The Power of Salt

There was a story recently that the New York legislature is proposing a bill to not allow restaurants to add any salt to food.  I can understand the concern of allowing guests to determine their sodium intake and wanting to offer everyone healthy options when dining out.  But, salt plays a bigger part in cuisine, than just making something “salty”.

Here is a link to the story

Here are my thoughts on salts

Salt-A key ingredient in any cooking.  I don’t care what cuisine you are talking about, where in the world the food originates from, salt is always a key ingredient.  I’m also not referring to just the savory side of things either.  Salt is necessary, though not commonly thought of, as a key ingredient in sweet offerings as well.  The most common misconception about salt, is that it is used to flavor the food.  While it does have its place as a food seasoning, it plays an equally important role in many other ways when it comes to food preparation.  The first way is in preservation.  Salt was commonly used before refrigeration was prevalent as a way to preserve foods.  Salt cured fish and meat have been present for centuries.  Salt and olive oil preserved lemons in the Mediterranean, have been a standard as well.  This is nothing new.  In an age where frozen foods seem to prevail, we don’t think of need to cure something to keep it from spoiling.  This process pulls moisture out of the meat, through a process called osmosis.  This process stops the water movement with the protein and thus preserves the meat.

I use a number of different salts in my cooking.  The main one I use is kosher salt.  Kosher salt is basically my “everyday” salt.  The one that is always abundant around the kitchen.  Kosher salt has larger crystals than iodized salt, thus pulls moisture from meats much better than iodized salts. Kosher salt also is a stronger flavored salt. You need to use less salt to achieve a “salty” taste, thus resulting in less sodium consumed.  Kosher and sea salts are great to use for grilling meats and seafood.  These salts do draw out the moisture in meats, but they will create a barrier on the exterior of the meat, that will help to lock in flavor.

Specialty Salts-

I use a few specialty salts in my cooking, mostly for what I refer to as “finishing” salts.  These are Murray River Pink Salt from Australia, Cypress Black Salt.

I receive a lot of comments about our salsa here at Iguana.  It is something we spent time and wanted to offer a great fresh product that was different from anyone was offering in town.  Salt is a key factor in our salsa.  Not as a flavoring, but because salt has the ability to remove water from protein.  Adding salt to our tomatoes, removes the flavorless water from the tomato and leaving behind the flavorful tomato juice.

Eliminating salt in the kitchen would drastically change the way we see and eat food. Sure, there would be less sodium, but there would also be diminished quality of foods. I propose legislators stay out of my kitchen and I’ll stay out of lawwriting. Hopefully that’s the message that chefs in New York are saying to their lawmakers.

Update 03.19.10

This is from the blog of Michael Ruhlman,, my favorite food blogger, as a response to a blog he wrote about salt.

you can read his blog post here

Dr. John White, an associate professor of medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, a kidney doctor, left the following comment, which I think is worth calling attention to here for those not reading comments:

“As a nephrologist, I would like to make a few comments regarding salt. The primary problem with salt-excess and hypertension depends on one’s inherent ability to excrete salt thru the kidney. We all must maintain strict sodium balance within our bodies in order to maintain normal cellular function. Thusly, we have adapted the ability to this balance at very low levels of salt intake, as well as very high levels. The problem is that some people require a higher blood pressure in order to excrete higher levels of salt, thus their blood pressure becomes “salt-sensitive”. The other issue is poorly understood and appears to arise from chronic ’salt-toxicity.’ Societies that subsist on very low sodium diet and high potassium diets have almost no hypertension. This effect disappears when these individuals convert to our ‘Western Diet.’”


~ by chefrp on 03.16.10.

5 Responses to “The Power of Salt”

  1. I feel like salt is to cooking like grading (color correcting) is to film making. Random and pointless, yes, but that’s what I kept thinking as I read this.

  2. I will freaking DIE if this passes… salt is the KEY to my life!
    Let’s find the Salt Nazi and bring him to OKLAHOMA- and WHOMP him good!

  3. Nice posting. I do not use salt much but that is my choice and can’t imagine a govt. so intrusive that they are now trying to dictate and change century old recipes. What next?

  4. Salt is an element of life. We need it to survive. The government just needs to step away from this period.

  5. I love this Tibetan salt I use at home, it seems to pull out flavors from everything. On a slice of cantaloupe, on fish, beef, especially on vegetables of all sorts.

    Taking salts away from a chef would be like telling an artist to only use the cardinal colors…

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