How to add salt: ask the experts

  • Updated: February 12, 2014 - 2:18 PM

We asked the pros for techniques to help home cooks season with salt more efficiently. Warning: You won’t find total consensus, but the experts we spoke with do agree that proper use of salt results in food that tastes more like itself, not food that tastes salty.

From Rutgers University nutrition professor Paul Breslin:

• We can best taste sodium (ions) when dissolved in water.

• A fine salt will yield greater salty flavor on your tongue than larger salt crystals. Test that by placing 1/2 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt on your tongue, then spit it out. Repeat using the same volume of fine-grained salt. You’ll feel the large crystals, but they won’t register as salty as the fine salt.

From cookbook author Dorie Greenspan:

• Before you can learn to season with salt, it’s good to taste and see whether you have preferences. Taste as many salts as you can, either by sprinkling the salt over a piece of bread spread with unsalted butter or over slices of raw cucumber, carrot or celery.

• Taste, taste, taste, and remember to season early and often as you cook. The salt you add during cooking has a different (deeper, more penetrating) effect from the salt you add to finish a dish. Every ingredient that goes into a dish should be seasoned; think of it as layering. And you should taste, if not at every stage, then toward the end for sure.

• Remember to use salt in baking. Just like savories, sweets need to be “seasoned.” Without it, you’re not getting all the flavor that’s possible from ingredients such as butter, brown sugar, caramel and chocolate, among others.

From University of Pittsburgh chemistry professor emeritus Robert L. Wolke:

• Bake with unsalted butter; 4 ounces (one stick) of salted butter can contain up to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

• Bake with kosher salt or sea salt instead of iodized table salt; the ions in some potassium iodide (in table salt) can be oxidized to form iodine, and that can create an acrid flavor.


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