Salt is such an essential and commonplace ingredient that we often take its role in cooking for granted, but paying attention to its varieties, nuances in flavor, and taste-altering properties can help you make even the most ordinary meals extraordinary. Consider these details to enhance your cooking with a pinch of salt.
The Key to Salting Correctly
If you’re cooking meat or vegetables, salting the food before cooking can bring out their juices and moisture, ensuring tender, juicy results. For hearty meats like steak, this process can take some time, so you might want to salt the meat and let it rest for 40 minutes or more. Cooking the meat immediately after salting can actually yield the opposite effect and dry it out. For many dishes, that initial seasoning isn’t the only occasion to add salt, so it’s helpful to taste your soups, sauces, and other meals as they cook (excluding raw meat, of course). You should also consider the other seasonings that are in play and add them before salting too much. The idea is to strike a balance among all the flavors. In the end, taste is subjective, so keeping a salt shaker on the table allows everyone to season the food to their liking once dinner is served.
Salty Yet Sweet
While it might not seem likely with salt’s own inherent bitterness, a little bit of salt can bring out the sweetness of sugary treats. Adding salt to your dessert can actually make it taste sweeter thanks to sodium’s ability to suppress compounds that typically taste bitter on our palates. Enhancing sweetness isn’t the only amazing way salt interacts with strong flavors, as it can mellow the impact of inherently bitter foods as well. If you pair a thoroughly salted cut of meat with an acidic beverage, the salt can bring balance to its bitterness for a brighter flavor.
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