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Oversalted braised short ribs

I braised some short ribs today and I can tell that there is a delicious dish hiding there under the excess salt. (I followed a recipe from "Flour Too" that said to salt generously, and I guess I overdid it). Is there anything I can do to salvage what is essentially a thick, savory but far too salty stew? I know I can pick something very bland to serve it over (unsalted baked potato?) but are there any other other tricks to lessen the saltiness of the stew itself? THANKS

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  1. I have heard that you can soak up some salt from a liquid by simmering a whole peeled potato in it for a while, then remove the potato and discard it.

    I don't know if this works or not.....?

    1 Reply
    1. re: sandylc

      It doesn't. But if you cube the potato and eat the dish as a stew with the potatoes that might help.

    2. You can freestyle some additional sauce, without salting it. Make a bechamel using unsalted butter. Add to it some of the herbs/spices you used in the dish - probably it calls for some tomato product too? Use fresh, or unsalted canned. The tricky part is getting it beefy tasting without adding a salty flavoring. Grind up dried mushrooms into powder, or slowly sautee chopped onions until mahogany brown. Mix your extra sauce in with the salty meat and its sauce, cover, put in a very low oven for an hour, stir again, cool, chill, and by the next day some of the salt will have come out of the meat and balanced out the sauce.

      1. There's not much you can really do to make the braising liquid less salty without altering the overall effect, short of making some more (less salty) braising liquid and adding it to the original to cut it. The potato trick is often offered, but it doesn't work very well in practice. You could also add another non-salty bulky liquid to it (plain yogurt, cream, sour cream, bechamel, or maybe even coconut milk might work, and wouldn't thin it out) to dilute the saltiness. Obviously, this would change the overall effect.

        Failing that, I'd suggest cooking up some egg noodles (don't salt the water) and tossing em with the stew kind of like a pasta. It's not a perfect solution, but it would help mitigate.

        1. Slice some potatoe and let it simmer. The potatoe will absorb the salt.. you may want to eat the potato or throw it away if it is too salty. A pinch of sugar will also help.

          1. Like others, I think potato chunks. Add a bunch to the stew. I wouldn't toss the potatoes unless they seemed too salty themselves.

            1. This is one of my problems with the trend towards "salt generously" or "salt to taste." When you are salting raw ingredients, you can't always be tasting. At least give me an idea of how much salt to use, something like, about a teaspoon. Then I can adjust to MY tastes knowing that I am in the ballpark as to the intent of the cookbook.

              Sorry, just a rant. I know of no way to desalinate a braise that doesn't involve adding more of the braising liquid ingredients and then braising some more.

              4 Replies
              1. re: smtucker

                Agree. Adding salt, and other powdered spices, at the end of the braise makes sense. Because there really is no practical way to adjust the seasoning downwards.

                1. re: smtucker

                  I was taught (by the older generations of cooks in my family) not to salt a meat dish until after it was cooked. Maybe they were speaking from experience.

                  1. re: texanfrench

                    Ooh, in my experience, if you don't salt a meat dish, such as a braise, while it is cooking, no amount of salt at the end will make it taste salted enough.

                    1. re: sandylc

                      Literally the first lesson I learned in culinary school was the magic of salt and the necessity to salt early in the cooking process.

                2. This article aims to show that the potato method does not work very well and also offers two alternative solutions, neither which is very practical.


                  "But there are two methods that work.

                  The first is best for broths- solvent induced precipitation. Counter-intuitively, you continue to evaporate and concentrate the broth, raising the salinity. Then add in pure ethanol (vodka), which forces salt crystals to precipitate and fall to the bottom. Filter out the crystals, flame off the alcohol, and rehydrate. More science than cooking, but it does work.

                  The second techniques applies to either broths or thick stews, and harkens back to the early days of dialysis. Place the salty brew in a "semipermeable membrane". This is a thin film riddled with tiny pores, sized to easily pass salt ions, yet small enough to block much larger flavor molecules. Pour the salty stew in a bag made from the semi-permeable membrane and drop into a large bath of plain water. Over time, the salt will randomly diffuse out bag into the water, diluting the salt but not removing any flavor. The diffusion continues until the salt concentration is equalized between the bag and the bath."

