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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.

                    2. What drives me crazy (and I have family members who are guilty) is people that underseason their food. Seasoning a steak before you cook it is not 'oversalting' it, unless of course you put too much salt on it. A steak cannot be properly seasoned after it is cooked. It simply cannot be done.

                      I also have family members that seem to be afraid of pepper. I like black pepper on my food, when appropriate. There are some foods that do not require pepper, I suppose ham would fall into that category. I had a nephew once that told me the hamburger he ate at my house was the best hamburger he ever ate and I attribute that to the fact that they don't season the meat at his house. I do not consider food with black pepper on it to be 'spicy', just well seasoned.

                      Most processed food does indeed have to much sodium and that's the main reason why I avoid it. I do however think salt is the villain some people think that it is, however excess salt can be.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: John E.

                        One ingredient of which I have no fear is pepper, or should I say hot peppers, chiles or peperoncini...whatever you wish to call them. I find ground black pepper, if too coarsely ground, feels like it actually scratches my throat as it goes down.

                        I grow chiles. This year I'm hoping to harvest the recently discovered (within the last 10 years) ghost pepper, the Bhut Jolokia.

                        1. re: ChiliDude

                          I'm with the others on the chiles vs. black pepper topic. One really has nothing to do with the other. If the pepper is too coursely ground, why do you not grind it more fine? It is an easy adjustment to make on your peppermill. If your response is that you do not have a peppermill, I would have to say I am not surprised because you already said you do not care for it. Anybody that really does like black pepper would use a peppermill for fresh cracked pepper instead of the preground dust sold in the stores. I have a small, thumbdriven peppermill that I have occasionally had in my pocket when eating out, but my wife doesn't like it when I whip it out.

                          I grew and used habenaro peppers a few years ago. While I enjoy spicy food, I didn't learn how to use it properly, I minced it up and put some in the beef chili and it was just too intense.

                          What drives me crazy is people that put hot sauce on food before they taste it. Have some respect for the cook and taste the food as it was prepared before you change it.

                          1. re: John E.

                            Why are you so bothered that people would put sauce on food to make it taste they way they prefer? How could this practice possibly impact your life? How do you even notice? I have to say, I don't spend too much time monitoring the eating habits of others at restaurants.

                            1. re: tommy

                              How about when you take the time to cook something, balancing flavours carefully, and then it gets covered with hot sauce?

                              Just for the record, I hate spicy hot food as my system can't take it. As a friend of mine so delciately put it once, "It burns going in and it burns coming out".

                              1. re: souschef

                                Hot sauce, used judiciously, can make flavors pop. Don't hate just because they don't agree with your digestion! :)

                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  I never believe in suffering the consequences due to hot sauce. Suffered too much before I realized it was the hot sauce.

                                  1. re: souschef

                                    Perfectly understandable. I was just saying it doesn't necessarily have that impact on others...don't think less of them for enjoying it, in moderation, on food.

                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      Ah, I understand you now. Never said I thought less of them though. In my experience, though, of people I know, moderation and hot sauce do not seem to go together; it's either nothing or turn on the afterburners.

                                      My favourite food is French. I like the nice, subtle flavours.

                                      I do enjoy Indian food when it's not hot, and recently did takeout from a restaurant at which I've eaten several times. I specified "very mild", but the stuff I got was so hot that I threw it all out. Even the rice was too hot. Why does it have to be that way ?

                                      1. re: souschef

                                        "I do enjoy Indian food when it's not hot"

                                        Agree. A little hot is fine for me, but I am not so good with very spicy foods. I love Jamaican foods too, but sometime they get crazy spicy.

                                        "Why does it have to be that way ?"

                                        Because life does not always go your way.

                              2. re: tommy

                                I suppose I didn't make my point clear enough. I shouldn't have used the phrase "drive me crazy" but that's what the OP used. I was not referring to restaurants or people eating in restaurants, they can do as they wish, I don't care.

                        2. If you don't like salt, don't use it, or use it where you find it necessary. Where is the discussion beyond that? That those who teach suggest using salt? I think you'll find that this has been the case for a long time.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: tommy

                            It's not a matter of disliking salt, but the dislike of using too much salt. I've been using Kosher salt for years because it is less saline than iodized table salt.

