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Advice on cooking with eggplant

I've heard that when cooking with eggplant, you should salt the sliced eggplant, leave it in a colander for about an hour, rinse, dry and then proceed with cooking. However, when recently looking at a recipe for an appetizer of fried eggplant and cheese, this preparation of the eggplant was not specified in the recipe. What exactly does salting, etc. do to the eggplant and when should you use this method?

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  1. Salting draws out the bitterness from the eggplant. Anytime I cook with eggplant I cut into rounds (even if I'll dice later) and layout on a cutting board. I then salt liberally and let sit out for 3-5 minutes. At this point, get a few paper towels and blot the top of each round. (I learned this from The Joy of Cooking....and my mother). The blotting removes much of the salt too, so don't worry.

    1. Salting will remove liquid from eggplant, sometimes that liquid is bitter.

      I didn't know about salting eggplant until a few years ago, saw it on television. I didn't remember eating bitter eggplant. So, I did some research, there are a couple of theories about bitter eggplant, the theory that seemed to be consistent with my experiences is: old eggplant are bitter. My experiences with eggplant were with homegrown eggplant, I don't think I had too many old eggplant. By old, my research revealed if the fruit is left on the vine too long, it fully develops seeds, some think seeds are the source of the bitterness, and old means it has been off the vine too long.

      1. Salting also draws out the moisture so that the end cooked product is denser. The advice I have seen (on Cook's Illustrated and such) is to salt it with kosher salt and put in a colander over the sink so the excess moisture drips out. It also says to leave it for 20, 30, even 60 min. Then press to squeeze out excess moisture.
        Then cook as per recipe.

        1. Thanks for the advice! I'll definitely check out my roommate's copy of the Joy of Cooking when I get home to read more on this.

          5 Replies
          1. re: AnjLM

            salting eggplant makes it a little floppier (osmosis or diffusion cant remember my biology lessons any more) and it cooks faster, plus if you do fry it it absorbs less oil so is less greasy and less fattening.

            1. re: smartie

              I'm thinking it's osmosis since it involves the movement of water (I just tutored some Bio students). But thanks for the tip for frying...I'll definitely salt the eggplant first.

              1. re: AnjLM

                Salt softens/breaks the cell walls and begins the process of osmosis, wherein the water inside the cell moves to the more concentrated saltwater outside the cell. Doing so causes the eggplant to tighten, shrink and become more firm and less bitter.

                Not everyone can detect the bitterness in eggplant; it seems to be a genetic thing.
                Young, small eggplants and those without much sun exposure have the least bitterness.
                The bigger, late-summer eggplants, more.

                Can anyone comment on the texture improvement that comes from salting eggplant? Does the eggplant circles became more like a patty in feel? A little firmer?

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I have noticed that my patties become firmer with the salting process. And, it helps them hold together better when I fry them for eggplant parm.

              2. re: smartie

                Sorry...I'm unclear on what floppier means.

            2. I ignore the salting step. To me it's a waste of time. I've never tasted any bitterness in the end product.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mrbozo

                I don't salt either - but the amount of olive oil I usually use to cook eggplant in probably takes care of any bitterness!

                1. re: MMRuth

                  I don't salt either and never found it bitter but am intrigued by the idea that by doing so I can end up with floppier eggplant. I dread the undercooked eggplant that tastes like cork but if I slice too thin it tends to melt. I may try the salt step next time I make it.

              2. After posting this yesterday I received my Bon Appetit magazine in the mail and in it found a story on eggplant! They say that people used to use salting to get rid of the bitterness, which usually occurs when eggplants are past their prime. Nowadays this isn't so much a problem but salting is still used to draw out excess moisture.

                1. I am not bothered by the bitterness so I don't salt them. However, I do steam them before preparation as that helps to decrease the amount of oil absorbed.