Salt is food’s most effective flavor enhancer. The use of salt creatively, as an ingredient with distinct physical properties and culinary traditions, finds its fullest expression in finishing salts. In 2010, Mark Bitterman penned the James Beard Award winning book Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral to help everyone gain a working understanding of finishing salts.
The concept of finishing salt is straightforward: fling a carefully chosen, handmade salt across the surface of your food, and bite. As you eat, food and salt combine—first a flash of salt... then the food... a flicker of salt and now fuller food flavors, and then a faint spark of salt catches at the richest and most complex flavors of the food. With finishing salt, the relationship of salt and food evolves with every bite. The rewards are increased intensity of flavor, greater flavor complexity, exciting new textures and even aromas, and a heightened awareness of the very process of tasting food. Finishing salts promise the opportunity for a new, more intimate relationship with food.
The marvel of finishing salts is that no single set of definitions can fully explain them. However, here are some ground rules for Salting Strategically:
- Eat all the salt you want, as long as you are the one doing the salting.
- Buy unsalted foods.
- Skew the use of salt toward the end of food preparation.
- Use only natural, unrefined salts.
- Make salting a deliberate act.
- Use the right salt at the right time.