out of eating.

Taste is divided into five categories: saltiness, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and umami. When it comes to aromas, five categories aren’t enough, as aromas number in the thousands. Aromas become part of the flavor experience when we chew our food. During chewing, small molecules are released from the food and they float up to the nasal cavity.

To further understand how taste and aroma combine to produce flavor, try plugging your nose the next time you eat your favorite food. For example, if you plug your nose while eating salted caramel ice cream, you will taste both the sweetness of the sugar and the saltiness of the salt. Unplug your nose, and the aromas from the caramelized sugars will enter your nasal cavity, creating a much more pleasurable and complex experience. That experience is flavor.

Other senses such as sight (how the meal is plated), touch (texture), and sound (e.g. dinner music) can play major roles in flavor development. Even memories can influence flavor.

There are endless combinations of taste, aroma, sight, texture, sound, and memories. This allows a cook infinite possibilities when it comes to flavor development.

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