                            1. re: ChiliDude

                              "I've been using Kosher salt for years because it is less saline than iodized table salt."

                              Again, you make no sense. All salts -- kosher, sea, smoked, etc. -- all have the same sodium content by weight. All salts are virtually identical in Sodium Chloride content when compared by weight (g, oz, lbs). The different crystalline forms of salt from different sources make them more or less dense when measured by volume (tsp, cups) which will result in the different salts varying in the amount of sodium by volume.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Agree-I use Kosher salt all the time, yet don't dilude myself by thinking I'm sparing myself a lot of sodium. The difference is little.

                          2. You should try them. Salt the meat before saute vs salt the meat after saute. Use the same amount, but you will find the meats have different surface textures. I don't think it is a bad idea to be careful about salt intake. High salt intake is a concern, but that does not mean the lower the better. There are people who goes overboard

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I don't believe that high salt intake is a concern at all, any more than fat is. Only a small minority of people are salt sensitive, and some of us need quite a lot of it to maintain adequate adrenal function. Perhaps this is why Japanese research found the most servere salt restriction associated with increased mortality? I think sometimes epidemiology ends up leading to lousy clinical implementation, and the real problem is probably the foods that very high salt (or fat) diets are attached to, packaged, processed, starchy and sugary foods, ones that are devoid of balance due to their not having potassium, magnesium and other desirable electrolyte minerals that healthier veggies, do, for example. Meats and fish, btw, have substantial potassium.

                              I worry more about the dangers of the low salt levels being pushed now for everyone, as if we're all the same and could live without thousands of mgs per day.

                              And few things suck more, IMO, than under seasoned food, especially meats not seasoned before cooking.

                            2. One I really don't understand is the practice of restaurant to offer you freshly-ground black pepper before you have even tasted the food; how do you know if you need it or not ! I always turn them down, then have them come back if I do require pepper, which is almost never.

                              I have also eaten with people in restaurants who salt everything before tasting it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: souschef

                                I think we all know people that salt their food without first having tasted it. As for the restaurant practice of offering freshly-ground black pepper, I've this offer only made for the salad, I've never had the offer been made to me for my entree.

                              2. It isn't the "naturally occuring" salt... it's what is in processed foods. A raw carrot has negligible sodium content so if you eat one you aren't getting any natural sodium from it.

                                A little salt and pepper duing the cooking process goes a long way. In fact, a properly seasoned dish will not require salt at the table, nor will it contain excesive amounts of sodium. If one doesn't season while cooking, then the amount of salt added at the table is often much more than what would have been included during cooking.

                                Unless someone is on a sodium restricted diet for a health condition, I don't think the 1/2 tsp of salt in my huge pot of pasta sauce is going to hurt anyone.

                                1. I think your beef is rather silly. Tv chefs are usually not teaching you how to make the most healthy dishes, but how to make food taste good. In order to make food taste good seasoning is essential. Seasoning while cooking and not after it is also key for flavor development and anyone who would dispute that I would question their knowledge of cooking. Yes we eat to much salt, and yes if you eat processed food you probably don't need to add to much more salt for health purposes. But when I watch a cooking show I don't want to learn how to eat healthier, knowing how to eat healthier is so simple. I want to know how to make a dish its best.

                                  1. "I don't know why all the chefs need to add salt and pepper to meat and other ingredients before cooking them' and then "Processed foods already have to much salt added".

                                    What TV chefs are you watching that use processed foods? Sandra Lee?

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                      No! Her show turned me off the first time I turned it on by accident.

                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                          I just saw Ina Garten use a jar of store bought marinara sauce on her show today. OMG!

                                          1. re: boyzoma

                                            Haha. What brand? And was she making something that was already really work-intensive, or was this a "shortcut" dinner?

                                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                                Not at all; she's always used such short cuts where quality will not be compromised. Sometimes she uses frozen peas or pearl onions. She's always been about ease, non fussiness, except where it would compromise the final product.

                                              2. re: boyzoma

                                                Without explaining the context in which it was used it's sort of pointless to mention this.

                                                It was used as one of her "quick tips" or whatever, where she takes 20 seconds to explain a shortcut. This one included using a base of sauteed onions, garlic, and herbs, and instead of adding canned tomatoes, add a jar of good quality sauce. The brand she used was Rao's. I see nothing wrong with this. There are so many good brands out there that contain nothing more than tomatoes, salt, and olive oil, it's a little difficult to dismiss them wholesale.

