The featured recipe for this week is Brined Poultry that is cooked in the air Fryer Oven. I thought this would be a good time to talk about salt. My post today was inspired by my niece who made one of my recipes (Air Fried Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings) and substituted the kosher salt for Himalayan Pink salt not realizing all salt is NOT considered equal when it comes to weight or sodium. Her substitution ended up making her chicken so salty she could not eat it. When a recipe calls for a certain type of salt a simple switch is not always prudent. Today’s post is long but so worth the read! I will break down the differences in of various salts and when they should be used and how salt should really be measured when cooking.
A Little History on Salt
Did you for you know that Salt is one of the most important tools in your kitchen? Salt is the fundamental ingredient in understanding the history of civilization precisely because it enabled us to preserve food, thousands of years before refrigeration and transportation made food accessible. It allowed food to travel long distances, either as goods to trade or as sustenance for long voyages in world exploration.
Salt was once more valuable than precious metals; men were paid with it. Additionally, salt is the only rock that we eat. More often than not if there is something wrong with a dish it comes down to either it has too little or too much salt. How to salt food is the most important thing to know in the kitchen. Because our bodies need salt to survive, our palates have become highly attuned to salt. We like it, but we also sense when there is too much.
Now that our contemporary diet relies to such an extent on processed food, where sodium hides out in many forms, often unnoticed by our tongues, the side effects of consuming too much salt, namely hypertension, can lead to a number of serious problems and have become a national concern.
There are so many reasons to avoid eating processed foods – foods that come in brightly colored bags and sealed in microwave ready plastic- and their high sodium content is one. If you do not have a pre-existing problem with high blood pressure and if you eat natural foods – foods that aren’t heavily processed- you can salt your food to whatever level tastes good to you without worrying about health concerns.
The Default Salt: Course Kosher
The primary reason that I like using this type of salt is that it is best measured with your fingers and eyes, not measuring spoons. Coarse salt is easier to hold and easier to control than fine salt. Salting is an inexact skill, meaning there is no way to describe in words how much salt to use in any given dish. Instead, it’s up to the cook, a matter of taste. Also, people’s salt preferences differ, given one’s experience and expectations of saltiness. So always salt to taste. In my posted recipes, I include a measurement for salt, but it’s only a general reference, or an order of magnitude – a teaspoon not a tablespoon. Additionally, it is a suggested measurement for the type of salt listed. You may need to add more or less. How do you know? Taste the food. I love watching Gordon Ramsey. When food is about to go out of the kitchen he always tastes it. When it’s not right he storms back into the kitchen and yells “Taste this! Did you season this”? He is constantly yelling at his chefs “Did you taste this”?
Because you should salt your food throughout the cooking process, it only makes practical sense that you would measure with your fingers. If you have to use a measuring spoon every time you need to add salt, you would drive yourself crazy.
Learn to season by feel and by sight. It will make cooking easier. If you pay attention, you will soon learn how much a teaspoon of salt is by looking at it. Measure out a teaspoon of course salt and hold it in the palm of your hand, get to know what a loose teaspoon full looks like. Try picking up as much salt as possible between your four fingers and your thumb. Measure it. Pick up as much salt between three fingers and your thumb. Measure it. Now you know how much salt you’re adding and don’t have to dig around for measuring spoons. Your favorite kitchen gadget should be at the end of your arms.
It’s important to use the same brand of salt; otherwise you won’t be able to teach yourself how to season consistently. Diamond Crystal is flakier than Morton’s. Morton’s is denser, so that same volume is saltier than Diamond Crystal; a tablespoon of Morton’s weighs more. If you’re use to seasoning with one brand and you switch to another you may be over or under salting your food.
DO NOT USE Iodized SALT. It has a chemical taste that’s not good for your food. Salt companies began adding potassium iodide to salts in the 1920’s to prevent iodine deficiencies, which can lead to serious thyroid problems. This is no longer a concern in developed countries. If you eat a relatively balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to worry about your thyroid, and you certainly don’t want the unpleasant flavor in your food. Don’t use regular, granulated table salt, for the same reason; it has additives that don’t taste good.
Other Kinds of Salt
In addition to ordinary sea salt, which may contain trace mineral elements, numerous “finishing” salts are now widely available, such as fleur de sel (harvested in France) and Maldon salt (harvested in England). Himalayan pink salt (not to be confused with tinted curing salt), black salt from India, smoked salts and salts infused with flavors (plum, truffle, saffron, vanilla, mushrooms). My favorites are fleur de sel and Maldon which have a fresh, clean flavor and a lovely delicate crunch; they add flavor, visual appeal, and textural pleasure to foods. They tend to be expensive, so you would not want to use them in cooking, only as a finishing garnish. These are a matter of taste; if you are into specialty salts, there are plenty to explore. Just remember, garnishing salts and kosher salt for cooking should be thought of as two different entities entirely. I have added a salt weight and comparison chart so that you can see what you can compare the various salts.
