Tomato Paste Is The Easy Way To Give Steak An Umami Boost

When it comes to cooking a delicious steak, the key to success lies not just in the cut of meat you choose but also in the seasonings and spices. Believe it or not, even the most affordable cuts can be transformed into mouthwatering delights, so long as you treat them with the right combination of seasonings. One surprising ingredient that pairs especially well with steak: tomato paste.

Yes, you heard that right! Tomato paste is packed with glutamate, a flavorful amino acid. When you mix this paste with salt and let it sit for about an hour, the salt seasons the meat while the tomatoes bring a flavorant called monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, to the meal. By rubbing salted tomato paste onto a cut of steak, you'll be able to give it an umami boost and elevate its flavor to the next level.

Don't be alarmed by the mention of MSG. Besides the fact that it naturally occurs in foods like tomatoes, it has been a trusted food additive for decades that's renowned for enhancing savory dishes. Some people have claimed adverse health effects like headaches after consuming MSG, but an investigation commissioned by the FDA in the 1990s found that MSG is safe for human consumption, although some people may still be extra sensitive to it.

Why use tomato paste?

So, if tomato paste and salt produce a more obvious MSG flavor, why not skip all the hassle and simply sprinkle MSG powder onto the steak instead? First, tomato paste can add complexity to the flavor of the steak with its unique taste. It also gives you more control over the flavor profile of the meal, as you can more easily adjust the amount of tomato paste and other seasonings according to your preference. Moreover, MSG powder is a concentrated form of glutamate that can overpower the meat with if it's overused.

Last but not least, some people may still claim to be sensitive to the purified form of MSG and experience adverse reactions if they eat too much at once, as per Healthline. Natural glutamate sources like tomato paste can help mitigate that risk by helping you dial things back and adding only a small amount of glutamate to the meat at a time.