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I’ve been a fan of Himalayan Salt and salt lamps for a long time, and in the past few months I’ve also come to love cooking with a himalayan salt block or cooking tile.
Here’s why its awesome:
Salt has been used and valued throughout history and was so valuable in the 1800s that it was worth 4 times as much as beef on the frontier. Thankfully, salt isn’t as (comparatively) expensive now, since every cell in the body contains salt and it is essential for life.
Plus it tastes good. We all add salt to foods (and even sometimes drinks). Now, there’s an even better way to get the benefits and flavor of salt. Salt Blocks.
What is a Himalayan Salt Block?
As the name suggests, a Himalayan Salt Block is a large block of pink salt. Why would one want a large block of salt, you ask?
Salt Blocks are one of the best cooking and serving surfaces I’ve found. They provide a complex and amazing salt flavor without being overbearing.
They are easy to use and maintain and they make you look really sophisticated when you serve food on them.
Where to Get One:
Himalayan salt blocks are widely available now. These are the one’s I’ve personally tried:
- A 2-inch thick block (great for grilling and gas stoves)
- A larger 1.5 inch thick block with a frame (great for electric stoves and serving)
This is also a great cookbook on salt block cooking if you get really adventurous. Now that you’ve got a huge chunk of ancient salt in your kitchen, here’s how to use it:
Tempering a Salt Block Before Using
Salt blocks can be heated or cooled to extremely hot and cold temperatures and are versatile for this reason. Since they are a natural product with imperfections and lines, it is important to do this slowly. Heating a salt block too quickly can cause it to crack or otherwise break, but if cared for correctly it will last a really long time.
It is especially important to heat a salt block carefully, especially the first few times it is used. This ensures the strength of the salt block over the long term and improves it as a cooking surface. This process is called tempering and is simple to do:
How to Temper a Salt Block:
- Place block in the oven on a low rack
- Turn oven on to lowest setting (usually 170 degrees)
- Leave it for 30 minutes at this temperature
- Increase temperature by 50 degrees and leave another 30 minutes
- Repeat this process, raising 50 degrees every 30 minutes, until it reaches a temp over 500 degrees
- Turn the oven off and leave the salt block there, with the door closed, until it completely cools to room temperature
- My salt block made some crazy cracking sounds and developed visible lines when I tempered it. Apparently, this is normal.
Congrats! Now your salt block is ready to use!
How to Heat a Himalayan Salt Block
When ready to use, it is important to heat the salt block correctly. Heating it is slightly more complicated than just turning on a burner and cooking in a pan. It isn’t difficult though and with a little prep, a salt block becomes a simple way to cook.
How to Heat a Salt Block on the Stove
- Make sure it is completely clean and dry and that it has been at least 24 hours since it was wet.
- Place the salt block over a gas burner (or over an electric range, but place a metal ring or grate of some kind in between to allow air to flow between).
- Turn the heat on low and set a timer for 15-20 minutes (depending on size- larger blocks take longer).
- Increase the heat to medium and leave for another 15-20 minutes.
- Turn up again to medium/high for another 10-15 minutes.
- If you have one, use a laser thermometer to make sure the block is around 500 degrees. Don’t have one? Splatter a few drops of water on the salt and make sure they dance and evaporate immediately. Be careful not to touch it (seems obvious, but very important as it will maintain heat for a long time).
- At this point it is ready to use. See instructions below for cooking instructions for various foods.
How to Heat a Salt Block on the Grill
- Salt blocks can be used on gas and charcoal grills.
- On gas grills, start with low heat just as you would on a gas stove and work up slowly.
- With a charcoal grill, put all the charcoal on one side and the salt block on the other.
- Watch the temperature carefully to ensure it doesn’t heat up too fast.
The thickness and strength of a salt block make it an amazing surface to cook on and once heated, it will hold temperature for quite a while without a heat source. When you use it on a grill, it adds a delicious smoky and mildly salty flavor to vegetables and meats.
How to Cook on a Himalayan Salt Block
Once the block is preheated, you’re ready to cook! The long pre-heating time is a great time to prepare any meat, vegetables, seafood, or other foods you are cooking on your salt block.
The most important things to know when cooking on a salt block are:
- The block must be fully heated before using– A block that is not hot enough will actually over-salt and under cook food (not a good combination).
- Fast-cooking foods are best– You wouldn’t want to make a roast or any foods that take a long time to cook on a salt block. Typically, the faster the food cooks, the better it works on a salt block. Steak and thin cuts of meat work well. Seafood is another good option and quicker cooking vegetables like asparagus and zucchini are also great.
