Tom Kerridge’s seven secret ingredients that can transform a dish

How do you give your dishes the edge? Tom Kerridge shares his favourite ingredients to take a dish to the next level.

Tom Kerridge’s seven secret ingredients that can transform a dish

Serving a dish with panache is something top chefs like Tom Kerridge do rather well. Their finishing flourishes and plating up skills give their food that winning edge. So how can you achieve the same effect at home? Here Tom reveals seven ways of using key ingredients to refresh a dish, the professional way.

Tom’s seven secret ingredients to transform a dish

1. Salt

SaltPeople don’t use enough salt. As well as in savoury dishes, I also mean using it in reverse, so in sweet dishes, such as salted caramel. I particularly like sea salt for its lovely crunch. 

Try it at home... Chocolate, salted caramel & banana mess

2. Sugar

As with salt, try to use sugar in reverse - savoury dishes can be balanced by sugar and other sweet ingredients, so play around with ratios.

Try it at home... Vietnamese caramel trout

3. Alcohol

Rather than use alcohol at the beginning of cooking – so putting a glass of wine into the base of a casserole, for instance – use it at the very end to finish a dish. That splash of pure alcohol will be really tasty, as opposed to a boiled down version. Try this with spirits, wine or beer in a drizzle or dressing.

Try it at home... Drunken berries with cream

4. Zest

ZestUse orange, lemon or lime to finish off sweet or savoury dishes. Leave it to the very last minute as that’s when it’ll release the natural oils to properly infuse into the dish.

Try it at home... Chocolate orange tart
Key lime pie
Chinese-style lemon marmalade chicken


5. Bread

I often use bread as a thickener to bulk out dishes. This works well in soups, but also sauces.

Try it at home... Roast chicken with creamy walnut sauce

6. Time

BeefNot an edible ingredient, but make something ahead and leave it in the dish. This way the flavours will mature, making for a dish with a much denser flavour profile.

Try this technique with one of our casserole recipes

7. Dairy

I like to cut through a dish with dairy, like different creams or cheese. I particularly like the acidity of crème fraîche.

Try it at home... Tagliatelle with mussels & crème fraîche

More from Tom’s series...

10 steps to being a better cook
9 pieces of kitchen kit
8 top picks for your larder

Do you have any secret ways of transforming a dish? If you’re willing to share them, we’d love to hear your suggestions…

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