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Science and Importance of Salting Meats Before Cooking

Summer has arrived and that means time for serious grilling!  I often get asked the same question by friends and professional culinarians alike, “should I salt meat before grilling?”   Surely, we have all heard different takes on the subject, even professional Chefs have differences of opinions.  Personally, I believe there is no right or wrong in asking this question.   I simply ask, “would you like to have good flavor or dazzling flavor that will knock your socks off?”  Then I explain the science behind salting meats.  Salt, the only rock we eat, is more than just a seasoning, it’s a very important flavor in our food. It can intensify aromas, balance other flavors, make meat juicier, and preserve food.  However, a heavy hand with salt can easily ruin a dish.  We’ve all seen that movie more than once!  

Salt is one of the five basic tastes that we’re hard-wired to detect. It intensifies foods by turning up the volume of their salty flavors.  Salt can also lesson the taste of bitter foods by repressing our perception of bitterness and balance other tastes like sweet and sour.  Additionally, salt releases aroma molecules from food into the air and make sauces thicken more quickly.  For this Chef I season meats an hour before cooking with (my favorite salt) Kosher salt or a salty rub which draws out protein rich juice that dries on the surface during cooking, creating a crispy seasoned crust.  Kosher salt is known for its ability to draw out the blood from a piece of meat, which is a process known as “koshering”. It’s used in traditional Jewish cuisine, which requires the blood from meat to be extracted before being cooked or cured. Because of its coarse structure, kosher salt is the most efficient of the various types of salts for the koshering process.

Additionally, I use Kosher salt when cooking vegetables by salting the water for boiling or blanching.   By doing this it speeds up cooking by quickening the breakdown of hemicelluloses, substances that help hold vegetable fibers together.  Salt also transfigures the tight network of proteins, making their flavors tastier.

Ultimately,  I tend to keep grilling simple when it comes to steak or chops.  I simply salt my meats an hour before grilling, after which I apply a thin coat of EVOO, fresh black pepper and chopped fresh herbs.   (I adore chives, tarragon and Italian parsley) After grilling to perfection, I sprinkle the same fresh herbs on my steak/chops.  Serious perfection!  If salting your meat before cooking is not something you have done in the past then I HIGHLY recommend giving it.  Give it a try and leave a comment!

Well, now I am getting hungry and I just happen to have a Prime strip I am getting ready to grill!  Grill, have fun and remember to keep experimenting in the kitchen!  Half of what I know is comes from 25 years of experimenting in the kitchen. 

After all, it is just food!!



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