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Here’s the Lowdown: How MSG Makes Foods Taste Better

By March 6, 2024March 7th, 2024MSG, MSG in Cooking
Salty vs Savory

There is no doubt in my mind that MSG (monosodium glutamate) enhances the flavor of many foods.

This condiment – often referred to as “umami seasoning” – can make savory foods taste better than when prepared without it. That is why I have a shaker of MSG on the spice shelf in my kitchen… and I use it all the time.

However, there are some cooks who still need to be convinced about the benefits of MSG.

Putting safety myths aside for the time being (we’ve covered many of those on this website), perhaps the doubting-Thomas cooks have been in the dark about how and why to use MSG. Allow me to explain. As a dear great aunt used to say, “Let’s get down to brass tacks” and talk about why MSG is used around the globe. You know: The nitty gritty. The scoop. The truth… about MSG’s role in the culinary world.

Listed below are clear-cut reasons why MSG (umami seasoning) should be in your cupboard for use in cooking – alongside pepper, garlic powder, salt and other typical condiments.

MSG Makes Good-Tasting Foods Taste Better

  • First and foremost, MSG makes good-quality food taste better, but it will not improve the flavor of poor-quality food.
  • A very small amount of MSG can increase the level of umami flavor by adding glutamate to a recipe.
  • MSG can effectively enhance foods that are savory. However, it contributes little or nothing to sweet or bitter foods.
  • Because glutamate has a unique affinity with the umami taste receptors on the tongue, glutamate is the purest source of umami taste.
  • Using MSG is similar to adding glutamate-rich foods to enhance a recipe’s savoriness; foods naturally high in glutamate include ripe tomatoes, aged cheese, mushrooms and soup stocks. As noted in the Wikipedia page about MSG, “MSG is used in cooking as a flavor enhancer with a savory taste that intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food, as naturally occurring glutamate does in foods such as stews and meat soups.”
  • There is no reason whatsoever for adding too much MSG; once the proper amount is used, adding more does not enhance a food’s flavor. Overuse, as with other seasonings and spices, may cause food to become undesirable (e.g., too much salt will destroy an otherwise delicious soup).
  • Approximately one-half teaspoon of MSG is an effective amount to enhance the flavor of a pound of meat or four-to-six servings of vegetables, casseroles or soup.

So, there you have the “nitty gritty” about cooking with MSG. If you wish to learn more about how MSG can make quality food taste even better, visit these informative pages:

Kaye is an author and consulting nutritionist with more than 15 years’ experience representing clients in the food industry, providing strategic leadership and consulting on meal planning, recipe development, consumer-focused educational materials relating to food and nutrition, science-based communications, and media relations. Read more about her background on the About page.

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