                                        2. salt after does not taste the same as salt before.

                                          salt changes the way food reacts to heat in many ways.

                                          salting after does nothing to draw out fluids, change boiling temperatures, etc.

                                          there is nothing wrong with salt unless you have a disease that makes it a problem. salt will not give you the problem

                                          the taste of black pepper has nothing to do with the taste of chilis. it's like saying "why add butter to a dish, if i want creaminess i'll puree white beans"

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: thew

                                            Excellent point about black pepper. It's not a capsicum.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Yes, the fact that black pepper (Piper nigrum) is not a capsicum is known. I prefer to refer to capsicums as chiles or peperoncini. The latter being the general Italian term for chiles, and not just the particular pods that are found on supermarket shelves.

                                              Yes, and I know you are already aware of these facts, but there are people out there in cyberdom who are not well versed in the lore of chiles.

                                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                                Now that's fusion food, for sure. Using the Italian word when making chili. LOL.

                                            2. re: thew

                                              "why add butter to a dish, if i want creaminess i'll puree white beans"

                                              You'd be AMAZED at how often you'll see something like that on vegetarian recipe boards.

                                              I used to be a massive saltaholic back in the day when I ate a ton of processed foods, but when I got them out of my diet and started using sea salt my consumption's gone way down. And when I started drying off my steaks, salting them and letting them sit for about 45 minutes before cooking ... I literally could not believe how well they came out. The body is excellent about getting rid of excess sodium as anyone who's eaten something salty then got thirsty can tell you, and hypertension that is strictly related to salt consumption is extremely rare. Lose the processed foods and salt away!

                                            3. I have to offer a reply contrary to the OP. I don't agree that salt is something you can add at the last minute in most cases, and, in general, I cook with the assumption that neither salt nor pepper nor any other seasoning will be called for after something is served. Salt early on does matter in several ways, such as brining/koshering effects for proteins and also sometimes as a means of extracting moisture (as when sauteeing onions or mushrooms).

                                              As for processed food, we simply don't eat enough of them for their salt content (admittedly outrageous) to be an issue.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                                I agree--even beans are better with the salt added at the beginning or midway through the cooking process. I know that people don't salt beans until the end, because they allegedly toughen the bean, but if the dried beans come from a store with a lot of turnover, they are fresher and don't toughen up (at least in my experience). The toughness is, I think, more a function of age than salt.

                                                1. re: nofunlatte

                                                  I think I read a Cooks Illustrated test that confirms what you say about adding salt to beans early on. Tough beans were in fact generally just old beans. Too bad that bean labeling rarely gives us any clue about product age.

                                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                                    I've soaked the beans in water that tastes like ocean water. My beans turn out creamy and BETTER than no salt added or later in the process.

                                                2. I don't add black pepper because I want "spicy" food, I add it because I like the taste.

                                                  1. "but don't we already ingest too much salt that is naturally occurring in foods? "

                                                    Processed foods are usually high in salt, but that's not 'naturally occurring' . Some raw meat, especially pork, might fall under that processed category ('a flavor enhancing' solution is common on packaged pork). Otherwise raw meat, such as a beef steak, does not have much salt. One of those TV chefs is known to say things like "I don't know about you, but my meat does not come preseasoned'.

                                                    1. I used to be a big fan of Alton Brown, until he became a shill for salt. Literally so: see here:
                                                      and here
                                                      and here

                                                      A quote from a recent GE: "Chefs, on the other hand, will simply insist that salt doesn't make things taste salty, it makes them taste good."

                                                      Personally, I have far, far more often found a dish to be over- rather than undersalted.

                                                      20 Replies
                                                      1. re: Scott_R

                                                        I respect that you have some strong feelings here, but it remains possible that you and Alton Brown are both right: salt can be that which helps things taste better, and, at the same time, over-salting can be a common problem. (I remember getting an over-salted lobster pizza at Red Lobster once--it was repellent.)

                                                        But unless you add more info, you don't seem to have a problem with salt as such but instead with over-salting.

