Tips and Hints for Cooking With Salt

How to Fix an Over-Salted Recipe and More Tips on Using Salt

Sprinkling salt on a steak
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Salt is probably one of the most used spices in any kitchen. A pinch of salt can add a delicious bit of flavor but over salting a meal can be disastrous. If you've ever wondered when to add that pinch of salt or how to save a salty soup the answers are all here. 

Storing Salt

  • Unseasoned salt has an infinite shelf life. Seasoned salts should be kept tightly capped and used within 1 year.
  • Humidity and moisture will cause salt to clump and stick together. Add about ten grains of raw rice to the shaker to absorb the moisture and keep the salt flowing freely.
  • Do not store salt in silver containers. The chlorine in the salt reacts negatively with the silver, causing a green discoloration.

Save an Over-Salted Dish

  • If you have over-salted a liquid dish such as a soup, add unsalted liquid to dilute it or toss in a peeled, quartered potato for 15 minutes. Discard the potato (or eat it as a cook's treat!). These solutions will not work in a major over-salting accident.
  • Over-salted sauces can often be helped with the addition of a little cream, brown sugar or vinegar. Use your judgment depending on the sauce, using a little at a time and tasting all the way.
  • A bit of unsalted, cooked white rice pureed with unsalted water or broth to a thin paste can also help cure over-salted soups or stews.

When to Salt Food

  • For soups and sauces that have a long simmering time, go easy on the salt in the beginning, keeping in mind that the liquid will reduce and intensify the salt flavor.
  • Although a pinch of salt added to bread and desserts enhances flavors, do not double this ingredient when doubling a recipe.
  • Salt pulls juices out of vegetables. This is a good thing for some watery vegetables like cucumbers and eggplant in some dishes, but if you want mushrooms to remain plump, add the salt at the end of cooking.
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate), used in many Asian dishes, not only amplifies the natural flavor of salt but can impart a metallic taste to the dish due to a chemical interaction. Keep this in mind when using them together.
  • Do not add salt before whipping egg whites. The salt pulls out the moisture which will not only increase whipping time, but decrease volume, texture, and stability.
  • If you plan on adding salt to boiling water for pasta or vegetables, wait until the water boils before adding it. Salted water takes longer to boil.
  • The addition of salt to vegetables and pasta results in a firmer texture.

Tips for Salt Reduction

  • Vegetables naturally high in sodium include beets, kale, chard, celery, spinach, dandelion greens, carrots, endive, corn, and artichokes. Take care when adding salt.
  • When reducing salt in bread, you will need to reduce the quantity of yeast and water as well. Salt is necessary to good yeast breads, so do not expect the same quality if you modify it. Salt slows down enzymes that cause gluten to break down, without which you end up with a sticky glob of dough. Usually, the small amount used in bread as compared with serving size it's not worth omitting the salt.
  • A salted warm dish will not taste as salty when cold because chilling dims salty flavors.
  • When tasting for saltiness or other flavorings, be sure to sample a large enough portion to cover the middle and sides of the tongue. The tip of the tongue is less sensitive. Also be sure to cool the bite before tasting as high heat will dull taste buds.
  • It is only natural that seafood is high in salt, considering their growing environment. Added salt will toughen shellfish. Use additional salt sparingly.
  • Contrary to popular belief, salting meat before cooking is a good thing when cooking under high temperatures. The salt helps accentuate the caramelization of the natural sugars in the meat and also helps form the crust that seals in moisture and flavor. Choose coarse or kosher salt to use with meats.
  • If you must restrict your salt intake, you can maximize flavor by sprinkling a pinch of kosher or coarse salt on cooked meats during their resting period.
  • Do not use table salt for pickling and canning. The additives can darken the pickles and affect fermentation. Use pickling salt for best results.
  • Substitute 1 tablespoon coarse or Kosher salt for 2 teaspoons table salt.