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Ask The Chef

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Today the New York Times came out in favor of adding MSG to food on the theory that cooks cannot make delicious food without a synthetic additive.

Monosodium glutamate is an ingredient in nearly all packaged, processed, and prepared foods. Does it make food taste better? No, it gives food a chemical and processed taste. A simple experiment is to make homemade chicken stock using chicken bones, onions, carrots, and celery and compare the taste to canned stock. Or compare bottled salad dressing with homemade dressings. The fresh and pure taste of homemade food — without the crutch of MSG — is always more delicious.

The New York Times argues that MSG “in normal concentrations has no effect on the overwhelming majority of people.” Those who get MSG headaches would disagree. But what about taste? Why not experience the actual taste of the food rather than eating MSG in everything? MSG mimics the taste of umami, but natural umami is easily found in cooking: mushrooms and parmesan cheese, for example. A steak needs salt and pepper, not Accent, to taste delicious. The author of the article thinks that Doritos (with five different MSG additives) tastes so good, but I have found that home-fried tortilla chips always taste better.

Do you cook with MSG?