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From beer making, we learn that the earlier in the brewing process we add an ingredient, the more it contributes to taste, while the later we add the ingredient, the more it contributes to aroma.

Does this translate to other cooking, too?

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I wrote an answer once which would fit here, but the question was specifically about Bolognese, so not really a duplicate.… – rumtscho Oct 16 '13 at 9:06
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Not directly.

Many spices gain, change or lose taste when heat-treated. You must know given spice and when to add it.

Fresh dill or parsley leaves, after a hour of simmering are worthless, losing all aroma. Add at the very end of cooking.

Black pepper changes its taste and loses spiciness under heat. You can add it twice, the pepper added early contributing completely differently than added late.

Paprika doesn't change much over first few hours, so it really doesn't matter - unless you leave it in slow cooker for 8+ hours. It will turn acrid and unpleasant.

Fresh garlic is entirely different than garlic that underwent even several minutes of heat treatment - and garlic that was heat-processed, in order, doesn't change much in time, but infuses other products, so your choices are between fresh (sharp, spicy taste), thickly chopped cooked shortly (strong nodes of garlic taste, as ingredient, not spice) or boiled long (the taste infusing the food.)

Salt doesn't change taste over time (although it may infuse foods deeper) but affects many processes. Water boils at higher temperature, resulting in pasta or potatoes cooked better; some meats get much harder so it should be added late; vegetables go soft very fast and "drop" resulting in more evenly distributed frying heat (so salt fried veggies early)...

Cumin fried on clean, dry pan (no oil) in high temperature gets a significantly different, very strong, pleasant aroma. You won't obtain it by normal boiling or frying with other foodstuffs, no matter how long, as this requires higher temperatures than others. Fry it first, and only add other ingredients when it's ready.

Each spice has its caveats concerning adding time. Sometimes you need to add them at the very end - especially fresh herbs. In other cases (like salt) the time depends on the foodstuffs - early for vegetables, late for meats.

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It is also true that prolonged heat to woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme can remove most of the flavour you are trying to impart.

For example if you wish to infuse a sauce with one of these herbs it is best to introduce them after the majority of the cooking is done, but while the sauce is still warm.

This is because these are aromatic herbs meaning that their flavour compounds are extremely volatile and will be lost if exposed to excessive heat.

Similarly they can escape a sauce if infused at too high a temperature.

Quite often in professional kitchens herbs and spices are included in a vacuum pouch when cooking using the sous vide method in order to impart the flavour of those compounds to whatever is in the bag. We used to use thyme, garlic and a little olive oil for example with our Sunday beef when I worked in a hotel.

The lower temperatures and slower cooking allowed the meat to take on the flavour of the ingredients and added a depth to the taste. Incidentally sous vide makes for some very nice tender meat cuts (and if you can find a bag big enough, and don't mind not having a whole bird on your table at Christmas, can make a very tasty turkey breast).

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