Himalayan salt blocks are a flavorful and creative way to cook

This July Fourth, I won’t be grilling the usual suspects. Instead, I’ll be showing off my latest food fascination and slowly heating bricks of rose-colored, translucent salt on the grill, then using them to sear shrimp and vegetables. Or, I might use them to grill moist, delicately flavored chicken with crispy skin. I might even freeze a salt block to make ice cream.

Recipes included with this story: Salt Brick Grilled Chicken, Salt Crust Scallops With Thai Lime Dipping Sauce, Salt-Grilled Cheeseburger Sliders, Watermelon and Feta on a Salt Block.

Himalayan salt blocks have been around for several years. Intrigued by their beauty, I bought a 9-inch round stone for $25 a decade ago. It held promise as a novel serving platter and culinary tool, but I feared it would oversalt food and was timid about cooking with it.

It stayed hidden in my cupboard until a few weeks ago, when I was inspired by “Salt Block Cooking,” the new book from Mark Bitterman, a Portland selmelier (salt purveyor) and co-owner of The Meadow, which specializes in artisanal salt and chocolates. Armed with Bitterman’s book, I pulled out my salt block, picked up others in varying sizes, and started grilling and curing with them, making everything from preserved lemons to a watermelon-and-feta salad.

“People are titillated by it,” Bitterman said. “It’s visually incredibly dramatic. You’re cooking on this slab of 500-million-year-old salt.”

But even he admits to initially being intimidated by salt stones. “I had them for years before I really used them,” he said.

Bitterman first wrote about salt stone cooking in his James Beard-award winning book, “Salted.” His new book demystifies the stones and highlights their versatility with 70 recipes, tips, techniques and eye-catching photos.

He uses salt stones at room temperature to serve, season and cure; heated for baking, cooking and searing meats, fish and fruit; and chilled for ice cream and desserts. There are recipes for drinks in cup-shaped stones and for sauces, chocolate fondue and dips in bowl-shaped stones.

Salt Brick Grilled ChickenView full sizeSalt Brick Grilled Chicken

Salt of the earth

The stone is cut from boulders carved from the Salt Range of Pakistan. Although the stone has been marketed as originating in the Himalayas, the Salt Range is about 200 miles away, said Bitterman. Despite this mislabeling, Himalayan salt is considered among the purest in the world, free from pollutants, rich in calcium, iron and some 80 trace minerals.

These minerals are what give the slabs their distinctive color and appearance. They can be streaked, translucent, opaque or a combination of all three. They can be whitish, pink, deep red, amber yellow and even silvery blue. The fissures and color variations make each one distinct.

When heated, they change color and develop a patina in the same way that a cast-iron skillet or a wok is seasoned with use.

An Internet search uncovers the medicinal appeal of this unrefined, natural salt, praised for uses from nasal decongestants to bath salts. But above all, salt from this region is touted for its culinary use and flavor.

The hard facts about salt
Where to buy
Culinary salt stones come in small and large squares, rectangles and rounds, plus cups and bowls. There are two grades: “tableware” and “cookware.” Cookware grade is more expensive because it is thicker (at least 1.5 inches) and free of deep fissures, helping to ensure stability of the stone. Unlike cookware grade, tableware grade can be chosen for its beauty and safely used for cold and room-temperature preparations — but not for heated preparations.
Once a salt block has been heated, the color pales and it begins to take on the patina of cooking. Some devotees keep separate stones for cooking and serving.
Prices vary depending on grade and size. An 8-by-4-by-2 inch brick ($17 to $18) makes a good lighter-weight starter block for experimenting. Medium-size blocks can range from $26 to $62 and large rectangles from $83 to $122. Salt rounds range from $28 to $83.
Locally, find blocks at The Meadow, Kitchen Kaboodle and Sur La Table. SaltWorks in Woodinville, Wash., has a large selection for online ordering.
The websites for The Meadow and SaltWorks offer detailed information about using and handling blocks.
Heating a salt block
Be sure your block is cookware grade. Blocks can be used on electric and gas ranges, in the oven and on charcoal and gas grills. Your stone will take at least 45 minutes to heat to a high temperature. To prevent cracking or popping, heat it slowly from room temperature and follow the block’s accompanying directions carefully.
For gas grills, put the block on the cold grill directly over one burner, lower the lid, and turn that burner to low. Wait 15 minutes, turn on a second burner and set both burners to medium. Increase heat every 15 minutes until desired temperature is reached.
For charcoal grills, set up the grill with two levels of coals, one four coals deep, the other one coal deep. Heat blocks on grill over low heat for 15 minutes, then move midway between the low and high heat for 15 minutes and finally to high heat for another 15 minutes.
Cleaning and storing
Cool blocks to room temperature before cleaning. This can take several hours. Avoid soaking or running water on slab, as it will wear away the salt and trap moisture, which can lead to breakage when slab is next heated.
Wipe the block with a damp sponge, scouring any caked-on bits of food with a scouring pad or steel wool (not Brillo or SOS). Gently go over the surface until clean, then remove excess moisture with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Air dry at least 24 hours before next use.
The block is naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Store blocks indoors, away from moisture, humidity and heat.
— Joan Cirillo

The perfect seasoning

“Food will taste better,” said Bitterman. The salt concentrates the flavor by drawing out moisture and, when used properly, the block leaves food “perfectly seasoned,” he said.