Comparison of weight in grams for 1 level tablespoon
Iodized table salt 14g.
Fine grind Himalayan pink salt 12g.
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes 7g.
Morton Course Kosher Salt 18g.
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 6g.
Kosher salt is much lower in sodium per volume measure than table salt. Correction, SOME coarse kosher salt is much lower in sodium. But you’ll have to look at the nutrition label.
Comparison of ¼ teaspoon salt sodium mg.
Iodized table salt 590 mg.
Fine grind Himalayan pink salt 425 mg.
Morton Coarse Kosher Salt 480 mg.
Sea salts 390 mg.
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 280 mg.
11 Tips for Cooking with Salt
- Salt throughout the cooking process
Salt heightens flavors across the board, morning, noon and night from savory to sweet. It should be the first thing that you think about once you’re organized and begin cooking. Begin salting immediately. When you first throw onions into the pan to sweat, follow them with a little salt, which both seasons them and helps begin to draw out moisture and get them cooking. When the main ingredient goes into the pan, tomatoes for a sauce, say so does a little salt. Not too much, but in an hour when I taste that sauce it’s going to have a little more depth and flavor than had I not seasoned it. Sure, you could season it all at once, right at the end, but the flavor will be a little different. The sauce will lack depth and balance and may even taste salty.
Stocks, sauces and stews all benefit from early salting rather than salting at the end, which gives the salt no opportunity to distribute itself throughout the ingredients. You have to give salt a little time to work its magic.
- Salting Meats
One of the most powerful uses of salt is on meat. When to salt may be the most influential factor in salt’s overall impact on the meat. In most cases, you can’t salt meat too early. I recommend you salt your meat as soon as you get it home and then wrap it up. (If preparing for the meal on the same day) The salt will dissolve and penetrate the muscle so that the meat is uniformly seasoned inside and out. Salting early has an additional health and flavor benefit in that it inhibits spoilage bacteria. The thicker the cut of meat the earlier you will want to salt it. If you are planning on a very large cut, such as a rib roast, it’s best to salt it a few days before cooking (and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator to dry a little and concentrate the flavors). The only time I do not salt early is when I want the salt to remain on the surface to form a kind of crust.
- Salting Fish
Because fish is so delicate, big grains of course salt can actually “burn” the flesh. It’s best to use fine sea salt for fish and to apply it just before cooking. If it’s a big whole piece, you can season it a little after it comes out off of the heat. When poaching fish, salt the poaching liquid.
- Salting Vegetables
Salt has a powerful osmotic effect on organic material. Salt provides the mechanism for our cells to exchange nourishment, and this is how salt can penetrate to the center of a brined pork loin. The presence of salt draws out water across a cell’s membrane in an attempt to equalize the concentration of salt on either side of that cell. Because vegetables have such a high proportion of water, salt’s impact on both flavor and texture is substantial and rapid. To understand salts impact try comparing a tomato slice that has been salted for 10 minutes and one that has not been salted. The difference is powerful and you will always remember to salt your tomato slices prior to serving.
Because salts power on water-heavy foods, it’s important not to salt too early or they will turn to mush.
- Salting Fruits
Salting fruits heightens both flavor and sweetness. Salting watermelon is a perfect example. Sprinkle a little on a slice of watermelon and taste. This is why melon works well with salty ingredients such as feta cheese or prosciutto.
- Salting Water
Consider the many recipes you have read that say “Bring pot of salted water to a rolling boil” What exactly does that mean? It’s like a recipe that reads, “Get a piece of meat and give it flavor.” For every recipe asking for salted water add two tablespoons of salt. The result, whether you’re cooking pasta or rice or any other grain, will be perfectly seasoned. So taste your cooking water. However salty it is, that’s how salty your pasta or grain will be.
- Salting Fat – or Oil Based Sauces
Salt does not dissolve in oil and fats. But all fat or oil based sauces – mayonnaise, vinaigrette, -hollandaise – begin with water, so use it to dissolve the salt. When making vinaigrette, for instance, season the vinegar first. This way the salt has a chance to dissolve. Then add the oil. This way your fat- or oil-based sauce will be uniformly seasoned.
- Salting Sweets, Breads, Pastries and Desserts
Most sweet preparations, and all flour-based ones, can be enhanced with a judicious addition of kosher salt. Salt is used pervasively in the baking and pastry but much more judiciously. Bread without salt is insipid. Salt in a pie crust enhances the crust’s flavor. Use salt to enhance flavors in cakes, cookies, custards, and creams. In sweets, you should be less aware of salt than in savory preparations, unless it’s part of the contrast to sweetness. Some sauces such as caramel and butterscotch, move from good to great when you get the salt level exactly right.
