Salt's delicious secrets

See how to use it in Classic Vinaigrette, Grilled Pork Chops with Brown-Sugar Brine, and even on a dark Chocolate Tart

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Salt-crusted Beets with Avocado, Lavender, and Thyme

Leigh Beisch

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Any chef will tell you that the key to great cooking isn't technique or expensive equipment ― it's using salt properly. Ironically, the most important seasoning in the kitchen is often relegated to the table, where it's used to make bland food taste better, after the fact.

But season a steak with coarse salt before and right after grilling, and you get delicious, juicy meat with a crunchy exterior. A salad tastes fresher and more flavorful when tossed with a properly salted dressing. And a sprinkle of flaky salt on a dark chocolate tart brings out the dessert's intensity and richness.

Without salt, cheese would taste like paste and potatoes would taste, well, like something dug out of the ground. Salt also affects the texture of food. It tenderizes meat and slows the development of yeast in bread dough, preventing the dough from over-rising and collapsing. Salt plays other roles too: It inhibits the growth of bacteria, and it pulls moisture from juicy vegetables like eggplant so they'll fry without getting soggy.

Salt ― the right kind, in the right amount ― can transform your cooking.

WHY SIZE MATTERS

Ultra-fine salt gives a light, even coverage, so it's great for hard-to-sprinkle foods like popcorn. Fine-grain is useful for all-purpose cooking. Medium- to coarse-grain adds sparkle and crunch to bread doughs and roasted meat and fish. Save extra-coarse salt for seasoning pasta water or creating beds for oysters on the half shell.

 

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