"Chefs and cooks tell me that I should be seasoning my food in stages as I go, but what's the difference between doing that and just adding salt at the table with a salt shaker?" We test it and find out.
'salt' on Serious Eats
How much salt should you add to your pasta-cooking water? A batch of taste tests provide a useful range while proving a common tip dead wrong.
Kitchen lore says that pre-salting eggs creates a rubbery texture. We decided to give it a test and find out the truth.
The combination is simple: Cynar and Punt e Mes, a little lemon juice and orange bitters, finished with salt on top of the ice. The mixture is rich, at times sweet and others tart and sometimes tongue-curlingly bitter.
Salt—it's not just for margaritas any more. Bartenders have long understood that a few drops of bitters go a long way toward 'rounding out' the rough edges of a drink, and now they've figured out that a tiny amount of salt can create the same magic. Today, we look at some of the hows and whys as we explore how a few tiny grains can up the flavor of your favorite mixed drinks.
"More and more I see recipes specifying kosher(ing) salt or sea salt in recipes. I'm all for using gourmet ingredients but Serious Eats even proposes using sea salt to preserve Meyer lemons! Does there remain any use for which the much more affordable regular American-style iodized salt is preferred, or should I just use what I have left and only stock the higher-end stuff?"
"I love these salts because they taste like the Northeast," Daniel Humm, executive chef of Eleven Madison Park, says of Amagansett Sea Salt. "I use them as a finishing salt on vegetables, cut meat surfaces—everything." Quite an endorsement for this small-production salt farm, started in 2009 by Steven and Natalie Judelson.
As a bartender scattered kosher salt on the top surface of a lemony gin sour at an event recently, a waiting patron gasped. "What is that?" she said. "Sugar?" Nope. It was salt, and I didn't bat an eye, because lately I've been seeing a ton of salted cocktails coming from the country's top bartenders. And I'm not talking about salt in Bloody Marys or other naturally savory drinks, either—I mean juicy, fresh, slightly-sweet cocktails like classic sours and aperitifs, with a pinch of salt or a few drops of saline solution. Sure, folks have salted the rims of their margaritas forever, but salt in cocktails has now moved into the glass.
Olive-sized kumquats have an edible peel that's sweet while the flesh is tart. A hearty muddling brings out the oils from their skin as well as the juice from their flesh, bringing that tartness that's key to a balanced margarita.
Over the past three weeks, we've seen the science behind how salt works, the value of specialty salt, and the incredible variety of flavored salts. If your appetite's whetted and you've purchased some specialty salt of your own, this week's Salt Mining is devoted to making your salty investment work best for you.
The jury may be out on the human tongue's ability to negotiate the subtle differences of specialty sea salts—though I think we definitely can—but there's no doubt in my mind about the whizz-bang effect of flavored salts. I say "flavored" because this broad category of salts delivers powerful flavors, be they minerals, infused ingredients, or special cooking methods. When I'm shelling out for specialty salt, these are the crystals I'm most likely to reach for.
If some are to be believed, any cook worth his or her ... well ... salt has at least one or two specialty sea salts in the cupboard. Others will tell you this is all balderdash, that salt is salt, and the difference in flavor between specialty salts is too subtle for us to taste. So what's a cook to believe?
At Serious Eats we have a thing for our salt. And rightly so. Salt is pretty awesome stuff, at the very core of what so much of cooking is about. For the next few weeks, Spice Hunting will be Salt Mining, an exploration of the enormous breadth of culinary salts available to cooks. Along the way we'll take a nod to science, dispel some myths, and consider why salt is one of the most important edible substances on Earth.
There was so much seaside goodness along the West Coast that we had to combine several ocean episodes into this one video. Watch as we forage for sea beans in Bodega Bay in Northern California with Hank Shaw of the site Honest Food, dig for a giant clam called a geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) with John Adams and Langdon Cook, and made our own salt with the young chef from Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington.
Like curing meats, the practice of salting duck eggs may have started as a method of preservation, but now salted duck eggs are a delicacy. Salting makes the egg whites dense and almost rubber-eraser-like in appearance, but it's the yolks that are especially prized. There's nothing quite like a good salted duck egg yolk. If properly salted, the duck egg yolks are creamy, granular, and oily all at once—an intriguing textural composition that tastes especially rich and salty.
Yes, you read that correctly. Mark Bitterman is a Selmelier -- a salt expert. He and his wife Jennifer Turner Bitterman, both former New Yorkers, recently opened an NYC branch of The Meadow, a shop they started in Portland, Oregon. This West Village boutique not only carries salt, but chocolate, bitters, syrups, oils and vinegars, or, as the Bittermans like to say, it's "a place where the beautiful, the delicious, and the unexpected are brought together for your pleasure."
Growing up, I thought there was only one kind of salt. It came in a navy blue canister with a picture of a girl carrying an umbrella and the slogan, "When it rains, it pours." It wasn't until my early twenties that I discovered a whole world of salts beyond Morton's. And it was a revelation.
The flavor of this salt is a heady combination of bright citrus, mellow licorice, and serious heat. It would be perfect with chicken, pork, or beef. It would also be a great seasoning for roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or...
This chocolate-covered pretzel toffee is sort of like nut brittle, only with pretzels instead of the nuts and a more intense butter flavor. Oh, and did I mention it's covered with chocolate? And then sprinkled with sea salt? Leftover toffee...
Salt isn't absolutely required to make bread or pizza dough, but without it, breads simply taste flat—even sweet breads. That's reason enough to add it. But there's more: salt also strengthens and tightens the gluten and regulates the activity of yeast. Without any salt, some breads can rise unpredictably.