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Salt Baking

While in Korea, I had noticed street vendors hawking potatoes that were baked in an iron tub of hot salt which they were pushing around in their street carts.

Roasting potatoes slow baked in an iron pot filled with simply water softener salt baked in an oven at 250f should give great results of a fluffier potato. I've also heard this done with a $$ Prime Rib roast but that sounds daring..

Does anyone have any experience in baking with just rock salt? I assume that cheap water softener salt would be safe to use as it is extremely cheap and easy to find.

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  1. I've done fish, ducks, chickens and pineapple. You need a lot of salt and the item shouldn't be that large unless you're ready to work with a lot of salt. And I use coarse sea salt and not water softener salt.

    Salt-baking was one of the first methods André Daguin used to prepare magret de canard, though he did the salt dome thing using a bit of egg white to help set up the packing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      Baking larger items attracts the economy of using water softer salt (used for home and pool treatments) - use as much as you like when at about $5 for 40lbs. It looks/is the same as crushed rock salt.

      1. re: jbermo

        I don't believe that it is food-grade.

    2. I've done shrimp in salt. I'm not sure about the purity of rock salt but the less expensive water softener stuff sounds pretty pure. Am I confused?

      1 Reply
      1. re: travelerjjm

        I'm not sure that there is much culinary difference between culinary rock salt and water softener salt used for home and swimming pool treatment. Geologically speaking, all salt is mined from ancient seabeds (formed by ancient oceans evaporating over time). Purity should not be a problem since you cook with it and not eat it. In Hong Kong they make a great dish of whole chicken baked in mud.

      2. There was just an article in the Washington Post about this. We used to do whole fish like that often but fell out of the habit. It was delicious. As the article said, like a simple sous vide. We use kosher salt. I can't imagine rock salt, unless it was food grade and ground some.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifesty...

        1. I don't recall where I got the rock salt for this, but I thought it was really good. I have also done potatoes in salt. I think I put a layer of salt some red potatoes rubbed w/ olive oil and covered them with salt. They were very good.

          http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ja...

          1. Thank you both Chowser and Free Sample for your interesting links on salt baking. They had contained some of the info that I was looking for.

            1. From Cargill:

              "What is the difference between the types of water softener salt I see in the store?
              Three types of salt are generally encountered in the retail store: rock salt, solar salt (crystals) and evaporated salt (pellets).
              Rock salt is a naturally occurring mineral which is obtained from underground salt deposits by traditional mining methods. It exhibits a variable chemical purity, running from 98% to 99% sodium chloride. It has a water insolubles level of about 0.5% to 1.5%, the chief component of which is an impurity called calcium sulfate.
              Solar salt is a natural product obtained through the evaporation of seawater or inland brine sources. It has a sodium chloride content of 99.5% or higher, and a water insolubles level of less than 0.03%. It is most commonly sold in a crystal form, but also may be sold in the form of compressed pellets or blocks.
              Evaporated salt is manufactured by solution mining underground bedded salt deposits of dissolving salt to form a brine and then evaporating the moisture using energy in the form of natural gas or coal. Evaporated salt (in the form of compacted pellets, sheeted salt - called cubes, or blocks) has a sodium chloride content ranging from 99.6% to 99.99%. Water insoluble matter generally is less than 0.01%."

              I'd be comfortable using it.

              http://www.cargill.com/salt/about/faq...

              5 Replies
              1. re: seamunky

                Thank you for your educational info. You have confirmed for me that a culinary rating is not necessary for this type of medium when used this way, provided that the material is clean. A 40 lb bag of rock style water softener salt (always pure white) costs about $7 vs $5 for a 2.5 lb box of Mortons culinary rock salt. Plenty to use for baking/roasting where a dry crust sealing of moisture is desired. Probably also best used with the old fashioned ice cream makers.

                1. re: jbermo

                  You're welcome.

                  <Roasting potatoes slow baked in an iron pot filled with simply water softener salt baked in an oven at 250f should give great results of a fluffier potato.>

                  If you had a big kettle of salt already going, I bet all kinds of things would be wonderful roasted that way. For me, I'd try sticking some beets, carrots or sweet potatoes in there too. Or peanuts in the shell. Or corn in their husks. Maybe after the veggies were done, I'd stick in some chicken quarters.

                  1. re: seamunky

                    Would the beets flavor the potatoes?

                    1. re: travelerjjm

                      I don't imagine they would but I'm not sure. In my mind it would be fun to have a big wash tub full of hot salt in which you can continually shove things into roast. Like playing in a sand box for chowhounds.

                      1. re: seamunky

                        Ohhhh. I can sort of see this. I imagine a big tub of salt kept hot somehow and a shovel. You'd stick stuff in by digging a hole. I could see a restaurant running this all the time.