Season as you or go pound SALT!

Whenever I am in a position to share my cooking knowledge with people one thing that often comes up is the use of salt. I get the regular comments from people saying “WOAH that’s a lot of salt. Other comments I receive poke fun at how restaurant cooks use too much salt. My girlfriend, who claims to be salt sensitive, jests that her next present for me will be a salt lick.

This usually gets me going on about how and why I salt the food I’m cooking the way I do. I start by talking about boiling vegetables in well-seasoned water and how not all of the salt is actually going into the food. When cooking pasta, I instruct that the water should taste just like the salty ocean.

I tell people to season as you go; there is no need to season at the table. In my opinion, trusting the cook to season the food as it’s being prepared will actually reduce the amount of salt you consume. This is because salt always seeks equilibrium. When you season your food at the table it hasn’t had a chance to do just that and you may be tempted to put more than necessary to compensate for the lack of seasoning through the food. It really upsets me to observe persons salting their food at the table before even taking one bite to test the seasoning before adding more.

When seasoning my food I am not aiming for saltiness. I am aiming for the right amount of salt to let the natural flavours of the food shine. If you taste salt, there is too much being used.

Adding salt early on also helps if you’re trying to draw out moisture from whatever you are cooking. This is particularly helpful when you are sweating vegetables. That is cooking on low-heat trying to not let it take on any colour. The opposite is true when I’m browning mushrooms. I don’t typically season them until the end as the salt can draw too much moisture and you can end up steaming the ’shrooms in the pan.

There are some exceptions to seasoning as you go. When making a stock or broth, I only season at the very end. For a soup and generally anything that will be reduced I am careful to watch the salt levels added in the cooking process, lightly seasoning and tasting at each step. Some fried foods, like fresh cut fries are served best when finished with salt straight out of the fryer.

Salt also is known to help balance bitter flavours in food. I can’t speak to the science behind it, but I’ve seen people throw a pinch of salt in their coffee to do just that and it works. Adding salt to greens like kale or collards will help to minimize their bitter bite.

For my general everyday cooking I prefer to use non-iodized fine ground sea salt or kosher salt because I prefer the size of the crystals and how these types of salts permeate foods. Iodized salt contains iodine and is there to reduce the chances of iodine deficiencies, which can cause a myriad of health problems. There are many types of salt to use in the kitchen. Getting into which salts to use and why is a whole other conversation and perhaps I’ll save that discussion for a future article.

Ultimately, I suggest that you seek balance in your seasoning, use salt as a flavour enhancer, and as a general rule, season as you go. Please don’t asSALT your food and inSALT your cooks by sprinkling salt and seasonings on your meal before you give it a few taste testing bites.

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