The exploding interest in gourmet salts and healthful cooking have led to the increased popularity of salt stones, according to Naomi Novotny, co-owner of SaltWorks, a specialty sea salt company in Woodinville, Wash.

“They’re pretty,” she said. “Definitely when you’re entertaining they have great appeal. Plus the food tastes really good.”

But there is a learning curve, especially when it comes to regulating the amount of salt transferred to food.

Because salt is water soluble, food that is moister or marinated will absorb more salt; fatty food or food with skin absorbs less. If the stone isn’t hot enough, the food is likely to be more salty.

“Use a little bit of oil as a barrier. It shields the food from the salt,” said Novotny.

The oil also reduces sticky food bits. “It’s like cooking on a rock, so there’s nothing to keep things from sticking to it,” she advised. Bitterman said a metal spatula for scraping off food and thick oven mitts are key for handling food and hot stones.

Adventures in salt stone cooking

For my first attempt at hot salt stone cooking, I followed Bitterman’s advice and heated two salt bricks slowly on my gas grill (see accompanying box) and seared tiger shrimp in the shell, turning them midway.

Six minutes later, I was eating succulent shrimp, poached in its own juice in the shell. The straight-from-the-sea flavor was unlike anything I’d ever tasted.

“The salt penetrates the shell and gives you this salty, unctuous, buttery shrimp,” explained Bitterman.

When I grilled chicken (see accompanying recipe), the meat was moist and delicately nuanced with the minerals in the salt. Vegetables also picked up the distinctive seasoning.

“It can be tricky to know how much salt is being infused into the food,” noted chef Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place.

Paley cooks prawns in their shells buried in coarse granules of Himalayan salt. “It’s dry heat. It immediately sears the shrimp,” he said. “This dry intensive heat just does something magical.”

He also uses 18-by-10-inch salt blocks, weighing some 30 pounds, to cure large pieces of fresh salmon.

“The block presses it and seasons it all at once,” said Paley, adding that this method cuts the typical curing time in half, to about 12 hours. He uses this fish to make a moist, complexly seasoned salmon pastrami, which occasionally appears on the Paley’s Place menu.

At Thirst on the Riverplace Esplanade, chef/owner Leslie Palmer makes gravlax by curing King salmon between salt blocks for 24 hours. Firmer than Paley’s pastrami, the gravlax is also rich with the blocks’ minerals. “It’s just so good on its own,” said Palmer, who shapes the gravlax into rosettes and serves it during summer with capers, red onion, crème fra‹che and dill.

Playing with salt stones

Note that salt stones can be heavy, and they change and wear down with use.

“They’re more delicate than you might think,” said Novotny. They need to be handled carefully to prevent breakage and tempered when heated to avoid cracking and possible bursting.

“Salt blocks won’t last forever. Eventually, they will break,” explained Bitterman. The block can then be ground for table use, broken into rock salt for heating and cooking (as in Paley’s shrimp in rock salt dish) or even tossed into a warm bath.

For some, heating and cleaning salt blocks is tedious and time-consuming. “I probably wouldn’t cook on one every night,” admitted Novotny. “It’s a lot of work.”

Like any culinary tool, though, I’ve found it gets easier with repeated use. And devotees relish discovering its many uses and how it transforms food.

Home cook Mary Sue Macy of McMinnville thinks it’s worth the effort. She’s been roasting trout and salmon on an 8-by-12-by-1-1/2-inch block she got recently as a gift.

“I’ve just been playing with it and I love it,” she said. “We just really like the flavor. It’s like fish out of the sea. I have no idea how it works, but the food is just delicious.”

Joan Cirillo is a Portland food and feature writer

Contact Us Directly For Wholesale & Bulk Order Inquiry.

Please Visit Our Website
website: http://www.Pakmines.com/
Email : sales@pakmines.com , corepakmines@gmail.com
Phone : +923-032-063540


Thank You!
Abdul Moiz Allahwala

11 thoughts on “Himalayan salt blocks are a flavorful and creative way to cook”

  1. I would like to know how to use Himalayan pink salt and Mediterranean sea salt as a replacement for regular salt. If used in a recipe for hamburgers, will it melt into the meat or stay whole? Does it have to be ground?

  2. excellent publish, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector
    don’t realize this. You must proceed your writing. I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *