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This Makes Me Crazy!

I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, but for the life of me, I don't know why all the chefs need to add salt and pepper to meat and other ingredients before cooking them. Yes, I know that salt is a flavor enhancer, but don't we already ingest too much salt that is naturally occurring in foods? Processed foods already have to much salt added. Salt can be added if necessary after the finished product has been tasted.

I do not use black pepper. As my nom de internet already indicates, If I want spicy food, I use some form of piquant capsicum.

How about you? Do you really need salt on your uncooked ingredients before the cooking process is started?

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  1. I'm with you that we don't really need the excess salt. Growing up my mom wouldn't even let us have a salt shaker on the table ("there's enough salt in the food already!"), so I believe I'm more sensitive to salt than most...I've never felt the need to add salt to a plated meal before.

    I also tend to skip the salt and pepper step in recipes...am I really going to taste the salt and pepper I sprinkled on before cooking after I cover the meat in a marsala sauce? Or cooking it down in a stew?

    1 Reply
    1. re: bluemoon4515

      You really do taste the salt you sprinkled on before cooking.
      And I never put the salt shaker on the table either.

    2. When sauteeing/sweating onions, etc. salt draws the moisture out better. The amount that's used is tiny compared to what's in or put onto most foods. As for pepper, if you don't like it, don't use it. What's the big deal there?

      1. "Salt is to food what air is to breathing" to quote the back of the old version of the diamond crystal salt box. Seasoning before cooking proteins is important so the salt can dissolve into the flesh.When you season after it just sits on top. A brine is a great example of seasoning before cooking, where the salt through the process of osmosis is pulled evenly into the meat. You are correct about the processed foods having too much salt . The seasoning in most higher end professional kitchens are often very reasonable. I don't understand why this "makes you crazy" The ability to season food correctly is something that takes a cook a very long time to learn and is considered by many chefs to be one of the most important skills. I also agree about black pepper being over used. I only use it on red meat.

        1 Reply
        1. re: garethblackstock

          OK, I'll concede the brining. It has made pork chops a lot more tender since leaner pigs have been raised for the past 50+years. Lots of sugar is used in the brine we make.

        2. The thing that really separates the good cooks from the great chefs is proper seasoning and, unfortunately, salt is an important part of that.

          7 Replies
          1. re: brooklynkoshereater

            Why do you say "unfortunately"? Salt/sodium is a critical part of everyone's diet.

            1. re: c oliver

              Exactly. A moderate amount of salt is not bad for people. I almost always use salt and pepper at the beginning of the cooking process (unless something is particularly salty like capers). I don't add a lot, but enough to bring out the flavors of a dish. My food is rarely too salty or peppery at the end and I NEVER add salt at the table or even put out a salt shaker for my family or my guests.

              My mother never added salt to the dishes that she cooked. And now when I eat her cooking, it all tastes bland. I add plenty of other flavorings and certainly don't rely solely on salt & pepper, in fact, I hate dishes that are too salty, but it is always part of the foundation.

              1. re: c oliver

                No argument here. It is the amount of salt that bothers me. Do you read labels to see the sodium content in packaged and canned foods?

                1. re: ChiliDude

                  Of course, I do. I use few prepared foods. So I don't worry about adding salt to foods.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Exactly. If you do not use processed foods, or use them rarely, then you do not have to be worried about how much you add while cooking. You are already way ahead of the game.

              2. re: brooklynkoshereater

                I think that the salting before cooking is a tradition, but not a necessity.

                1. re: ChiliDude

                  I don't know how YOU define "necessity." A flavor enhancer that's not a health risk, to me, is a good thing. That's what salt is when used in appropriate amounts in cooking.

              3. I have always found that the way to minimize salt use is to cook it in. I certainly can understand wanting to minimize your sodium intake.

                I would suggest you try something. Cook two fairly identical steaks of your choice. Bring them up to room temperature, salt one don't salt the other. Pan sear them and finish them in the oven. Taste them side by side. See if you can taste a difference. If you want to really get scientific and eliminate psychological biases, have someone else cook and season the steaks and pick your favorite. Most of us are betting on the salted steak.

                Yeah I got some childhood eating issues too. I was an adult when I first got a salt and pepper shaker at the table. That was also the first time I got to drink something while food was still at the table. My future inlaws thought it was real interesting that I didn't drink the Iced tea until I was through. They kept offering me something else to drink.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  Good idea with the experiment. To take it even a step further: once you've identified the unseasoned steak, go ahead and salt it at the table. See if it tastes as good to you as the pre-salted steak. I'm betting not.

                  Adding salt early in the cooking process does more than just up the sodium content of a dish. It also does things to proteins in meats. It changes the flavor and juiciness in a way that you cannot replicate by simply seasoning at the table. The blogger "Steamy Chef" has a very good post on the subject.

                    1. re: link_930

                      Whoops, right. That's who I meant. That's what I get for posting at 1AM.

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    I have done this experiment. By accident. The presalted definitely tastes better.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      I've forgotten to salt my meats from time to time and I just can't eat it. I don't see anything wrong with seasoning meat before cooking.