Black pepper is a universal seasoning that enhances the flavour of any dish it is used in. Make the humble peppercorn go a bit further by knowing how to use black pepper correctly in cooking.
Two types of seasoning that is considered the back bone of any culinary creation is salt and pepper.
There is no kitchen in my opinion that does not have these two essential seasonings. Even the most novice cook should keep stock of this amazingly versatile and useful spice.
What Is Black Pepper
Black pepper or peppercorn as called by some is one of the worlds most popular spice.
While ‘Garam Masala‘ is considered the king of Indian spices , Black pepper is known to be the king of of the spice world. And rightly so it is a spice that is readily available in every nook of the world after salt. It is probably the most important and popular spice used. It is added to almost every savoury dish, hot or cold, imparting a sharp and pungent flavour.
Native to southern India,it is black pepper that bought India to the world map and sparked the start of the spice trade between Asia and Europe.
It is in the search and conquer of this valuable spice that lead to the invasion and the need to own this spice that prompted the European explorers to travel and trade all over the world.
How Does Black Pepper Taste
The taste of black peppers is sharp and woody. It has a pungent and hot undertone which may sometimes irritate the throat if eaten raw.
Different Types of Peppercorn
When you say the word ‘pepper’ the first thing that comes to your mind are the small wrinkled up hard black seeds.
But like all things in the modern age, the tastes and styles have evolved. There are several varieties of peppercorn which are no longer just black.
There are 6 types of peppers used for cooking. A thing to note is that not all peppers are spicy. They have different tastes although the uses of peppercorn in cooking are similar.
1. Black pepper
This is the most popular type of peppercorn used for cooking. Within black pepper there are different variety as well depending on the spice growing regions. Some variety have a sharper taste than the others.
2. White Pepper
White pepper is in actuality, black pepper with its skin removed after being soaked in water. They are closest to the original peppery taste but is more earthy with an intense strong flavour.
3. Green pepper
Continuing to grown on the same stalk as the black pepper are the green peppers. They are the unripe, less matured baby peppercorns that are plucked before they turn into a fully grown black pepper. Fresher, milder and fruity in flavour they are added to anything instead of black pepper.
4. Pink Pepper
It is actually a berry as opposed to pepper. It has a delicate sweet – sharp taste that is used to flavour chocolates, salads, and mainly cold dishes.
5. Szechuan Pepper
Belonging to Chinese region, Sichuan or Szechuan peppercorn is also a type of berry. Fruity and aromatic it is added to add a hint of heat to dishes such as chicken, sauces, meat and fish.
6. Long Pepper
Resembling a mulberry but more thinner, long peppers look nothing like a usual pepper. Although not as popular as the others they are an exotic addition to your spice drawer especially if you are a black pepper lover. Hottest than any of the other peppers I personally feel they are the best type of peppercorns to add additional flavour to your dishes.
Uses of Black Pepper in Cooking
Black pepper can be used both in whole and also in grounded form.
The most popular way of using black pepper is to grind it fresh.
To get the best flavor, crush the whole pepper before adding it to the dish you are preparing.
I highly recommend investing in a pepper mill and keeping it on your dining table so that you can always add a dash of pepper to the dishes as needed.
Below are few ideas on how to use peppercorn for cooking
- Peppercorns can be crushed and used to cover your steaks and fish before cooking them. This will give them that little extra punch.
- Use it with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to make salad dressings that will give your raw veggies a little bit of zing.
- Add freshly crushed pepper to pastas , pizzas and boiled vegetables.
- Use whole peppercorns in stews or soups.
- You can also use whole black pepper in hot water for making teas.
Benefits Of Black Pepper
If you are a black pepper user then you are already ripping the nutritional benefits of black peppers.
If you keep a pepper grinder on the table because of the look then here are many reasons why black pepper is good for health and why should you use it.
This ‘King of spices’ has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine because of the high content of beneficial plant compounds.
Some of the noted health benefits of black pepper are:
Helps fight inflammation – Research suggests that piperine, the main active compound in black pepper may effectively fight inflammation that causes arthritis, diabetes, cancer.
Has antioxidant benefits – A study in India on rats induced with oxidative stress showed that there was a considerable improvement in thrie health as antioxidants help fight diseases caused by free radicals and boosts the body’s immunity system.
May help aid weight loss – Black peppercorn may health in the breakdown of fatty cells thus aiding in weight loss. Drinking black pepper tea may help in shifting those added kilos.
Helps improve digestion – The breaking down of the cells also helps in stimulating the digestive track and release enzymes that facilitate digestion. Proper digestion is essential to avoid intestinal issues including diarrhea, constipation, and colic.
Reliefs coughs and colds – The use of black pepper for coughs and colds has been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine its expectorant properties that helps to dislodge mucus and phlegm in the respiratory trace. Consuming black pepper with honey also helps to provide relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion.
However before opting for a natural cure or remedy, it is always advisable to be aware of any side effects of pepper.
The piperine present in the black pepper spice may not be suitable for all body types so it is best to check with your doctor before you start taking for medicinal purpose.
How To Buy Best Black Pepper
Like most spices, buying whole black peppercorn the best option. They not only have the best health benefits but also maximum flavour.
With so many fancy pepper grinders available in the market these days, you will not struggle finding whole black peppers anywhere.
Buying whole black pepper
The best whole black pepper to buy are the large, black or dark brown once that have a dull look on them. I know this may sound weird but the shiny once are treated and are less flavourful. Darker peppercorns are more flavorful.
Buying ground black pepper
If you wish to buy ground or crushed peppercorns then look for once that is almost grey in colour. The black variety of pepper powder usually means that they are of inferior grade.
Where To Buy Peppercorns
Being one of the most used spice in the world you can buy black pepper from any supermarket or even the tiniest corner store may keep them.
But if you want the best quality then I suggest buying them from my recommended store The spice house for the freshest spices.
The infographic on the use of peppercorn for cooking purpose is encapsulated below: