What is a “finishing” ingredient?

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A “Finishing” ingredient is something of a small quantity that is added to the surface of food just before serving it.

What makes an ingredient a finishing ingredient & why finishing is important:
Finishing ingredients are usually elements that add visual appeal and flavor to a dish when used on the surface, but would lose their nuanced complexity if thrown in during the cooking process.  Finishing salt is possibly the most well known, but there are also finishing sugars, and other specialty ingredients.

The basic theory is this: if you use fleur de sel to salt your pasta water you probably won’t be able to tell the difference (vs. table salt) when it’s finished…but if you put a few flakes on ready to serve steaks, you’ll be amazed at the improvement.

Finishing ingredients can make a big visual difference too, for an example check out our butter poached halibut cheeks recipe.


Finishing Salts:
Any of our flavored sea salts can be used to finish dishes, but these varieties are best suited to finishing use:
Hawaiian Black Sea Salt
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (aka red Alaea sea salt)
Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt (aka pink Alaea sea salt)
Himalayan Pink Salt
Truffle Salt

Example Uses for Finishing Salts: premium meats, gourmet fish, topping caramels or truffle chocolates.


Finishing Sugars:
Finishing sugars can also be used as you would conventional sugar as an ingredient, but these varieties really bring something to the presentation and flavor of a dessert if used at the last second:
Demerara Sugar – large, light brown crystals with a hint of molasses flavor.
Turbinado Sugar – very light brown crystals with a slightly honeyed flavor…often used as a creme brulee topping.
Maple Sugar – Made by boiling maple sap past the syrup stage, this sugar has a pronounced maple flavor and is considered to be twice as sweet as conventional sugar.
Vanilla Sugar – This ultra fine sugar (powdered sugar consistency) blended with real vanilla beans can be used to top desserts or combined with cream (try manufacturing cream!) for the most luxurious whipped cream ever.

Example Uses for Finishing Sugars:  Topping creme brulee (before torching to melt into a glass-like layer), truffles, and other candies.  Adding crunch, or shine to baked goods.  Bringing a final touch of sweetness (and additional flavor) to other dishes.


Other Finishing Ingredients:
Here are some other ingredients that are neither salts nor sugars, but are also traditionally used to finish a dish, usually because cooking heat causes them to lose flavor.

Bottarga (cured tuna roe): Often shaved or grated over finished dishes as a seasoning to better distribute its potent (but heat-sensitive) flavor.
Fresh Truffles: Black truffles can be added to a dish very late in the cooking process, but white truffles should only be added right before serving.
Truffle Products: Truffle butter, truffle oil, and truffle honey, are also usually added to just finished dishes.
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: The finest parmesan, Reggiano cheese has a sweeter, more complex & nutty flavor than conventional parmesan.  While you can use it as an ingredient, adding it to the top of your finished dish will allow its flavor to shine using smaller amounts.
Chili Powders:  While chili powders are almost always used as an ingredient, they can also be used to finish dishes.  We recommend using milder powders for this (such as aji panca powder or pasilla negro powder), so they will bring rich fruitiness without overpowering the rest of your food.  For an example of finishing with chili powders, check out our chile hot chocolate recipe.
Pollens: Fennel pollen and dill pollen are incredibly potent spices that can be used both while cooking and to finish a dish.  For some ideas for how to cook with pollen, check out these fennel pollen recipes.

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