                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                          My point was that AB--in episodes "The Ballad of Salty and Sweet" and one other whose title I can't recall (he did this whole thing with tongue taste receptors on the ep) basically poo-pooed objections to adding a lot of salt. I never at any time said that salt should never be added, just that I've more often found food to be defective because of too much rather than too little. Brown's condescending dismissal rankled.

                                                          Found the episode whose title I couldn't remember; it was "Eat This Rock!" (the rock being salt). Brown's statement:

                                                          "Now, think of this: this tongue evolved the way it did to taste food and keep us alive by telling us what to eat. If salt was bad for us, would this thing have evolved liking salt? Well would it? No."

                                                          Well, how responsible a statement this is aside, I think it ought to break down to this: AB apparently has a personal preference for salty things. But he is totally dismissive of those who DON'T like so much salt.

                                                          1. re: Scott_R

                                                            I’d say that was a totally responsible statement. We did indeed evolve our food preferences around what was needed to survive.

                                                            It works like this - family A of hominids has a taste for salt, Hominid family B does not. Salt is pretty rare across the savannah, and family A tends to gorge on it when they find it - which is not very often. Family B does not. Salt being essential to life (our bodies are really just ways of making a marine environment mobile across land) Family A is healthier, live longer, and breed more than Family B. After X generations, family B has dies out, outbreed by Family A. All of family A's descendents, tend to gorge salt. That is all of humanity. Suddenly a few million years later salt is no longer rare. But 10,000 years of salt availability can do nothing against 100,000 generations of evolution honing our taste buds. SO a few people suffer from overindulging in salt. But that does not mean we were not designed to like salt. We were.

                                                            Replace salt with fats and sugars, both hard to come by in the savannah, and you have the history of human digestion, and the cause of our obesity and disease caused by an age of plenty

                                                            1. re: thew

                                                              You are putting words in my mouth. Yes, it's a responsible statement *if* we're still hunter-gatherers, but in a society where salt, sweet, and fat is everywhere you turn, then simply trusting our taste buds isn't good enough. I never said we weren't designed to look for salt, I said that simply pointing to an outdated evolutionary adaptation and asserting that its underlying purpose holds true today is irresponsible.

                                                              1. re: Scott_R

                                                                Well, it's purpose does hold true; and my body is my science experiment. I'd been mostly a non salt eater, very sensitive to added salt and hated it until my adrenal function took a dive. Suddenly, I craved salt, it tasted good, not oppressive and inedible to me. My taste for salt varies wildly with my adrenal status. As it happens, everyone's bounces around somewhat, and the differences among genetic/family groups is extremely variable. So while we may not have salt source problems, we still have instinctive cravings for what we need or think we need. Oversupply can derange this, yes, but most, of not all of us still need a lot more salt than the RDA being proposed.

                                                                1. re: Scott_R

                                                                  i dont think i pout words in your mouth, and if i did i apologize. i merely said that AB's statement was true, and the truth is never irresponsible

                                                          2. re: Scott_R

                                                            "Chefs, on the other hand, will simply insist that salt doesn't make things taste salty, it makes them taste good"

                                                            That does not make sense to me. How can salt not make things taste salty?

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Presumably salt should be used in such a way that it enhances flavors, rather than making the dish taste like salt.

                                                              You need to define "tastes salty". Salty things taste salty. Properly seasoned things don't.

                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                Word. I cannot count the times where even a sprinkling of salt on the already cooked dish (with not enough salt) which tasted lame made the flavor pop. It can make a massive difference in flavor perception without tasting salty.

                                                                Oversalted food is another thing entirely. But I prefer to salt my food before, during, and, if necessary, after it is cooked.

                                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                One way to see this sub-radar salt effect is to examine taste tests done in objective or semi-objective fashion by Consumer Reports or Cooks Illustrated. Very often--say, in canned tomato tests or broth tests--the lower sodium versions (which are also often the high-priced organic products) fall to the bottom of the rankings. The perception of the tasters is never that they like the "salty-tasting" ones better. They just taste more tomato or chicken or whatever. But, in fact, the salt level seems to be a crucial factor.

                                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                  The issue isn't that the salt made the canned item taste better, it's that in order to make up for the lack of salt, other preservation techniques--including MUCH longer canning (cooking)--must be substituted. It's these alternative techniques that cause the flavor problems, not the lower salt content.

