Just as the different varieties of salt are as abundant as the seas, so, too, are the different uses for salt. Salt should never be an afterthought—but rather an accompaniment to your dish, dessert—even your drink! If only everything in life could be so versatile.
The goal behind adding salt to a dish should not be to make it taste salty—instead, the addition of salt should be to draw out the natural flavors and qualities of the dish. A marked difference exists between food that is seasoned and food that is salted—where seasoned food is the clear champion between the two.
Refined table salt is a notorious afterthought in cuisine. You grab the shaker and unleash the processed granules on your food in furious dashes until all you can taste on your tongue is salt. And we know salt is good, and sometimes that salty taste can be satisfying, but this is not the kind of experience your taste buds are really asking you for when you crave salt. Your taste buds want more—they want well-seasoned food, not salted food.
The salts we provide at Beyond the Shaker are not afterthoughts. Our salts have a purpose: to add depth to—and expand the flavor of—your food. These salts should be with you every step of the way in the kitchen and through the cooking process—from preparation to presentation of a dish.
The rules to using salt to season are pretty simple. In fact, there is only really one: season as you go. Be engaged with your dish through every step of the process. Constantly taste it to become familiar with the palette and aroma, and season with salt as your taste buds see fit.
In fact, the amount of salt you add to a dish to season really is something completely unique to you. It is not something that can be taught or even measured as all of our taste buds are different. Your process of salting to taste really is entirely yours.
Seasoning as you go will result in a well-balanced, seasoned taste to your dish. The intentional and deliberate incorporation of salt into the dish will shine through—and your taste buds will thank you.
We don't want to make it seem as though adding salt to a dish after it has been prepared is a culinary crime. Plenty of natural and unrefined salts work best when added before serving—usually referred to as finishing salts—and we love them for it.
The Beyond the Shaker Garlic Shallot, for example, is always good for an extra kick on grilled vegetables. And some of the prettier salts (not that all salts aren't pretty in their own special way), like our Murray River salt—with its beautiful pink hue and crunchy, mineral flavor—not only add a nice flavor but also an attractive look sprinkled on salad greens or a baked potato. You have to appreciate salt that tastes good and looks good.
Proteins and salt seem to go hand in hand. The salting of meat for preservation purposes dates back to ancient China and Egypt, and astonishingly it has lasted thousands of years and is still practiced in modern times. But maybe it's not so astonishing—if you have a good thing going, why stop? And salting proteins is a very good thing (though you do want to be careful with fish).
Using any of our sea salts will do the trick. Before cooking, sprinkle evenly over your proteins and rub it in gently so it can permeate the surface. And never be afraid to experiment—using a blended or flavored salt as a rub for your proteins will always produce surprisingly tasty results.
For most meat dishes, you can salt around 24 to 36 hours before you intend to prepare it. This is sometimes referred to as "dry brining." Salting early will help preserve the meat, just in case you aren't ready to prepare it right that moment, and will also ensure that the salt is infused and distributed evenly throughout the meat.
It is widely thought that salting early will dry the meat out, but science is on our side with this one: the salt does, in fact, draw out the juices of the meat, but the juices are then reabsorbed back into the meat (along with some salty goodness), resulting in a flavorful, succulent dish. And because early salting will also slightly dry out the surface of your meat, it will help the outside brown perfectly.
Use larger—and harder—granule salt for dishes that have longer cooking times to ensure it dissolves in time. You can also use a salt grinder with these types of salt to make the granules finer.
Believe it or not, fish—and other salt-water creatures—can be very sensitive to salt. Living a life swimming in it will do that to you, perhaps. Unlike meat, you don't want to salt fish early as it may actually harm the fish and affect the flavor negatively. Adding salt right before you prepare your fish or other formerly salt-water-dwelling main course will suffice.
When it comes to freshwater fish—fish that come from lakes and rivers—you can bend the fish rules a bit to satisfy your flavor needs. Plus, you can also prepare sauces or toppings with your favorite salt to accompany your fish after it has been cooked—which is a sure-fire way to make sure your fish dish is flavorful.
We all love our vegetables, but we all really love our vegetables with a little extra flavor, too—and salt definitely provides that to us. Even brussel sprouts can be tasty if split, salted, and broiled (we like to use our Black Truffle Wet Salt on our brussel sprouts—pure deliciousness!)
Vegetables with high water content do well with salting a couple hours before cooking—such as peppers and eggplants. With these types of vegetables, the salt can be outweighed by the amount of water, so adding it early will ensure that it is absorbed throughout.
Also, if you are boiling any type of green vegetable, heavily salted water will go a long way to promote flavor. Since the vegetables already contain water, they will not be likely to absorb a lot of water when boiling—so salted water will leave a seasoned trace after the veggies are done boiling.
In general, foods that don't have high water content—such as rice or pasta—should be lightly salted since they will absorb the water—and the salt.
Salt is essential to our health and, luckily for us, a way to enhance the flavor of the foods that we eat.
Salt is one of the commonly-recognized five basic tastes that humans can sense. The basic tastes—salty, bitter, sour, sweet, and savory (or umami)—are received through our taste buds and contribute tremendously to the entire process of experiencing food. (To learn more about the five basic tastes, click here).
Salt helps maintain our health and basic functions as humans. The absorption of potassium, the stimulation of salivation, the balance of our body's fluids, and the transportation of nutrients to our cells and energy to our muscles are among its many accomplishments in our own bodies. Bottom line: We need salt to survive.
Using natural and unrefined salts in our diets is a way for us to replenish our bodies' needs. For this reason, we have developed a very keen taste for it to ensure we have plenty of salt to keep us going day in and day out.
Often in our modern diets, we have translated this need and desire for salt into a craving for processed foods high in refined sodium. Processed foods do not do salt's many wonderful qualities any justice, but merely provide us with a highly salty taste—not to mention causing or exacerbating potential health problems.
We have a wide array of processed foods available to us, and consuming large amounts of these products—and, invariably, large amounts of processed, refined sodium—may have negative effects on our health. The use of sodium in processed foods, though, is more of an abuse of salt: it negates all of its healthful benefits for the purpose of giving packaged food a longer shelf life as well as giving food the guise of being "flavorful" simply because it is "salty."
Salt shouldn't make food "salty," though—its real benefit is that it enhances, draws out, and intensifies the flavors of a dish. The premium, unrefined salts at Beyond the Shaker fulfill this purpose of flavor and satisfy our need and want for salt in a nourishing way: they are, by volume, generally lower in sodium as compared to refined, table salts, higher in flavor, and on a mission to excite your taste buds.