Salt In The Kitchen

Cooking - Salt In The Kitchen

Salt, a very important ingredient in cooking has two basic ions- sodium and chloride, which easily penetrate food because of their smallness. Its types vary in color, shape, and size as well as in mineral content, texture, and taste delivery. It is therefore imperative that one has basic knowledge of salts to enable him to make the right choice for his kitchen.

Basically, three major types of edible salts exist:

  • Unrefined salt – a sea salt with no chemical additives.
  • Refined salt – a rock salt with added folic acid, potassium, chloride and some edible chemicals that prevent caking.
  • Iodized salt – a refined table salt with iodine added to protect against thyroid issues like goiter, slow metabolism etc.

Within these major groups are many different choices:

  • Kosher salt: large-grained with a clean, bright taste and no additives except for its Morton brand which has an anti-caking agent. Its flavor and large grain make for easy pinching – a quality that helps control the quantity of salt that is added to food.
  • Table salt: fine-grained with added chemicals; made in factories.
  • Sea salt: usually appear in either large or fine crystal; made by evaporating sea water.
  • Flavor salt: a sea salt to which flavors have been added.
  • Grey salt: a hand-harvested sea salt that is naturally high in trace elements such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Hawaiian salt: a sea salt that is harvested from the waters off Hawaiian coastlines.

Some common ways of using salt

  • Balances brain fluids.
  • Preserves food.
  • Cleans dishwares and ovens.

Salting tips

Salt once added cannot be subtracted. Stock/sauce left to simmer for long gets increasingly more salty as it reduces. There is, therefore, need to apply utmost caution viz:

  • When making sauce or gravy, be very light-handed with salt until you taste at the end.
  • When cooking pasta, add plenty of salt to the water. This draws out the flavor making the pasta taste like the sea.
  • Brine meat to help it retain moisture while letting the liquid infuse; gives more tender and favorable meat.
  • Pre-salt cuts of meat to tenderize tougher ones. The meat is more palatable.
  • Salt meat like chicken and lamb 24 hours before cooking; comes out tastiest.
  • Salt meat like pork just before cooking. This way, the salt does not draw out juices thereby making the surface wet and difficult to brown.
  • Add salt to the water when blanching vegetables to add flavor.
  • Watery vegetables like eggplants which are prone to bitterness should be disgorged { slice or grate them; sprinkle a thin layer of salt on one side; allow to stand for 10 – 15 minutes}. If the vegetable is sliced, flip over and salt the other side too. Drain away and/or blot out any excess liquid or salt. This takes care of the bitterness.
  • Salt vegetables before roasting so as to enhance their flavor and play down the bitterness.
  • Salt steamed vegetable with the smallest bit of salt after steaming. This way, its inherent sweetness, and flavor is drawn out.
  • Salt grains and legumes when nearly cooked, as early salting toughens them.
  • In sautéing mushrooms, salt at the end. These guards against the possibility of drawing out water thereby inhibiting the desired brown, crispy surface.

Some salt brands and their one teaspoon equivalence of table salt:

  • Maldon sea salt –  2 teaspoons (3.5grams)
  • La Baleine. – 1 teaspoon (7.25grams)
  • Morton coarse kosher salt –  25 teaspoons (5.8grams)
  • Fleur de sel –  25 teaspoons (5.9grams)

How best to store salt?

Storage life for salt is indefinite so long as it is not contaminated. Although it is not perishable but serves better if served fresh, it should be stored as it is, away from rodents, dirt, and toxic substances using waterproof, air-tight containers.

If it absorbs water from the atmosphere, it should be dried and crushed again.

Salts that have been flavored with herb, if exposed to air, can diminish in flavor. Such salts should be opened only when needed.

Iodized salt may, with time, turn yellow. It is still harmless and may still be used.

Common salts used in the kitchen

  • Table salt is best for brining and bulk seasoning because the fine and tiny crystals dissolve easily and penetrate deeply into the food.
  • Coarse sea salt with chunky crystals is perfect for red meat as it creates a crust on the meat.
  • Finer kosher salt does well as finishing salt. It is also excellent when cooking whole fish or game birds in a salt crust.
  • Morton’s sea salt with its fine delicate flakes is very good for roasts.
  • The finer version of the La Belaine brand is an excellent choice for baking as it dissolves in very little liquids.
  • Iodized salt is great for people that don’t have seafood in their diet and maybe iodine-deficient.
  • Red Hawaiian salt is excellent on pork.
  • Fleur de sel is added as a finishing salt to many different dishes like salads, fish, meat, desserts, fruits, and vegetables at the absolute last second, serving to give the dish that little extra pop just before it is consumed.
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