                                                                  1. re: Scott_R

                                                                    I think it's a tough row to hoe to make an argument that salt itself is not a flavor enhancer and its absence does not dull flavor. The degree to which this is an issue to the individual taster is extremely variable, however.

                                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  Last week I left the salt out of my bread and it tasted wrong... bland and boring. in today's bread I was sure to put in the 1 tsp of salt and the bread tastes right. It isn't salty, it tastes like bread.

                                                                  A pinch of salt is also used in sweet baking to balance the flavor. If you make a chocolate cake without the 1/4 tsp or so of salt that it calls for it won't taste right.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    "That does not make sense to me. How can salt not make things taste salty?"

                                                                    Ever make chocolate chip cookies without a bit of salt? And then make the same cookies with salt?

                                                                    The batch with salt will taste more balanced, and have a more pronounced chocolate flavor but not "salty" at all.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Thanks all. I bake often, especially cookies, about once a week. I think salt is great for contrasting other tastes. Sweet cookies are great examples. It allows the food to have a more complex taste. Just like a drop of black ink can make white looks whiter, a touch of salt can make sweet seems sweeter. Nevertheless, salt makes foods taste salty. A person who is accustomed to a certain level of salt in their diet may not recognize it right away and feel the non-salt version as bland. However, if the same person goes on a low salt diet for a week or two and come back and try the same food, he will recognize it is the saltiness.

                                                                        I am sure many of you have dined with a person on a low salt diet. That person can recognize the added salt when you cannot. Let's try the opposite example now. Have you ever eaten with a person who is accustomed to and prefer very hot foods? That person will tell you that heat and spices bring out the favor in the foods and enhance their natural favor. Meanwhile all his friends are dying from the spicy foods he ordered and cannot taste anything but the heat.

                                                                        Adding salt will make foods taste saltier. Different people just realize the "saltiness" at different thresholds. Just like different people realize sweetness at different thresholds.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          I stopped cooking with added salt for decades, and never added it to any food but eggs in all that time. It's true that receptors become sensitized to anything that is in shorter supply, same way I taste sugar in romaine lettuce since giving up starches and sugars.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Well, I still don't agree with you, but your point might carry in some cases. Anyway, I know a fellow who told me at a later time that he was on a low-salt diet for quite some time due to high blood pressure management. He and his wife had asked me several times why my salmon and green beans and so forth tasted so good. ("How do you do that?") The wife in that couple is a very, very good cook. In retrospect, all I can imagine is that I simply used more salt than they usually did. But they did not recognize extra salt in my dishes..

                                                                            1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                              Like many things and ingredients in cooking, salt is not limited to a unitary use.

                                                                              Yes, salt makes things saltier.

                                                                              But it also adds balance to sweet foods.

                                                                              And don't overlook the way salt can enhance the overall flavor of a dish.

                                                                              We would also be remiss if we did not mention salt's ability to change texture (e.g. salting meats, or sweating onions, etc.)

                                                                              Salt is so versatile that to say it only makes a dish "saltier" would be like saying water is only good for washing the dishes, and to deominze salt because it *may* lead to medical complications for *some* people is simply shortsighted and rather ignorant.

                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                Actually, I didn't say salt's only ability is to make a dish salty. I mentioned that it can be used to contrast other tastes and to change texture, as I wrote above: "Use the same amount, but you will find the meats have different surface textures"

                                                                                Nevertheless, salt does have the ability to make food salty.

                                                                                Using your example of water, more water can be used for washing dishes, for drinking, for a lot of things, but most of all, adding water increases wetness. I stated that increasing salt increases saltiness, just like increasing water increases wetness.

                                                                                I agree that salt has all the above mentioned characteristics. Rather, I am not dispelling that adding salt increases saltiness, just like I don't reject the notion that adding water increases wetness.

                                                                                Hopefully, no one picks on me that it takes at least 6 water molecules to actually get water to be wet (worked done by Richard Saykally from UC Berkeley)

                                                                      1. After salting = bad
                                                                        Pre-salting = good, changes many things in meats and enhances flavor.
                                                                        Pepper = used as a contrast to the food, while the salt works with it. Has nothing to do with heat in 95% of cases.

                                                                        1. i'm rolling my eyes here.

