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Himalayan Salt Block

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    Himalayan Salt Block

    I recently got married and one of my groomsmen was cool enough to get me a Himalayan Salt Block for cooking as a gift. I have done a little research on using them and am hoping to give it a go soon.

    Just wondering if any of our fellow readers have any experience in using these and could share any words of wisdom, techniques, best practices, recipes, etc... for a Salt Block cooking beginner?

    Thanks!

    #2
    I wrote this and haven't posted it to the site yet:

    Salt slabs sear meats beautifully, season food automatically, and make the most awesome salted caramels ever. Plus, they make an awesome table presentation.
    Pink Himalayan salt blocks are actually mined in Pakistan, not the Himalayas (it's a long story) and they are most definitely not the same as pink curing salt used for curing bacon and corned beef (see my discussion of salt on 000).

    When they are slowly heated on a grill or cooktop, they soak up the heat, hold it well, and you can cook on them, just like a slab of granite. The difference is that the moisture in the food dissolves some of the salt, which then penetrates the food, creating a delicate balanced saltiness that you can’t get from other methods. In the mouth, the salt seems to be more evenly distributed than when you sprinkle individual salt crystals on the food. Here’s my favorite thing to do with a salt block: heat it slowly on the grill to about 500°F, bring it to the dinner table, and let my guests sear 1/2" thick slices of flank steak on it.

    To prevent cracking, the block must be warmed in stages, on low heat, then medium, then high in 15-minute increments. On a gas grill, start it directly over a low burner with the lid down. After 15 minutes, turn that burner and another burner to medium, and 15 minutes later, increase the heat to high. You could also heat the block directly over the grill’s side burner if it has one, gradually increasing the flame. On a charcoal grill, use a 2-zone setup and start on the indirect side for 15 minutes, then move it closer to the coals for another 15, then right over the coals until it’s raging hot. If you’re inside on an electric range, put the block on a metal ring such as a wok ring, a tart pan with a removable bottom, or even a cut-up coffee can so the block is not in contact with the burner. It can take 45 minutes to get the block up to searing temperatures of 450 to 500°F. To check the temp, use an infrared gun thermometer or sprinkle on a drop of water. It should disappear almost instantly.

    The surface is surprisingly non-stick so there is no need to oil them for meats. Whatever you do, do not put marinated or brined meats on your salt block. The water seeps down in, turns to steam, and cracks your block. Plus, brined meats will come out too salty. If you’re making a show of cooking on hot blocks at the table, stick thinly sliced raw meats and table sauces. Salt blocks take hours to cool, perhaps only 50°F in the first 30 minutes, so they will stay hot through the meal. Leave at least 1/4" between slices and turn the food with metal tongs or spatulas (no plastic) after it has seared on one side. You may want to cook the food for a shorter time on side two to make sure it doesn't overcook in the center. Getting the proper thickness and doneness takes a little practice, specially since the salt block is constantly declining in temperature on the table. Likewise, meat thermometers aren't much help on these thin slices. Here’s one instance where you have to go by sight and instinct.

    To clean a salt block, skip the soap. Just use warm water and a stainless steel scrubbing pad. The burnt-on bits will come off easily, along with a fine layer of salt. Dry the block with paper towels and put it on a rack so air can circulate all around until it is thoroughly dry. You’ll get a dozen or more uses from a single block before it starts to crack and disintegrate, at which time you can crumble it up and use it in cooking if it hasn't absorbed too many strong flavors. Or save it to melt icy sidewalks next winter
    Some blocks are higher in quality than others, so order cooking grade salt blocks from a specialist like SaltStoneChef.com and AtTheMeadow.com. Make sure they are at least 1 1/2" thick. The 8 x 8 x 2” slabs cost about $50 and last for at least a dozen uses if handled properly. Over time, the heat and permeating juices darken them and give them a rich glow somewhere between marble, amber, and jewel-like quartz. Don’t worry about pathogens getting stuck inside. The heat and salinity make salt slabs very unfriendly to pathogens.

    Comment


    • Nate
      Nate commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Meathead! That is some great information and exactly what I was looking for and just another reason I love this site. Love the idea of getting your company involved in the cooking.

