We all know that salt brings out the best in food. It's Asia's Best Chef Gaggan Anand's favourite ingredient, an integral part of every cook's arsenal. It's the one seasoning that can boost the flavour factor of any dish, in just small pinches.
But if you think that this magical ingredient is just a one-trick pony, think again. Here are 15 fantastic ways salt earns our continual respect.
1. To Enhance Sweets
As counterintuitive as it may sound, a sprinkle of salt goes a long way when it comes to dessert. No, seriously. Chef Veena Arora, Chef De Cuisine, The Spice Route at The Imperial says, “All Thai desserts have salt in them to balance the flavour and to cut the sharpness of sugar”. (Ever heard of Salted Caramel Brownies? Divine!)
“Salt helps draw the moisture out of sweating vegetables and softens them faster”, says Home Chef Malini Sawhney. This is especially useful if you want to sweat out slices of aubergines (brinjal). You can also use salt with water while cooking starchy ingredients like potatoes, pasta or rice as it permeates the ingredients more deeply and improves the flavour.
2. As a Dehydrator
3. For Brining and Curing
Salt works wonders with meat in marinades and for curing. Chef Vicky Ratnani says, “A brief soak in a salty brine will render large cuts of meat tender and juicy. You can use salt to brine chicken overnight, before roasting”. Reverse osmosis takes place since the concentration of salt in the brine is more than the protein-rich liquid inside the meat. Hence, the water is absorbed by the flesh. “I also use salt for curing salmon”, adds Chef Vicky.
4. To Tame Sour Flavors
Salt also counterbalances puckery acids perfectly. (Yes salt-rimmed margarita, we're looking at you!) The next time you're making a lemon pie or a red vinaigrette, add a pinch of salt and wait for the magic.
5. As a Preservative In Pickles
Did you know that salt plays an essential role in the process of pickling? It is added as a preservative and controls fermentation. When the pickle is left to dry, salt-tolerant microorganisms grow and produce acids that add flavour. It extracts the excess water, concentrates the juices and gives the fruits or veggies a firm texture.
6. To Test an Egg's Freshness
Wondering whether your eggs are fresh? Just add 2 teaspoons of salt to 1 glass cold water, and then gently place the egg in the glass. A fresh egg will sink. An old one will float.
7. To Speed Up Cooking Time
In a hurry? Add a pinch or two of salt to the water you are boiling food in. This makes the water boil at a higher temperature so the food you are cooking will require less time on the stove top. Food Writer Reshmy Kurian says, “When you caramelize onions, add a pinch of salt and cover it for a while. It'll cook faster and turn out with the right crunchiness."
8. To Scrub Dishes
When food stubbornly lingers on your plate, use salt to get rid of it. Soak the plate in heavily salted water for around 30 minutes, and then wipe away the mess. To clean a cast-iron pan, add 2 tbsp of any essential oil of your choice and place on medium heat. Once the pan is heated, stir in 3 tbsp of salt and then use a tong to hold a paper towel. Scrub until clean.
9. To Remove Stains
Dropped salad dressing on your shirt? Fret not. If you want to prevent the fresh stain from setting in, cover it with salt to absorb the oils. Repeat as per requirement, and then wash. Believe it or not, this handy trick also works on carpets. All you need to do is mix salt with alcohol, rub the mixture on the greasy stain, and voila!
10. To Brighten Up Your Cutting Board
Sprinkle the surface with salt and half a lemon to get rid of ugly stains and odours. Rub it into the board in a circular motion for best results.
11. To Clean Brass
Make a paste of salt and vinegar and scoop it onto a soft cloth. First rub the metal, and then rinse and buff dry. It's that simple!
12. To Get Rid of Tea and Coffee Stains
Tea and coffee leave stains on cups and in pots. Easily scrub away these unattractive rings by mixing vinegar with salt in equal proportions onto a sponge and rub clean.
13. To Clean Your Oven
The next time some chocolate spills out of the cake tin, don't give it a chance to bake on and cool. Sprinkle salt on it while it's still liquid. You can wipe it off once the oven cools down. The salt will not only help clean the oven, but get rid of the odour too. Add a pinch of cinnamon if you want the oven to smell nice.
14. For Cracked Heels
“Mix 100 grams salt, 1 cup oatmeal, 100 ml almond oil, 100 grams honey, 100 grams rice powder, 10 drops juniper oil and 10 drops peppermint oil and store in an airtight jair. Use on a loofah and scrub your feet daily with this”, says Delhi-based Dermatologist Suparna Trikha.
15. As a Body Scrub
Salt is a gentle natural exfoliate that removes dead skin. It also contains minerals that soften the skin and restore hydration. Mix ¼ cup salt and ½ cup olive oil or coconut oil into a thick paste. Optional: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Apply while taking a shower, gently scrubbing your skin in a circular motion.
This makes us wonder: What can't salt do?