Get Salty. Three Tips to Achieve Perfectly Seasoned Food

Who’s feeling salty today?

When cooking, you might find yourself adding far more salt that you think you should. Don’t worry. You will still not be adding as much sodium as what is found in prepackaged foods. But go slow when adding salt and season multiple times during cooking.

Tip 1. Know Your Salt

As Samin Nosrat notes in her phenomenal book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, the saltiness of salt can vary depending on the structure and the size of the crystals.

The key is to know your salt. If you use fine sea salt (very salty), go easy. If you use Diamond Crystal (the least salty salt) you can add quite a bit. Taste your salt and adjust your recipes accordingly.

Tip 2. Salt Strategically

Follow this basic plan of when to salt your food as you cook:

Salt 1- Initially season the meats and early veggies. I generally use a large crystal salt for this step. For example, I’ve found about 1 teaspoon of Morton’s kosher salt for 1 lb of meat or main protein source is about right. I might also use a salted spice blend, e.g., Trader Joe’s African smoke. If so, I will cut back on regular salt.

Salt 2- At some point in the middle of cooking you’ll add salt again. This is usually an alternative source of salt (aka, one with MSG). Soy sauce, a parmesan end, fish sauce, etc. This source will deepen the flavor and add additional notes.

Salt 3- The final tasting. Stir it all up and grab a spoon to taste it. Season your food, stir it and taste again. Here is where you might want to go with finer ground salt so it incorporates more quickly (See tip 3).

Salt 4 (optional)- The finishing salt. I tend to think of this as the “at the table salt” an individual person might apply. However, there are lots of finishing salts to apply after a dish is served if you are feeling fancy. These are rather crunchy because the texture is part of the experience.

Tip 3. Be Patient

Whenever you are seasoning be sure to stir the food and give the salt a few moments to distribute. Keep tasting after you season and add a little bit at a time. If you need to give your taste buds a break, drink some water and relax.

What to do if you over salt?

It has been a long time since I over salted. The method described above helps a lot. But it does happen. In fact, after I read Nosrat’s book, I started experimenting with my salt sources and ended up with some puckered dry-mouth meals (sorry, family).

Although I think it is better to leave something slightly under salted, if you do happen to go over board there are a few (limited) ways to rescue a dish:

  • Add potatoes. Yeah these babies can take a lot. They can soak up some salt and help redistribute the dish. This is an easy fix for soups or casseroles.
  • Add grated carrot. I use this to revive coleslaw, soups, and even tomato sauce that has gone too far into the dead sea.
  • Add sugar. Sugar balances salt like nothing else. Of course, it might not work for all applications. However, you would be surprised how sugar enhances savory dishes.

Happy salting you salty MFers!

The Notorious MSG

MSG (alias monosodium glutamate; alias glutamate; alias glutamic acid) got a bad rap, see. It is innocent, I tell ya, innocent! It had a lousy lawyer, see. It was with its momma in Toledo.

Here are some the ways I use MSG in my kitchen:

Some natural sources of monosodium include tomato, seaweed, and shitake mushrooms. Fermented food sources include Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. Here’s a list of more foods with natural MSG.

The reason these foods and condiments exist is because humans find the flavor irresistible. It is the essential component of savory and as we all know, the Japanese say it best with “Umami,” which, come on, it even sounds like “yummy.”

I use something in this picture in nearly ever dinner I make, sometimes several of them combined.

Probably the most intense of my MSG sources, is the Maggie Seasoning. If you’ve ever had Chinese soy sauce, this kinda what it tastes like. The Maggie, however, is VERY concentrated. Three dashes for your entire family’s meal is enough to boost flavor without overpowering the dish. It is not an everyday addition for us, but once in a while if I’m making something and I just can’t get the flavor deep enough, this is a lifesaver.

In case you are worried, there was bad science linking MSG to illness and racism that perpetuated those negative associations. If you’d like to do further reading, here is an article that debunks the myths of MSG. Most scientists have largely concluded that MSG is safe, although an allergic reaction is, of course, possible.