The ability to use salt effectively while cooking can make or break a meal! I’ve seen Masterchef contestants get booted off the show because they’ve under seasoned, that’s why we have compiled these Three Amazing Salt Facts to Improve Your Cooking
Salt is a fascinating element when used properly. Salt can bring a meal to life by using the right amount at the right time. This magical granule can also bring down all of your best dinner time efforts.
Three Amazing Salt Facts to Improve Your Cooking gives you the essentials of when and how to best use salt to enhance your cooking.
First things first, there’s an elephant in the room. Let’s agree that salt is needed in our diet. We are however, leaving the precise amount to the experts. Done!
Three Amazing Salt Facts |ONE: Uncomplicating Salt
There’s essentially three kinds of salt. Let’s call these simple salts.
- Table Salt
- Kosher Salt
- Sea Salt
Texture is the difference between the three types of salts. And texture is a result of the manufacturing process.
Table Salt crystals have a regular shape due because of how they’re manufactured. Table salt is the most fine of the salt family.
Kosher Salt has a larger crystal and is quite irregular in shape while Sea Salt is the most coarse of these three. Sea Salt is slowly formed by the process of evaporation, which makes the salt appear more like flakes. Sea Salt is also the largest of these three kinds of salt.
The Taste of Salt
Other than additives and impurities (iodine anti-caking agents etc.), the chemical composition of simple salts is the same; sodium chloride.
If you were cooking a stew for instance, any of the simple salts could be used resulting in the same taste. The trick is to understand the differences between them. We have already discussed the physical size and textures, so let’s see how this works in the kitchen.
Salts are the Same But Different!
Let’s say a recipe asks for 1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt and you have only regular Table Salt or Sea Salt on hand.
You can’t simply replace it with the same amount of salt in a different format, the result could be too salty or not salty enough.
Here’s why salts are different:
Due to the difference in salt texture, one tea spoon of each salt type results in a different amount of salt.
Because Table Salt has the most fine crystals, more can fit in the same area. Sea Salt has the most coarse crystals and will have the least density per teaspoon, with Kosher Salt being between the two.
Substituting Between Salts:
While each brand of Table, Kosher and Sea Salts will vary in crystal size, just knowing about density can help your cooking.
This simple example demonstrates the results of our experiments:
One teaspoon of Table Salt when weighed, was the same as 1 ½ teaspoons of Kosher Salt or 2 teaspoons of the more coarse Sea Salt.
Three Three Amazing Salt Facts | TWO: How to Use Salt
It’s best to sprinkle coarse salts by hand, between the thumb and fingers. Make sure your fingers are dry, then pinch some salt between them and drop from a height. If you sprinkle too low, it may end up being in concentrated areas.
Use table salt with a spoon to the recipe specified dose.
If you pinch a dose of table salt, you could easily double the amount of salt added which could ruin the dish. Think cakes or other more delicate food which just needs a tiny amount to balance things up.
And look carefully at the container, sugar, and table salt look similar while in a rush!
When to Use Salt: Three Amazing Salt Facts Gets Technical
When should you add salt be during cooking? At the start of the cooking process or the end? This depends on the dish, but there are some simple things to consider.
Adding Salt Early in Cooking (basic seasoning)
Adding salt at the start of the cooking process allows the salt to penetrate and season it well. It is the perfect time to add salt to a beef stew or vegetable soup. Expertly seasoned and great tasting meals are the result.
In this scenario, if you salt towards the end of cooking with the same amount of salt, the result will not be as good. Adding the salt late will not allow it to penetrate the meat of vegetables, results in under-seasoned meat and gravy or soup which is too salty.
Adding Salt Late in Cooking (showtime seasoning)
There are times where it’s better to add salt later in cooking, we call this showtime seasoning. Choose to add salt later in cooking to enhance the flavor close to eating time. Doing so adds a special “zing” to the dish and you don’t need all that much to make the meal sing.
There are a few reasons why this works. 1; It doesn’t get time to penetrate the dish, so it contacts the tongue early while eating, enhancing the meal one bite at a time, and 2; because the food is likely to be at the ideal eating temperature.
Oh No! I forgot to add the salt early, now dinner is almost ready – what do I do?
Don’t panic, simply add about ¼ of the amount of salt you should have added at the start of cooking, then season to taste from there. This will avoid it ending up too salty. It’s not as good as adding it early, but at least you won’t ruin the meal completely.
Three Amazing Salt Facts | THREE: How Temperature Affects Saltiness
How much salt is too much salt?
It’s difficult to get a consensus on how much salt is enough, everyone has a horror story of their own to share with either too much or too little. Some people are more sensitive to salt than others and some people like salt more than others, so the answer is not simple. There is something you can do to make sure you don’t over-salt what you’re cooking and it’s all in when you taste it!
How to Check for Seasoning. AKA: Making sure you don’t add too much salt
The answer is simple. It’s all in the temperature. To make sure you don’t over-salt you’re cooking, you NEED to taste it at the temperature it will be served. If you taste while cooking and it’s blistering hot, or it’s cool, you will probably add too much salt and here’s why:
The mouth responds to salt most well when the food is around body temperature (give or take). When the food is cooler by half, you won’t taste the salt as much and will need more before it tastes right. The same is true for if the food is higher than the body temperature, to say double. Again, you will need more salt to taste (which might be TOO much)
So, if you want to test for how salty your soup is, take a spoon of the soup, let it cool enough to be able to rest the spoon on the back of your hand (it should be warm), then taste it. It’s that simple. If you’re crying up your face and contorting in heat stress when testing it straight form the pot, it’s probably too hot and you’ll be on a fast track to over salting the dish.
Live and Let Salt
The easiest way to satisfy everyone with salt is to have a salt shaker or ginger on the table. Then everyone can add showtime salt to their taste. At times, using salt at the table takes an experienced hand too because putting it on a slightly dry steak vs a steak with a lot of juices will affect the immediate showtime salt absorption too. It’s very personal!
Iodised salt is regular salt with the addition of iodine. You can find Iodine in seafood, grains, dairy products, and eggs to name a few. Iodine helps the body make thyroid hormone which is a trace mineral considered important for infant brain development.
Himalayan Rock Salt
Mined in the Punjab region of Pakistan, this ever-popular salt appears with a slight pink hue due to mineral impurities. While it’s often marketed to suggest it has health benefits over other salt, evidence is scarce. As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration has previously ordered a dietary supplement manufacturer to discontinue using unproven claims of health benefits. Marketing is a powerful force, and you can easily find Himalayan Rock Salt to be priced multiple times more per Kg than regular table salt.
Always store salt in a dry place because moisture is the number one enemy to a packet of salt. You’ve seen how it clumps up at the top of salt shakers, that’s moisture. Temperature can fluctuate wildly near a stove, causing moisture absorption as it cools too. It might be convenient to keep it nearby, but if you do, just have a small amount on hand and keep the rest somewhere more stable.