                                                                          one time dh hosted a guy who was a self-proclaimed "grilling expert" and had every text by bob y. flay, esq, memorized. dh did some basic steaks and vegetables, on a cheap old battered-to-hell-and-back secondhand grill, and he went about his prep in his normal straightforward way. must have been 3 or 4 times throughout, that dude who was the guest interrupted dh and said something like "why do you do it that way? i do it this other way, bob y. flay wrote to do it this way. . . blablabla. . ." and dh just continued to do his thing. when we all sat down to our meal the dude's family inhaled all the food and declared it the best ever, and dude ate quietly. after he finished his steak, he remarked that it was different than the steaks he made at home. he then stated that he thought that the steak was much better. (this is to his credit, as he's a pretty egotistical guy, and it must have been hard for him to admit this)

                                                                          despite his observing the differences in dh's prep from his own several times during the prep of the meal, the dude asked what dh did differently, and surmised that the key factor might be dh's decrepit but "well-seasoned" grill. (*doh!*)

                                                                          but do you know what dh said?

                                                                          "i don't do anything special, i just cook thousands of pounds of meat every month."

                                                                          and dude just sort of sat there. the topic has never come up again, so i've no idea whether the doofus ever got a clue.

                                                                          my question to the op is: why would you think that professional chefs wouldn't know what they are doing? do you think they never tried multiple methods of cooking meat, or learned from the best teachers which methods work the best and achieve the best flavor? do you think cooks, chefs, culinary professionals, or folks who teach other people how to do something on television are incredibly stupid? do you also critique the this old house guys about whether they do a demolition or a masonry job on the house first, before putting up new drywall, or a mechanic show for removing a flat tire from the car before attempting to patch the inner tube? does the phrase "watch and learn" mean anything to you?

                                                                          i mean, yeah there are some major yahoos on tv who have no business being on there, but salting a steak fer fook's sake. how basic do you want to get? why don't we go tell jaques pepin that it makes no difference if his eggs are old or not, when he makes an omelet. or just sub every fresh vegetable in a recipe for canned, what difference could it possibly make. i run out of patience sometimes== like the kid who came up to me asking if he could just substitute tapioca flour for wheat flour in a bread recipe wtf? where does that even come from?

                                                                          the person on tv is trying to show you something worthwhile, simple and applicable. you don't try it, call the person(s) an idiot, then go on to unrelated spice vs whole fruit tangent? what? huh? the person on tv already explained to you what they were doing and why-- and if they didn't then the resulting *food* should explain it, just as in my own example above. it drives me crazy when people sit through educational stuff, decide they know way more than the teacher, and refuse to learn the most basic and fundamental elements of a thing, then make completely ridiculous statements equivalent to "all tv chefs do this thing i don't do, therefore they are dumb and i am smart!" GAH!!!

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                            Just effing W.O.W. That is so perfect. Thanks.

                                                                            1. Joining the rousing chorus of WHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAT?

                                                                              The purpose of salting ahead is to enhance flavors and cooking processes, not add saltiness. If the excess salt of processed food is some rationale for not cooking food properly (seasoning), perhaps it benefits you more to just stop eating unhealthy processed gargage reliant on excessive amounts of salt and sugars (along with a raft of chemicals and who-knows-what) to somehow offer some flavor. You will probably find you might begin to enjoy to naturally enhanced flavors of real foods, properly seasoned more.

                                                                              As many have already said, but I'll repeat if only for effect and emphasis. Salt before and during cooking = enhanced natural flavors. Salt after cooking often = salty.

                                                                              FYI, I tend to season meats as soon as I bring them home from the market, rather then just before cooking. The difference has been downright foodgasmic.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: mangetoutoc

                                                                                Your last point is very interesting, does this not draw out liquid? I have no problem salting a chicken 24 hours or more in advance of cooking.
                                                                                How long have you salted before cooking?

                                                                                1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                                  I do the Zuni chicken three days ahead! I'd be interested in more info about that also.

                                                                                2. re: mangetoutoc

                                                                                  The salting very early was explained on America's Test Kitchen a few times. The salt draws out moisture from the meat, dissolves the salt and then the brine is reabsorbed back into the meat. I guess this takes several hours so if you don't do this long enough before you cook the meat, the meat is dried out because the moisture/saline has not yet be reabsorbed.

                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                    I've never had meat dry out even if I didn't salt it long enough to full brine it, which is the process you're describing.