A Beginner’s Guide to Black Truffles
Black truffles were once reserved for only the most exclusive dining establishments, but thanks to modern advancements, they’re a trendy ingredient available for even the most novice home cooks.
Despite their increased availability, the average person may still have lingering questions about this unique ingredient. This guide will act as a basic introduction to black truffles for the curious, adventurous eater, so keep reading to learn about black truffles, where they come from, and what they taste like!
What Are Black Truffles?
Black truffles are a type of edible fungus that comes from an underground tuber. They’re widely beloved in the culinary world for their ability to elevate the look, feel, and taste of any dish, from pasta to steak to hummus to french fries–practically anything can be enhanced by the complex, savory flavor of black truffles.
They can be gently cooked or eaten raw, as is traditional for truffles of almost any variety.
Where Do Black Truffles Come From?
Like other fungi, truffles grow under the soil mainly in southern Europe and other Mediterranean areas, though some types of black truffles have been successfully grown in similar climates around the world.
Because they grow under the ground, they need to be hunted by specially trained, truffle-sniffing animals to find and harvest them. Dogs and pigs are generally used to find truffles because of their strong sense of smell.
Black truffles can be harvested in late winter through the summer, depending on the variety. They range in size and shape, but the fruiting bodies are generally larger than white truffles.
What Does Black Truffle Taste Like?
Many people liken the taste of black truffle to that of a very high-quality mushroom. Black truffles are earthy, musky, mushroom-like, and have a savory richness. They can have a nutty quality and a more complicated flavor profile than a mushroom.
This is why they’re often used to add a level of complexity to a savory dish or to bring balance to salty or tangy ingredients. Black truffles are often called for in pasta dishes and are a favorite for red meats like steaks or roasts. Because they’re often chopped finely or shaved over a dish, they’re more of an enhancement than a main ingredient in most dishes.
What Does Black Truffle Butter Taste Like?
Another favorite application for black truffles is black truffle butter or compound butter. The fat from the butter enhances and intensifies the black truffle taste, adding a silky, creamy component that coats the palate and disperses the flavor of the truffles across your taste buds.
This is similar to black truffle oil: the flavors of the black truffle infuses in the fat of the oil and acts as a carrier for the flavor, making it a great way to add flavor to any dish without needing to add whole black truffles. It’s also a great way to preserve black truffle flavor to use over time, as the butter or oil can be refrigerated or frozen.