Preparing food with salt blocks, massive rosy-hued slabs of Himalayan salt, is a culinary trend that has been millennia in the making but is completely au courant. Salt blocks, the large pinkish blocks mined in Pakistan, can be used to cook, cure, freeze, brown, and of course, present food.
Mark Bitterman, author of the book Salted, is one of the leading authorities on cooking with Himalayan salt blocks. He sells them through his shop, The Meadow. His latest book, Salt Block Cooking is designed to inspire any culinary adventurer to start experimenting.
There’s a lot to love about cooking with salt blocks. Because the blocks have very little porosity or residual moisture they can be heated and cooled to extreme temperatures. Blocks come in a variety of colors, sizes, and grades for different uses. The salt imparts flavor to the food rested on it in a way that is utterly unlike any other food prep technique. In the book, Bitterman breaks down the ways the blocks and be used.
Cooking–For cooking, blocks need to be at least an inch thick and preferably two inches. Once you cook with a block it loses its softly lustrous color forever. Cooking with blocks requires industrial-strength oven mitts, a ceramic trivet, and some precautionary measures. Blocks with flaws can crack or pop. Heating blocks in incremental stages can minimize potential problems but gas ovens can be risky, ranges and grills tend to work best. Meat and fish cooked on a salt block has a unique flavor and retains its moistness. A pink salt block makes a dramatic sight on an outdoor grill. Blocks can also be used for things you would normally bake, you can even use them to make cookies as Bitterman shows with arecipe that is a new take on the classic chocolate chip cookie.
Serving–Serving on a salt platter is a gentle form of alchemy. Certain foods take on more of the block’s flavor. Place watermelon on a block and you have a limited time before the intriguing mixture of salt and sweet begins to shift. On the other hand, butter’s fat content means it can sit on the block longer without absorbing too much flavor.
Curing–One of the most amazing uses of salt blocks is for curing. The combination of the weight of the block and the salt speeds up the process. It works on anything from salmon to vegetable pickles or even strawberries. Bitterman includes a recipe for a beautiful cured watermelon, wrapped prosciutto-style around honeydew melon.
Warm Serving–Blocks can also be used warmed to serve food. The blocks retain heat well. Salt bowls are also available and create a very unique presentation for dips or fondue.
Chilled Blocks–Making ice cream with chilled salt blocks is a little more complicated than just throwing ingredients in an ice cream maker but the resulting confections hit the perfect spot between salty and sweet.
Drinking from Salt Cups–do you love a shot of tequila with a lick of salt? Bitterman’s shop sells salt cups that can be used to serve all sorts of cocktails. You will need to drink them quickly and some recipes call for pre-chilling the glasses. The result is stunt drinking at its best.
To order the book and browse Bitterman’s wide selection of salt blocks for sale visit AtTheMeadow.com.