                  So basically you can put all the braising liquid into a lambskin condom, tie it off, and leave it submerged in warm water for 5 or so hours. Just don't tell your diners.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: seamunky

                    This is one of the more fascinating responses I've ever read!

                    1. Add vodka
                    2. Use a lambskin condom, and don't tell the guests.

                    1. re: seamunky

                      I believe the experimental dialysis rig on M*A*S*H (main source of my medical knowledge) used sausage casings as the semi-permeable membrane. Might be more readily accessible to the modern home cook than a lambskin condom.

                      OP will also need a 1950s-vintage US Army issued bathtub, and a large quantity of ice.

                    2. You can dilute the salt by extending the quantity of your braise with salt free, absorbent ingredients. Add cooked potatoes, turnips, carrots onions, any stew ingredients actually. Obviously, don't add salt when cooking vegetables. If the short ribs are tender enough and would suffer from additional cooking,just heat them up and add these additional ingredients and maybe some vegetable cooking liquor if you need to thin. If you think the short ribs can handle additional cooking time without becoming mush, cook the vegetables in the stew.They key is then to cool & refrigerate for a day or two to allow the salt to equalize in the dish.

                      1. The potato myth has been consistently disproven by food scientists.

                        You'd have similar results (that is to say, no reduction in salt concentration) by simply ladling out some liquid.

                        Wolke: "“…the potato simmered in plain water was bland, the potato simmered in the one-teaspoon-per-quart water was salty, and the potato simmered in the one- tablespoon-per-quart water was much saltier. Does this mean that the potato actually absorbed salt from the “soups?”

                        No, All it means is that the potatoes soaked up some salt water, they didn’t selectively extract the salt from the water. Would you be surprised if a sponge placed in salt water came out tasting salty? Of course not. The concentration of salt in the water – the amount of salt per quart – would not be affected. So the salty taste of the potatoes proved nothing, except that for more flavor we should always boil our potatoes – and our pasta, for that matter – in salted water rather than plain water. “

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          To play devil's advocate, because I have not tried the potato trick - the scientific debunking might not hold water...pun ever so intended! Pasta, rice, and other dry foods will sponge up salted water, to be sure. But a potato is already mostly water. It seems to me the potato would behave more like a chicken, which is "brined" because salt first draws water from the meat, then re-equilibrates when salt is pulled back into the meat. I would think that for a really accurate potato test you'd have to know the exact concentration of the salt water, and its weight. Plus the volume lost to evaporation during the boiling period. Then you'd have to measure the amount of salt in the spud before and after boiling, and re-check the salt concentration and volume of the water post-boiling. I wonder if the lab guys did all this. IF the trick works, the salt in the spud would have risen, and water exuded from the spud would have diluted the amount of salt in the water, though the final volume might be much the same. Like the deception in that old Wesson oil ad where the claim is made that after frying, only a spoonful of oil has been absorbed by the chicken. Of course, the juices from the chicken have diluted the oil, making it appear that little was lost.

                          Maybe the OP can remove salt from the short ribs by poaching chicken breasts in the sauce!

                          1. re: greygarious

                            I couldn't say whether the potato trick doesn't work *at all* or just doesn't work well enough to be noticeable or worthwhile. But I can tell you it's certainly either one or the other.

                            It doesn't really matter whether anyone has ever bothered to set up as rigorous an experiment as you recommend. Try it, and it's relatively obvious that you're pissing in the wind. On top of that, if you've often added potatoes late to a braise or a soup, you might notice that they don't suck up all the salt and require reseasoning. Likewise, the soup or braise does not require additional salt if you then let the mix refrigerate overnight either. It would be easy to see for yourself how little the potato trick actually does next time you make yourself a soup.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Since I use almost no added salt in my food, I'm not a candidate for this experiment. On the rare occasions when I reach for the salt, it's to use on a finished dish.

                        2. Thanks for your responses, everyone. I reheated the braise tonight and we ate it over plain, unsalted baked potato, which helped to distract from the saltiness. It was actually pretty darned tasty!

                          1. If it were me, I would take some no-salt, jellied, home-made beef broth out of my freezer and make a gravy with it and add some of the too-salty sauce to it.

                            Don't throw away the too-salty sauce. Freeze it and add some of it to low salt beef recipes in the future.