Intensely sweet things, caramels and complex chocolates, benefit from a light garnish of salt, preferably a finishing salt such as fluer de sel, but course kosher salt works here too. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not when you consider the pervasiveness of putting nuts on a chocolate sundae or in brownies. They provide a nutty salty counterpoint to the sweetness.
- Using Brines
Brining seasons meat inside and out, delivering aromatic flavors (try a rosemary brine with chicken); and it alters the cells of the meat in a way that allows them to hold more water, resulting in a juicer finished dish. For an all-purpose forgiving brine, use 1 ounce of salt per 20 ounces of water. In order to dissolve this much salt you need to heat your water. If you want to flavor your brine with aromatics, such as herbs, spices, or citrus, add them to the water before you bring it to a simmer. It is important that you let the brine cool completely before pitting your meat in it. You can shorten the cooling time by setting your pan in a bowl of ice. To insure you get the desired flavor from your aromatics, they need to sit at least 30 minutes in the hot water.
Always brine your meat in the refrigerator. Never reuse brine – it won’t have the right salt level and will have drawn out blood and other impurities from the meat. When possible, it’s best to let meat rest after removal from the brine to allow the salt concentration to equalize.
- Preserving with Salt
Historically the most important function of salt had nothing to do with flavor. Salt was used for preservation. Salt still works the same as it did many years ago. Salting food immobilizes the bacteria that can cause food to spoil and reduces the water activity in meat that encourages the growth of bacteria. We no longer have to preserve food but we still do as some of our most beloved foods, such as bacon, ham and cured salmon are a result of curing.
- Opps! What if you go Overboard with Salt?
Even when salting correctly,, every now and then you may over salt. Regrettably there is no quick fix, but there are some ways to avoid wasting foods you have over salted. Removing salt from soups and stews is impossible but you can add to the dish. The best way is to make a second batch of what you made if you have more ingredients and omit the salt and combine the two. If this is not an option, add big starchy ingredients – potatoes, rice, pasta, bread – that need a lot of salt for flavor and adding fats such as cream can dilute salt concentrations.
I had some extra chicken thighs so I threw them into the brine and baked them as well. For low carb side options I added whipped cauliflower potatoes topped with sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic glazed brussel sprouts.
Rotisserie Cornish Hen Dinner
- April 10, 2019
- 25 hr
- Print this
- Rosemary and Thyme Brine
- 1 onion (small)
- 4 garlic cloves (smashed with flat side of knife)
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 5 or 6 rosemary branches (4-5 inches in length)
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 3 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 lemon quartered
- 2 Cornish Game Hens
- Poultry Dressing
- Grass-fed butter
- Whipped Cauliflower
- 1 head Cauliflower (cut off stalk)
- ¼ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 3 Tbsp. Grass-fed Butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped Sun Dried Tomato (optional)
- Glazed Balsamic Brussel Sprouts
- 1 lb Brussel Sprouts (halved)
- 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Monkfruit Maple Syrup
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Step 1
- Step 2
- In medium saucepan over medium high heat, sauté onion and garlic in oil until translucent.
- Step 3
- Add 3 tbsp. salt after the onion and garlic has cooked for 30 seconds or so.
- Step 4
- Add rosemary and cook to heat it, 30 seconds or so.
- Step 5
- Add water and lemon, squeezing the juice from the wedges into the water and removing any seeds.
- Step 6
- Bring water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt.
- Step 7
- Remove from the heat and allow brine to cool. Refrigerate until chilled.
- Step 8
- Place all chicken pieces in a large sturdy plastic bag. Set the bag in a large bowl for support.
- Step 9
- Pour the cooled brine and aromatics into the bag. Seal the bag removing as much air as possible
- Step 10
- making sure the chicken is submerged in the brine.
- Step 11
- Refrigerate for 8-24 hours, agitating the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
- Step 12
- Remove chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set on a rack lined with paper towels. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before you cook it or it can be cooked immediately. Ideally, it should be refrigerated uncovered for a day to dry out the skin.
- Step 13
- Cooking Poultry
- Step 14
- To prepare the poultry for rotisserie, tie up your hen and rub down with grass fed butter and dust with paprika using a pastry brush. Insert rotisserie skewer and place in Air Fryer Oven. Set oven to 375 for 30 minutes and press the rotisserie button on the air fryer oven. When time is up, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes and remove skewer.
- Step 15
- Whipped Cauliflower
- Step 16
- Cut florets from stalk. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and cook until tender. Make sure that you do not overcook or your cauliflower will be too mushy. When tender, drain water off cauliflower. Add butter and whipping cream salt and pepper and cream with emulsion blender. Top with sun dried tomatoes.
- Step 17
- Glazed Brussel Sprouts
- Step 18
- Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and Monkfruit syrup together and place in plastic bag. Cut Brussel sprouts in halves and place in bag. Shake brussel sprouts and oil and vinegar mixture until coated. Roast in oven on 350° for 30 minutes.