MORE ABOUT SALT(s)
In an earlier blog post we began a discussion about SALT. We all understand that salt is one of most basic elements in life, but beyond that, there is a great deal of mystery about where it comes from and how to use it properly in the kitchen. So we thought it would be important at this point to discuss different culinary uses for this most essential of all ingredients.*
Generally, when Professional Chefs talk about seasoning a recipe, they are talking about salt and pepper. If a recipe doesn’t employ salt properly, then the dish hasn’t been properly “seasoned.” No matter how many other herbs or spices you might add to a dish, if it hasn’t been seasoned properly – i.e. if it hasn’t been properly salted - the flavors will never reach their full potential. And sprinkling salt on top when a dish reaches the table will not solve the problem. It will only make the dish taste “salty.”
Many Professional Chefs choose Kosher salt for their recipes, as it binds well with other seasonings during the actual cooking process. They may then highlight the flavors they have created by adding a final touch of “finishing” salt, almost as an accessory to their finished recipes. If you decide to use Kosher salt, we suggest you choose a diamond crystal Kosher. This is a flaky salt that dissolves more readily than more coarse salts.
It’s important to salt any uncured meat before cooking. When grilling, meat should be salted (and allowed to stand for a few minutes) before it hits the heat. Whether grilling, browning, braising, or roasting, Rule #1 is to properly season your meat before you begin. This releases the meat’s juices, and allows the natural flavors to develop more fully. (One note: after cooking meat, always let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices that have been released during cooking to be reabsorbed.)
The key to successful recipes is to use salt in ‘doses’ – add a ‘dose’ of salt at each step of the cooking process. For example, when making Bolognese sauce, season the vegetables and meat before cooking; then add a “dose” of salt along with your tomato sauce. Taste the sauce throughout the cooking process to test your seasonings. And before serving, do one last “seasoning check.” Again, it’s important to remember to add salt in small doses during the cooking process.
You’re probably asking, “What is a dose of salt.” That’s the unscientific term we use in our kitchen at MorningStar. Generally, a “dose” of salt is a large “pinch” – or two, or three. To be more precise, at the beginning of a recipe, a dose would be about ½ to 1 teaspoon, depending on ingredients and size of recipe. A smaller ‘dose’ would be between ¼ and ½ teaspoon. And if you’ve properly seasoned your dish during the cooking process, a final dose before serving might really be just a ‘pinch.’ No matter how you define it, remember three things: 1). Add salt in small doses. 2). Check your seasonings during the cooking process. And 3). Do a final taste test before serving.
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*Please note: As with most things, salt should be used in moderation. If you and your doctor have determined that you should reduce your salt intake, or cut out salt altogether, please keep that in mind when you start to season your recipes!