I don’t intend to spill an inordinate amount of ink on Himalayan salt blocks at the expense of other fine saline subjects, but there are enough inquiries from customers these days that a short series on the practical side of working with plates of Himalayan salt seems warranted.
There are dozens of ways to use Himalayan salt blocks, as plates, platters, skillets, curing bricks, freezing slabs, and more. Cooking, however, is an important one to get under your belt as soon as possible.
And by the way, I personally like to use one Himalayan salt block for cooking, and keep a separate Himalayan salt block/plate for room temperature uses such as curing, serving, and otherwise presenting food. That way, your cooking salt block benefits from the patina and structural changes inherent to cooking, much as a cast iron skillet benefits from careful use and cleaning. At the same time, the purity and simplicity of the unheated Himalayan salt block can be emphasized when used for presentation at the table..
So, with regards to heating and cleaning: Himalayan salt blocks like to be pampered, especially at first. So, as a rule, be especially careful the first few times you heat up your salt plate. The first few times you heat up your salt block, fissures and cracks will appear, and the color may change from its original pink to a whiter color. This is normal. However, after successive uses, you may find that the salt block regains some of its original hue, largely as a result of washing.
1: When cooking, be sure to use only Himalayan salt blocks that are at least 1 inch thick, and preferably 1.5 inches or more.
a. Using a gas range: put the your salt block on the stove top. Do not use an oven. Set heat to low, give the salt brick 15 minutes to heat up. You may notice moisture accumulating at the edges. As the salt block heats, this will evaporate off. The slower you do this, the better.
b. Using an electric range works even better than gas, as there is less moisture and more even heat distribution. If heating on the stovetop, use a pastry ring or wok ring or metal object to elevate the salt slab slightly above the burner. Again, start at very low temperature, for about 10 minutes.
4: Really heating: Set heat on high, and allow 5 to 10 minutes to achieve desired temperature. You can use an infrared thermometer.
5: Cook your food, don’t burn it. Salt picks up things like color fairly easily, so the more care you take with your cooking the better your salt will look (see my earlier comments about A Portrait of Dorian Gray). Here is an example of one of my most brutalized Himalayan salt plates. I use this one for experimentation and any application where rough handling is used. It may be beat up looking, but I love this salt block for all the amazing uses it has provided me. To the right you see a magnified image of the surface. The color has penetrated the salt crystals, but it still cooks very well. Also note above the small crack in the bottom of the salt brick. This crack appeared some time ago, but the salt plate nonetheless remains very stable and sturdy.
6: When done using your Himalayan salt brick, let it cool. This will take time. A lot of time. Maybe until tomorrow. be sure the piece is fully cooled to room temperature before washing.
7: Rinse your Himalayan salt brick under warm water. Remove from water and then scrub vigorously any areas where food has stuck of any glazing (as from fat) has developed. Rinse with water again to wash clean.
8: Dry your Himalayan salt block with clean rag or paper towel. Clean rags to the best job, as they don’t get chewed up by the salt’s surface. When nicely dry, set on drying rack, or any place where it can air dry.
9: Store in any location where humidity is at a minimum. I keep many of mine on the window sill.
Mark Bitterman :: Jan.30.2008 :: :: 93 Comments »