Six tips to learn how to handle salt both while cooking and your dish:
1. Like seawater
Many ask how to salt the water for cooking pasta: essentially, to taste.
In the sense that we should look for the flavour which feels right to us. In absolute terms, we could say it should have the taste of seawater.
In general, when we happen to taste it, seawater is neither too salty nor too bland. That is the flavour we would want in a broth or a soup.
2. The amount of salt you would add to your own dish is the right amount
When the moment comes to salt a roast or a stew, many start panicking. The right approach is to imagine the roast in our own plate, as if it were a very large escalope that we’re about to eat: how much salt would we put on a tasteless escalope? That’s the right amount of salt, to be added to both sides of the roast.
3. If you stimulate the taste buds, the rest will follow
Bear in mind that when you season a roast or a stew, the salt won’t remain on the roast during cooking, but will dilute in the juices which will cook the meat. If you were to taste the cooking juices which will then become the sauce, you would notice they are too salty for your taste. The salt you add to the surface of the roast immediately melts with the cooking juices: the meat absorbs the salt and exudes liquids on the surface, and it is these juices which give the roast’s surface its salty taste. Indeed, if you eat the centre of a slice of roasted meat, you will find it insipid. But when you eat a roast, the surface of the meat will give your taste buds the impulse to perceive the salt flavour, and once the salt taste buds are activated, the rest of the bite will seem savoury as well.
4. Salty, but just on the bottom
Another good example is flank steak. Many of you know that one way to cook it is to place the thin slices of raw beef on a hot plate (150°-180°C) and allow the heat of the ceramic to cook the meat.
Many also know that you should add salt to the base of the plate, and think that the purpose of this is to prevent the raw meat from sticking to the hot plate. In reality, the reason why you should salt the base of the dish is that the side of the meat resting on the salt is the first surface which will come into contact with our tongue. Once the salt taste buds are stimulated, the tongue will perceive as savoury the whole piece. Try an experiment: don’t season the bottom side of the meat, but just the top… and then do the opposite.
5. Season rare meat in the dish…and a little less
When you prepare rare or medium rare meat, only salt it once you’ve carved it and placed it in the plate. Adding salt to the meat while it’s cooking will ruin it, because it will lose more liquids. If instead you season (on the bottom side!) at the last minute, the salt won’t have time to dilute in the cooking juices and will give you a much more intense perception.
6. Salt is water soluble, but not fat soluble
If you season rare meat in your own plate, first with oil and then with salt, the required amount will be even smaller. Indeed, while salt will melt in water, it won’t melt at all if the surface of the meat is coated in oil: salt is water soluble, not fat soluble.
To sum up: carve the meat, season with flavoured oil, garlic and rosemary, and add salt at the end. The savoury perception will be even stronger, and less salt will be needed. The same goes for vegetables as well.
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