A chef friend of mine once told me that people always ask him how he makes his food taste so good and why they can’t seem to replicate his recipes at home, even when they know all the ingredients. “You’re probably not using enough salt,” is what he always tells them.
Salt is one of the keys to making delicious food—it has the ability to intensify flavors and help them combine. As I’ve heard chef and writer Samin Nosrat say, “Salt helps food taste more like itself.”
This doesn’t mean you can make a not-so-tasty meal taste good just by adding salt, but, in my experience, correctly salting a dish can be the difference between a mediocre dish and a memorable one.
For the most part, I add salt into a dish when I’m sauteeing or roasting the vegetable or meat portion of the recipe, and then again at the end, when I’m completing a dish. I also sometimes add a pinch of salt to the plated meal—more on that below.
Salts to have on hand in the kitchen:
An everyday fine salt, such as Morton’s, Diamond Crystal, Himalayan pink salt, or my personal preference, Real Salt. These salts are all relatively neutral and are easy to combine into any dish.
A coarse sea salt of some kind, such as Celtic (also known as grey salt or “sel gris”), Fleur de Sel, or Maldon salt—a beautiful pyramid-shaped crystal salt. With a coarser salt, you’ll either want to grind it before adding it into a dish or add it into a dish where there will be enough time and heat for it to dissolve and spread evenly throughout. These salts are great for baking or to use in a mortar and pestle when grinding up other herbs because the coarse texture of this salt facilitates a nice, smooth grind of the herbs. They also have a bit more of their own unique flavor than a standard fine salt.
A finishing salt, such as an herbal salt or a smoked salt. Finishing salts are flavored salts meant to add a final zing to your dish. I like to use just a pinch on top my finished meals before serving. Since I run an herb farm and apothecary, I’m partial to the herb-forward finishing salts we make: a Sage Salt and a seasonal, very-small-batch Ramp Salt. When using a finishing salt on a dish, the heat of the dish releases the flavor and aroma of the herb, adding an herbaceous and mouthwatering final touch. I love using finishing salts on eggs, soups, meats, and roasted vegetable dishes.
Salt is a powerful ingredient that has the power to amp up the flavor of a meal. But beware: It’s virtually impossible to fix an oversalted dish. So when in doubt, add less salt than you think you need—you can always add more later!
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