Everything You Need to Know About Salting Your FoodBack to feed
- Posted: 6/28/2019
- Categories: Discoveries at the Jungle
If you’re a human (and if you’re reading this, we certainly hope you are), you probably love salt! Sure, everyone has their preferences, but generally, most people crave salt at least some of the time. This is because salt, or sodium, is necessary for survival. Our bodies use sodium chloride to absorb essential nutrients, balance fluid, regulate blood pressure, and perform a host of other essential functions. As a result, we’ve evolved to love and crave salt!
Salt is incredibly important to our enjoyment of food. Salt masks unpleasant flavors, like bitterness, and it suppresses unpalatable flavors, making the good flavors easier to taste. The flavors we enjoy seem brighter because the salt disguises flavors that can interfere with our ability to taste the pleasant flavors. Thus, we perceive salted food as tasting better.
Many people believe that they are overeating salt and, while this may be true in some cases, it’s not necessarily true for everyone! If you are ever concerned about your salt intake, talk to your doctor right away and follow their advice. However, if you’re in the clear, you should salt freely and with abandon! Salt isn’t the villain— it’s an important flavor enhancer that can make your home-cooked food taste restaurant-quality. Don’t be afraid of it!
So, to help you experience the wondrous world of salt, we’ve come up with a few simple tips to help you properly salt your food. Read on to learn the best practices for enhancing your food with salt!
Easy Salting Tips
Salting at the right time is imperative. As a general rule, always salt at the beginning of the cooking process and continue to salt as you go. Adding salt only at the end of cooking, right before you serve the food, won’t do you any favors. This method doesn’t give the salt enough time to permeate the food and truly enhance the flavor. Plus, this makes it more likely that you’ll get an accidental mouthful of salt. Yuck!
If you can, taste at each stage of your cooking so that you don’t oversalt. This rarely happens, but it’s possible! And, unfortunately, there aren’t many things that can remedy too much salt. The potato trick your grandma swore by? Yeah, it’s pretty much been debunked. The only thing that really cures excess saltiness is adding more food with no salt, essentially doubling your recipe, and that can take time and cause frustration. Avoid this issue by tasting as you go. Some also recommend salting with your fingers from a height of at least 10 inches. This ensures even distribution and gives you more control, preventing oversalting.
Use different salts at different times to add depth and complexity to a dish. Salts vary in coarseness, saltiness, and taste. Using several varieties of salt at different times can add dimension to your food! For example, you can season a steak with finely grated salt before cooking but finish the dish with a slightly larger, coarser grain of salt. Your mouth will dissolve the smaller grains of salt first, then will encounter the coarser salt, resulting in layers of flavor and a unique experience!
How to Salt Meat
All of the tips that we outlined above can be applied generally to any meal that you’re cooking, but if you’re working with a specific type or cut of meat, there are more specific guidelines to follow. Salting your meat is incredibly important because the salt actually helps the meat retain moisture. When done correctly, this results in juicy, succulent meat every time.
As Oliver Schwaner-Albright explains in his Food and Wine Magazine article The Juicy Secret to Seasoning Meat, chefs have been divided over the question of when to salt your meat. Some chefs believe that you should only salt meat right before cooking and that you should never let meat sit for more than a few minutes after salting. However, others believe that you should only salt meat in advance and never cook meat before waiting, at a minimum, one hour after salting, though many chefs prefer to wait up to one day. So, what’s the best method?
Well, the verdict is in! According to Schwaner-Albright, who tried both methods on chicken, lamb, pork, and steak, the difference is noticeable when compared side by side. He found that chicken and lamb each taste best when they are salted in advance, at least one hour but no more than one day ahead of time. However, pork and steak taste best when they are salted immediately before cooking.
How to Salt Vegetables
As stated earlier, small amounts of salt help meat retain water. However, this is not true with vegetables! Some vegetables do the opposite when they are salted and can cause your dish to become watery. Luckily, there’s an easy solution for this. If you are cooking a vegetable that retains a lot of water, like zucchini, eggplant, or tomatoes, you can salt and drain them before cooking. Yes, this adds one step to your meal prep, but the effort is worth it and it’s a simple step. Simply slice your vegetables or chop or grate them as directed. Then, sprinkle them with a small amount of plain salt. Let the vegetables rest for about ten minutes, then gently dry them with a paper towel. Sometimes it is necessary to repeat this method on both sides, particularly if you are working with larger slices. When you’re finished, cook and season the vegetables according to your recipe and enjoy!
Now that you’ve got the low-down on salt, it’s time to try out these techniques in your own kitchen! Check out some of our featured recipes for Discoveries at the Jungle: Salt or visit our recipe archive to browse all of our recipes, then get cooking! We’d love to see what you create. Post your finished dish on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, tag us, and add the hashtags #DiscoveriesattheJungle and #JungleJims!