Why You Don’t Need a Salt Shaker

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Food Advice
Tags: , , , , ,

Except when intentionally put there such as salted caramel desserts, finishing salts on soups, snacks such as chips and pretzels, or other uses deemed necessary by the chef, I want everyone to know that

Salt is not meant to be a flavor! Put down the shaker and walk away slowly!

Let me explain. When I was growing up, my kitchen table played host to a napkin holder with a salt and pepper shaker. My guess is your home might also have this or at least you grew up in a similar environment. Whenever dinner came around – and sometimes breakfast – the salt and pepper shakers were passed around to each person who would apply the “correct” amount of salt to their food. This was normal to me as my parents did it who grew up in homes where that was normal. The cycle has probably continued on for generations. But none of it was ever correct. In fact, the salt shaker need not have ever been anywhere near the table.

Among a host of other roles, salt is a flavor enhancer. When used properly in the kitchen, a small amount can boost the flavor of the ingredients inside the dish. You should never actually be able to taste the salt, but the flavors that explode in your mouth would otherwise be pretty dull without it. When added to the cooking process, the chemical makeup of the sodium attaches itself to the molecules in the food. When eaten, these molecules stimulate the salt receptors of your tongue which sends a pleasant good taste signal to your brain. When simply added on top, salt never has an opportunity to attach itself and change the chemical composition of the food your cooking, it just masks the flavor.

If you find yourself constantly adding salt to your food because it tastes pretty bland without it, that just means that you didn’t use enough salt when cooking it. Sure, you can use too much and completely ruin your meal, but you will actually add more salt to your food by shaking it on top than if you added it to your food to begin with. This is one of the hardest things to learn when cooking, but learning how to properly season your food before and during the cooking process is one of the more effective methods of reducing your salt intake and improving your health.

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