    • RonB
      RonB commented
      Editing a comment
      Great info, (as usual Meathead ). Do you have any info on using one for low and slow? I can come up with two concerns immediately. First, will the meat get too salty? Second would be the possible lack of bark.

    #3
    I'll second both the recommendation for table-top searing (we've used a hot plate under the blocks to keep them hot on the table), and the caution about slow warming (I cracked one of mine by heating it too fast). They're fun, although we don't use ours as much as we probably should!

    Comment


      #4
      I got one as a gift a few months ago. They are definitely unique to grill on. The only grill I've used it on is my Big Green Egg. So far I've grilled fish, pork chops, boneless chicken breasts, and salmon. It's all been good. Probably a good thing to have even if I'd have to pay for one someday when this one is worn out. Another fun cooking gadget.

      Comment


        #5
        Don't forget your salt block for cold presentations too. Sushi with eel sauce, cut figs, apples, pears or grapes (cut side to the block), smoked cheese, etc. I do like to dampen the salt a bit for faster transfer to food.

        Comment


          #6
          I love using my salt block. Makes a wonderful steak.

          Comment


            #7
            Mleecline , I saw you had a question on salt blocks and searing steak... Here was a response I got from meathead in regards to salt blocks.

            Comment


              #8
              Thanks for mentioning this @Nate

              When you say no brining Meathead do you also include dry-brining in that as well?

              Comment


                #9
                I received a salt block a little while ago but didn't have the interest to pull it out to use... now I do... thanks for the info!

                Comment


                  #10
                  They are a fun endeavor for sure.

                  Comment


                    #11
                    Tried shrimp and scallops on a new salt block last night. Shrimp was awesome but the scallops stuck to the salt block despite being tossed in olive oil and garlic and didn't have any crust or sear since they stuck. Any ideas or advice for scallops? They tasted good but the appearance was horrible. Heated the block slowly on my Weber Summit (15 min low, 15 min med, 15 min high) and the surface was 605 degrees with my infrared red thermometer. Will try thinly sliced steak next but not scallops.

                    Comment


                    • Spinaker
                      Spinaker commented
                      Editing a comment
                      The Salt block was too hot. 500-550 F for scallops is ideal.

                    #12
                    Does it hold on to seafood "aroma"?

                    Comment


                      #13
                      Originally posted by Ernest View Post
                      Does it hold on to seafood "aroma"?
                      Nah, Burn it off. The salt block will get hot as all get out. I have done a lot of shrimp on mine, and I love doing scallops. I have never noticed a fishy smell.

                      Comment


                        #14
                        Spinaker I have a 1.5 inch pork chop that might serve as a SV+ salt block experiment. Might turn out a little salty because I had it already seasoned but it should serve my searing test.

                        Comment


                        • Spinaker
                          Spinaker commented
                          Editing a comment
                          It will be fine. I actually find that the block itself doesn't impart that much salt on the meat. That might just be my tastes.

                        • EdF
                          EdF commented
                          Editing a comment
                          It's more the heat retention than flavoring.

                        • Ernest
                          Ernest commented
                          Editing a comment
                          That's what I was thinking. Most of the food is quick sear, not long enough to really pick up that much salt

                        #15
                        I was served on one of these last time I was in India, lamb chops.... Oh so good. It was getting a little strong in the salt by the last bite.

                        Comment


                        • Spinaker
                          Spinaker commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I would have killed for Lamb chops while I was in India. Lots of veggie. I was soooo pumped when I found a McDonalds in Delhi! Hahaha!

                        • HawkerXP
                          HawkerXP commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yeah, Spinaker it can be a challenge outside of a hotel. We (work) go a couple of times a year and with how we keep moving day to day we have to stay with the safety of a hotel. Makes the passengers nervous if they see the pilots back in the bathroom and me flying!

                        • Spinaker
                          Spinaker commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Haha, I bet! I was backpacking with friends, we were scraping by. I lost a ton of weight on that first trip! HawkerXP

                          Who do you fly for?

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