How Seasoning Changes with Serving Temperature

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2018

Have you ever noticed that foods served either hot or chilled need to be seasoned with salt more than room-temperature foods? We delved into the topic.

We've noticed that foods served either hot or chilled need more salt to taste fully seasoned than foods served at room temperature. We designed an experiment to delve into the topic.


We made a large batch of chicken broth, omitting the salt. Then we divided the broth into five batches and seasoned each batch, using no salt and 1, 2, 3, and 4 teaspoons of salt, respectively. Tasters sampled each broth at three different temperatures—180 degrees, 90 degrees, and 45 degrees—and noted which samples seemed properly seasoned.


Tasters preferred the hot broth seasoned with 3 teaspoons of salt. But as the broth cooled, their preferences changed. At 90 degrees, they preferred the broth that contained 2 teaspoons of salt, and at refrigerator temperature they preferred the broth with 4 teaspoons of salt.


Food with the same amount of salt tastes less salty to us at high or low temperatures than it does when it is lukewarm. This is because the receptors through which tastebuds signal the brain that food tastes salty tend to be the most responsive at temperatures between 85 and 95 degrees—in other words, close to the temperature inside our mouths.


To ensure that food is properly seasoned, we recommend tasting it at serving temperature and adjusting the salt accordingly.