Gadgets: Himalayan Salt Plate from Serious Salt
Himalayan rock salt on its own is most certainly not a gadget. But what about an entire slab of it? Sur La Table thinks it counts, so I gave the heavy rock a whirl. Given its strong ability to retain heat, the Himalayan Salt Plate ($40 at Sur La Table) can be used on the stovetop, the grill top, or in the oven—but maybe it's best to keep it in the freezer, where it becomes the perfect serving platter for sushi or gelato.
Depending on how you see things, the salt slab as a concept is either extremely gimmicky or kind of cool. It imparts flavor to the food it cooks—and that flavor is more robust than you'd expect. It's not just salty, since there are a slew of other minerals mixed into rock salt that add a little extra funk. But no matter which way you look at it, it's still a block of salt, and the practicality of that is definitely questionable.
For one thing, you can't cover it with a pot lid when cooking stove-top. You might also find yourself worried that everything you put on its surface will somehow end up directly on your stove, since there are no walls to contain things. Cooking vegetables and frying up eggs is no problem, and fish or cubes of meat are fine, but there were definitely moments where I felt the need to fashion a faux-lid to speed things along on the stove. That's helped when cooking on the grill, since food will just fall onto the racks it'd be on otherwise, and grill lids won't have any problem confining the slab's surface.
When it came to speed, I was impressed. Side-by-side time trials proved that the salt slab heated up a bit faster than my Calphalon stainless steel pans (despite the variant thickness), and the aforementioned eggs and veggies cooked marginally faster on the slab as well. Cleaning is confusing: the stone can change colors with heat, but that doesn't account for the charring that some foods leave behind. Scrubbing and water are allowed, but at a minimum (as to not erode or warp the surface), and since salt is naturally antibacterial, it's more of an aesthetic issue than a hygienic one. I doubt I'm alone in liking my gadgets to wind up as clean as they started, though.
If you serve ice cream on the frozen slab, expect it to be slightly salty. Think Häagen-Dazs's caramel ice cream could be better served by some savory flavors? Yes, please—it's a great solution.
But what to do when the stone cracks? Mine had a natural fault that, with time and heat, became deep enough to turn into a deep crack. Sur La Table insisted it was a rare occasion and allowed the exchange, and when I head down with my two uneven halves, I'm not sure I'll choose to replace it with another. If I do, though, I'll keep the pretty stone intact and use it primarily as a serving plate.