Thursday, June 6, 2013

Salting Proteins (fish, meat, and poultry) Video

How do you know how much salt to put on your steak or roast chicken?  Most recipes say "season generously" or "season to taste."  Both are ridiculous statements, don't you think?  Here are some tips for developing intuition of how and when to salt the things you can't taste until serving.

YouTube link: Salting Proteins
More Videos: Helen's Kitchen Channel

Geekiness Award
I’d like to take this moment to announce a home cook geekiness award. The first 3 people to get the award, will win a gift certificate to one of my classes. Or if you are not in the Boston area, you win a copy of the Zuni Cafe cookbook by Judy Rogers. Not only is it a great book, but it has one of the best explanations of how to salt proteins.

Here is what it takes to win:
  • Get yourself a regular scale and a tea scale 
  • E-mail me a picture of yourself using them to salt something
  • E-mail me what salt percentage you used and how it worked out
This challenge is in effect until the end of 2013.  All the winners (not just the first 3 people) will be profiled on my blog in the end of 2013.

January, 2014 update: 
The 2013 food geekiness award goes to... drum roll... The Lewis family!   Congratulations to Rob, Janice, and 8 year old Sarah  Here they are in a Pasta class.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about proteins with bones?  Do you use the same ratio of meat to salt by weight?
No, bones don't count.  For example, if I am salting a rack of lamb or roast chicken, I use less salt than I would if all their weight was muscle.  Of course, there is no way to tell exactly how much of your meat's weight is bone.  If you are doing the scale exercise I show in a video, use a boneless protein.  After you'll practice on boneless proteins for a while, you'll cancel out the bones intuitively when seasoning meat on the bone.

Are there cases when you need to increase or decrease the salt level?
Here are the cases where I intentionally deviate from 0.7% of salt by weight.
  • Stews and Braises -- the meat loses way more moisture when it's cooked to the fall-of-the-bone consistency than when it's cooked to medium-rare.  This means you have less meat left in the end, so you need less salt to begin with.
  • Sous-vide -- in normal cooking methods, at least some salt falls off the meat when you cook it (it ends up in the skillet, on the grill, etc.)  When you cook proteins in a vacuum sealed bag, it all stays in, so I find it's best to reduce the salt level slightly.
  • Shrimp, lobster, and crab are naturally very salty, so you need less salt (or no salt at all).  When I cook the lobster, I don't salt the water.
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and chicken generally need a bit more salt than fish.  Fat dulls the sensation of salinity, so when I am salting a nicely marbled steak or a burger, I usually increase the salt level to about 0.8% by weight.

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