Why Does CookThink Use Red Pepper Flakes In So Many Recipes?

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We use red pepper flakes so often that we’ve come to think of them as the third standard seasoning, after salt and pepper.  
 
Why do we use red pepper flakes in so many recipes?  
 
We use it as a flavor highlighter. In addition to the fives tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami — our tongues detect capsaicin, the main ingredient found in any hot chile. The heat of capsaicin in red pepper flakes “points up” the taste of ingredients they season. So, no matter what tastes and flavors you have going on in a dish, a pinch of red pepper flakes will help clarify and those tastes and flavors without necessarily adding heat (though you can add plenty of heat by adding red pepper flakes). 
 
Experiment with red pepper flakes by starting out with a pinch in a dish like this Fusilli with Broccoli Raab and Parmesan. Increase (or decrease) the amount you use to get a sense of how much you like to add. 

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