Pinch Of Salt London

My Culinary Adventures

Category: Cooking

Role Of Salt In Cooking

Sodium, in the form of common salt, is one of the essential mineral components of a healthy diet, helping the body to perform vital functions.

A balanced diet is rich in minerals and vitamins and many foods are natural sources of sodium. The percentage of salt we consume from different foods depends on our individual eating habits but typically about 20% of the salt we consume comes from foods that naturally contain salt.

For thousands of years, salt has been used to preserve food and to improve taste. It is also used to as a colour controller, binder, texturiser and fermentation control agent.

Seasoning

First and foremost, salt is used as a seasoning to enhance the taste of food. It makes bland foods such as carbohydrates (bread, pasta, etc) palatable and it helps to bring out the natural flavours in other foods.

 

Preservative

Salt is an important natural preservative and has been used for centuries to preserve meat, fish, dairy products and many other foods. Long before the invention refrigerators slating, like pickling, was used to keep food safe to eat.

Within foods, salt brine dehydrates bacterial cells, alters osmotic pressure and inhibits the development of bacterial growth – making it take longer for food to spoil.

It inhibits the growth of clostridium botulinum, the bacteria responsible for serious food poisoning – botulism. Salt helps to prolong freshness making food safer for longer.

Even with the development of refrigeration, this is an important aid to food hygiene.

Binding Agent

As a binder, salt helps extract the myofibrillar proteins in processed and formed meats binding the meat together and reducing cooking losses. It also increases the solubility of muscle proteins.

In sausage making, stable emulsions are formed when the salt soluble protein solutions coat finely formed globules of fat, providing a binding gel consisting of meat, fat and moisture.

Colour Controller

Salt promotes the development of colour in foods such as ham, bacon and hotdogs. Used with sugar and nitrate or nitrite, salt produces a colour in processed meats which consumers like to see.

Salt enhances the golden colour in bread crust by reducing sugar destruction in the dough and increasing caramelisation.

Texture Aid

As a texture aid, salt strengthens gluten in bread dough, providing uniform grain, texture and dough strength, allowing the dough to expand without tearing.

It improves the tenderness of cured meats such as ham by promoting the binding of moisture by protein. It also gives a smooth, firm texture to processed meats. Salt develops the characteristic rind hardness and helps produced the even consistency in cheese.

Fermentation Control

In baked products, salt controls fermentation by retarding the growth of bacteria, yeast and moulds, preventing wild fermentation. This is important in making a uniform product and reducing the opportunity for harmful bacteria.

Within cheese, salt helps to assure the dominance of the desired flora, controls the rate of lactic acid fermentation, aiding the development of flavouring, body and texture. In cheeses like stilton, for example, this is largely responsible for the taste and texture.

by Salt Association

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Types of Salt and How to Use Them

Knowing the difference between Kosher and sea salt can make a world of difference in your dishes. Here, six easy-to-find varieties, with tips on when and where to sprinkle them.Kosher Salt

Use it for: All cooking. Kosher salt dissolves fast, and its flavor disperses quickly, so chefs recommend tossing it on everything from pork roast to popcorn.

Origin: Either the sea or the earth. Widely sold brands include Morton and Diamond Crystal, which are made using different methods. Kosher salt got its name because its craggy crystals make it perfect for curing meat―a step in the koshering process.

Texture: Coarse. Cooks prize crystals like these; their roughness makes it easy to pinch a perfect amount.

To buy: Look in your local supermarket. Kosher salts cost about $1 a pound. If you don’t mind a few clumps, buy Diamond Crystal; it has no anticaking agents, which can leave a chemical aftertaste.

Crystalline Sea Salt

Use it for: Adding a pungent burst of flavor to just-cooked foods. These crystals will complement anything from a fresh salad to a salmon fillet.

Origin: Coasts from Portugal to Maine, California to the Pacific Rim.

Texture: Fine or coarse. The size of the irregular crystals affects how fast the salt dissolves. It varies in color, depending on the minerals it contains (iron-rich red clay, for example, gives Hawaiian sea salt a pinkish hue). These natural impurities can add subtly briny, sweet, or even bitter flavors to the salts.

To buy: Check gourmet shops or on-line (thespicehouse.com stocks Hawaiian sea salt). Expect to pay $2 to $15 or more a pound. Many markets sell La Baleine, a relatively inexpensive brand ($3 for 26.5 ounces).

Flaked Sea Salt

Use it for: Bringing a complex flavor to steamed vegetables or shellfish. Take a pinch, crush the crystals between your fingertips, and let them fall on freshly cooked food. This salt will add a hint of briny flavor.

Origin: England’s Essex coast is where the most popular brand, Maldon, is harvested.

Texture: Soft, sheer, pyramid-like flakes. This is the fastest-dissolving of all of the salt grains.

To buy: Search specialty-food stores and the Internet. You’ll pay $6 for 8.5 ounces at chefshop.com.

Fleur de Sel

Use it for: A special-occasion table salt. Spoon it into a salt cellar to be pinched, then sprinkled over food just before eating. Delicately flavored, it adds a perfect hint of saltiness to freshly sliced tomato or melon.

Origin: Coastal salt ponds in France. The caviar of sea salt, fleur de sel is hand harvested. Conditions have to be just right (lots of sun and wind) for it to “bloom” like a flower on the surface of the water.

Texture: Crystalline, which means that fleur de sel melts slowly in the mouth. Its earthy, pleasing flavor lingers on the tongue.

To buy: Search specialty-food stores and the Internet (try chefshop.com). From $11 for 4.4 ounces to $45 for 35 ounces.

Rock Salt

Use it for: Making ice cream and deicing. Rock salt is paired with ice in old-fashioned hand-cranked ice cream makers to regulate the temperature. You can also use it to deice your sidewalks and driveway in the winter months.

Origin: Mined from deposits in the earth, rock salt is not sold for use directly on food. It’s usually packaged in an organic, unprocessed form.

Texture: Large, chunky, nonuniform crystals. Minerals and other harmless impurities can give it a grayish color.

To buy: It’s sold in supermarkets and hardware and home stores for less than $1 a pound.

Pickling Salt

Use it for: Brining pickles and sauerkraut. It will also brine a turkey, but beware: Pickling salt is far more concentrated than the more commonly used kosher salt, so you’ll need to use less.

Origin: Like table salt, pickling salt may come from the earth or the sea. But unlike table salt, it isn’t fortified with iodine (a nutritional need for humans) and doesn’t contain anticaking chemicals, both of which would turn pickles an unappetizing color. Virtually 100 percent sodium chloride, it’s the purest of salts.

Texture: This variety is fine grained, like table salt.

To buy: Many supermarkets sell it in large boxes or bags, but it can be hard to find in cities. It costs less than $1 a pound. 

Source: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/six-types-salt

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