Before we dive into today’s salty topic, a couple plugs: first, I’m finally launching a Youtube channel and am so excited about it. The first video comes out this Thursday; I hope you’ll come along for the ride! You can head to my channel and hit subscribe and the bell icon to be notified when the first video is released. Second, spots for the August meal prep class are filling up quick! Head here to snag yours. The menu this month is completely oven-free (it’s so hot out!) and we’re mixing a little mock/cocktail to kick off class. It’s gonna be a fun one!
Now, for the juicy stuff: if you know me and my kitchen philosophy, then you know I have the opposite of a “my way or the highway” attitude about cooking. I’m here to help you get comfy in your kitchen, not to suggest that I know best or shame you about anything you’re doing while you cook, especially if it’s working for you! This, topic, though, is a place where I’ll make an exception and tell you that if you’re using this item on a regular basis, you’re selling yourself and your cooking skills short, and I’m here to make an argument for you to change this habit.
“Alright, Erica, we get it, you feel strongly, but what exactly are you talking about?” you say…well, the item I find most loathsome in any kitchen is…a gosh darn salt grinder! You know the one:
I should clarify, I don’t actually have a problem with the literal presence of a salt grinder like this one in anyone’s kitchen. In fact, I have and use my own salt grinder on a regular basis. Where I start to take issue, though is when a salt grinder is the only source of salt in your kitchen. Because…
When you use a salt grinder, you have little-to-no control over how much or how little salt is going into your food!
Think about it…salt is nearly impossible to see coming out of one of those things so if you’re grinding salt right into your dish, there’s no way to know how much. They’re slow and inefficient, so if you need a whole teaspoon of salt, it’s gonna take quite a bit of time and elbow grease to get there. The pieces are also all different sizes, so if you are taking the time to measure your salt, the measurement will be wonky. And while we’re far from a plastic-free household over here at Fresh Erica HQ, if you’re buying a new one at the store every time you need salt that quite a bit of extra plastic!
So what do I recommend instead? You’re gonna want to get your hands on a loose, small-grained salt, and store it in a salt cellar, a storage container with a lid, or even just a small bowl with a plate over it! (More on which salt I recommend below.) You’ll be able to scoop a measuring spoon (or your fingers!) right in. So much easier! And much better for your actual cooking skills too! Getting a good idea of how to properly season your food is one of the very best things you can do to get yourself comfy in your kitchen and you’ll never get there if you’re using a salt grinder for your everyday cooking!
So, a few tips on properly salting your food:
First and foremost, as I already mentioned, ditch the grinder and start using a salt cellar (here’s mine), a Tupperware, or small, covered bowl to store and scoop salt out of for everyday cooking.
Get consistent about which salt you buy and use for everyday cooking.
It doesn’t matter what salt you choose (Diamond Crystal, Mortons, and fine sea salt are three I see mentioned most by folks who know their way around a kitchen.)
I go for fine sea salt, mostly because it’s available at nearly any grocery store and is consistent across all brands (I use this Baleine brand and the Trader Joe’s version on a regular basis. They’re identical.). And because it’s what I got used to using, so I’ve stuck with that…
Because yes, there is a difference between brands/types of salt, and being consistent about what type of salt you use will help you get to know it better so you can salt your food properly!
If you’re not yet comfortable cooking by instinct and prefer to use recipes, then when a recipe calls for a measured amount of salt, measure it, but before you add it to your dish, pour that measured amount into your hand. Pick it up with pinched fingers, move it around in your hand, get an understanding of what that amount looks and feels like. This’ll help you start to get familiar with your salt of choice.
Once you’re comfy enough to wing it with salt while you’re cooking, start with a small amount and add more as needed. It’s easier to add more than to take it away. (You can start now! Even if it feels a little scary, you can do it, I promise!)
Because…if you do over-salt your food, adding a bit more fat or acid can help the recipe feel more balanced.
Know the time place for the use of a salt grinder. And that time and place is at the very final stage of cooking any dish. Think of salt in a grinder similar to how you would a flaky Maldon-type salt: as a finishing touch that might add a little texture, crunch, and a tiny bit more salt to your dish.
If a recipe is turning out lackluster, the usual culprit is under-salting. Try adding a dash more to your dish and see if that makes the flavors pop!
Finally, and most importantly, salt and taste your food throughout the cooking process, not just at the end of the recipe. Each element of a dish should taste well-seasoned (chef-speak for properly salted), and if you realize you’ve added a bit too much salt early on, you can course-correct by adding less later in the recipe.
If you’re among the many people who only keep and use a salt grinder for the bulk of your cooking (and don’t worry, you’re not alone! I developed this pet peeve after arriving at one-too-many client kitchens where the only salt on hand was trapped in a grinder!) then have I convinced you to change your ways? I hope so, because learning to properly season food is so important! And if you’re already salting your food with *loose salt* which salt are you using? As always, I’m curious to hear what’s going on in your kitchen!
Okay, that’s it from me this week, but please, keep me posted: you can respond directly to this email with any thoughts, questions, or salty hot takes of your own. You can also DM me or tag me over on Instagram. Have a well-fed week ahead!
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,