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Cooking with seawater?

ipsedixit May 21, 2011 12:08 PM

I've always heard about the virtues of cooking crustaceans (like lobster, crab, etc.) in seawater.

I've heard the same about things like corn, potatoes, and some vegetables, esp. carrots.

Other things I've learned are big no-no's, like pasta, but apparently rice is OK (sometimes).

I've even heard that cooking beans in seawater reduces cooking time and requires no soaking (assuming you are a "soaker" to begin with).

Some people even tell me that poaching (yes, poaching!) fish like salmon and halibut in seawater is the only way to go.

So, do you cook with seawater? And, if so, how?

I got this "free" coupon (from a company I will not name to avoid free advertising) burning a hole in my pocket to try a few liters of "organic" seawater. Wondering if it's worth the trouble ...

Thanks all.

  1. MGZ May 21, 2011 12:36 PM

    I have used ocean water to steam or boil lobsters (many times), crabs, and clams (I retrieve it myself - which resulted in a pretty funny Christmas Eve morning once). I have had oysters steamed in Chesapeake Bay water as well. I've enjoyed the results each time.

    1. g
      grangie angie May 21, 2011 12:38 PM

      "Organic" ? seawater?

      3 Replies
      1. re: grangie angie
        ipsedixit May 21, 2011 12:41 PM

        Not only organic, but apparently "harvested" ... who would've thunk it.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          MGZ May 21, 2011 12:52 PM

          I harvest mine. In repurposed containers.

          (It involves wading into the Atlantic with gallon spring water jugs.)

          1. re: MGZ
            MGZ May 21, 2011 12:56 PM

            Although, come to think about it, I've also paddled out on a surfboard to get it (it has to be "harvested" outside the break). I suppose I could call that "using environmentally-friendly vehicles."

      2. paulj May 21, 2011 01:11 PM

        Why don't you make your own simulated sea water - just dissolve 35g of salt (sea salt if you care) in a liter of fresh water (or to be picky 965g of pure water)?


        12 Replies
        1. re: paulj
          ipsedixit May 21, 2011 01:18 PM

          There are minerals (supposedly) in fresh sea water that cannot be replicated with just combining salt and water, even sea salt and water.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            paulj May 21, 2011 02:50 PM

            One issue is overall saltiness of the water - will it leave your food too salty or not.

            Another is the minerals that are not in salt. According to the figure I linked, sulfate and magnesium are the two largest components after sodium chloride. Are those present in sea salt? If not, why? If sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water, shouldn't its composition match the ion mix in the water?

            I found one source that claimed magnesium strengthens cell walls, and thus prolongs the cooking time of vegetables like potatoes. They note that calcium is added to canned foods like tomatoes to improve texture. Magnesium has similar effect.

            1. re: paulj
              MGZ May 22, 2011 04:48 AM

              There is organic material suspended in the oceans' waters. It affects the taste of the water as well. The smell of the ocean alone helps illustrate what I mean.

              In a more romantic sense, I'd rather think of it in a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" way.

            2. re: ipsedixit
              alanbarnes May 21, 2011 08:08 PM

              Sea salt is seawater with the water evaporated. Any minerals that are so volatile that they evaporate with the water are probably something I don't want in my diet.

              That said, all sea salts are not alike. The mineral content of the water on the salt flats at the south end of San Francisco Bay is different than what you find near the red clay cliffs of Maui or off the beaches of Normandy. If you want Norman seawater, you'd better use Norman sea salt. Otherwise, I can't imagine a difference.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                scubadoo97 May 21, 2011 09:08 PM

                They do sell a product called instant ocean for making salt water for reef tanks. It has the minerals and trace elements that are naturally found in sea water.

              2. re: paulj
                MGZ May 21, 2011 01:21 PM

                Salted water does not taste the same as ocean water. I don't know if it matters in the overall preparation, but there is a different flavor to it.

                1. re: MGZ
                  ipsedixit May 21, 2011 01:24 PM

                  Do you worry about the supposed "pollution" off the shores of NJ when using seawater? I'm not so much concerned for things like lobster, crab, shrimp, etc., but what about veggies or potatoes?

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    MGZ May 21, 2011 01:33 PM

                    Not really, though I wouldn't do it the day after a heavy rain (I don't get in much, or for long, on such days either).

                    1. re: MGZ
                      ipsedixit May 21, 2011 02:24 PM

                      I wonder if I could run my "straight-from-the-ocean" seawater through a Brita filter or something. Or would take away all the "sea flavor" ....

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        MGZ May 22, 2011 04:40 AM

                        I think that would defeat the purpose.

                        1. re: MGZ
                          ipsedixit May 22, 2011 11:47 AM

                          Yeah, you're probably right.

                    2. re: ipsedixit
                      MGZ May 22, 2011 05:35 AM

                      My Dad recalls that I would cook corn with the lobster water years ago. I had forgotten (beer), as I have been grilling corn for so long now.

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