- Don’t use oil on the block– The oil will work itself into cracks in the salt and eventually go rancid if it doesn’t catch fire first while you are grilling/cooking.
- Keep on cooking– Once you preheat the block, you can cook on it for several hours. Plan to cook your whole meal and dessert on the salt block to maximize its use. Create a hibachi night on the salt block or grill steaks and veggies.
- See the recipes in the bottom of this post for specific suggestions.
How to Care for Your Salt Block
The first rule of salt blocks is that you don’t talk about salt blocks:
The first rule of caring for a himalayan salt block is let all temperature changes happen slowly. And DO NOT put it in a dishwasher. Ever.
This rule applies to all salt products you may use in your kitchen including salt glasses, etc. Guess what happens when you put a big piece of salt in constantly moving water (dishwasher) for an hour?
That’s right… no more block and a really salty dishwasher. Just don’t do it.
Now that we got that out of the way, remember these simple steps in caring for a salt block:
- Let it cool naturally and completely after cooking. It must be completely cool before cleaning.
- Salt is naturally antibacterial and easy to clean. Do not use soap and use as little water as possible. The more water you use the faster the salt block will wear away since each washing takes away a tiny layer of salt.
- Scrub down with a scouring pad or sponge to remove any food residue.
- Do a final wipe with a clean, slightly wet sponge.
- Towel dry with a clean towel and allow to air-dry for 24 hours before use.
9 Ways to Use a Himalayan Salt Block
Now that you know how to care for a himalayan salt block, there are so many ways to use it in your home! These are my favorites:
Make Delicious Grilled Vegetables
My personal favorite way to use a salt block! The salt perfectly seasons the vegetables and the high heat creates delicious flavor.
What to do: Heat the block over the stove or grill as desired. Brush 1 pound of fresh asparagus (or other vegetable) with a tiny amount of olive or avocado oil and sprinkle with a little garlic powder and white pepper (or other spices). Remember to brush the oil on the vegetables and not the block itself.
Grill a Perfect Steak Indoors
Don’t feel like lighting the outdoor grill? Salt blocks are a great way to grill indoors and get a perfect steak!
What to do: Preheat the salt block as explained above. Sprinkle the steak with pepper and garlic and onion powders. Place the steak on the block carefully. Leave for 3-5 minutes per side depending on thickness and desired doneness. Flip once and cook until done.
Add Flavor to Baking
I wouldn’t have personally thought of using a salt block for baking but a friend mentioned that she loves using it this way. It imparts a delicious mild salt flavor to baked goods and even cookies!
What to do: Preheat the salt block as normal. Transfer carefully to a 350 degree oven. Bake cookies, scones or other baked good recipes directly on the block.
To Add Minerals To Food
Himalayan salt contains many minerals besides just sodium and when you cook with a block of it, these minerals end up in your food.
Keeping Foods Cold
A thick himalayan salt block will stay warm for hours for cooking and it will also stay cold for hours. This makes it perfect for serving cold foods. This is why I keep small soap-size salt blocks as ice packs in the freezer. Serve cold foods like fruit, salmon, or cheeses on a chilled salt block to keep them cold for hours.
Salt is used to extend the shelf life of food and salt blocks are a great way to cure some foods. The Meadow explains how salt blocks are a perfect way to cure salmon to make Gravlax and how to do it.
Salt blocks make great steaks. They also make amazing seafood. My favorite way to use salt blocks for seafood is to marinade fish, scallops or shrimp in a lemon juice, fresh ginger and coconut aminos overnight and grill on a himalayan salt block. Perfection.
Fancy Way to Serve Food
Even at room temperature, the salt block makes a fancy serving platter and conversation piece. It also adds a delicious flavor even at room temperature. Serve foods like chocolate and strawberries on it for a fancy look or cover with cured meats and cheeses for a party.
Poke (poh-keh) is all the rage right now and with good reason. It is delicious! If you’ve never made it at home, it is worth it (here’s a great recipe). I add a step of curing the raw tuna on a salt block in the refrigerator for a few hours before using it in the poke. This gives it a partial cure and adds depth of flavor.
Himalayan Salt Block: Bottom Line
A salt block certainly isn’t one of the kitchen item I can’t live without but it is a versatile and fun way to cook and add flavor to food. It won’t replace my Instant pot any time soon, but I do enjoy cooking and especially grilling with salt.
Ever used a salt block? Let me know how it worked for you!