Trend Watch: Himalayan salt blocks
Cooking on Himalayan salt blocks is all the rage right now — here’s what you should know before running out to buy one for your own kitchen.
What is it?
A Himalayan salt block is a slab of solid salt, usually about 2 inches thick, that you can use as a cooking surface (sort of like a pizza stone). It’s made of Himalayan salt, which usually has a pink tint to it and is valued for its purity and high mineral content.
How do I use it?
There are a few ways to cook with Himalayan salt blocks. Most commonly, they’re used on a grill or a griddle, but you can also use it in the oven or on the stovetop. It really depends on what you’re cooking and how big your block is — larger ones are better for grilling or baking, and smaller square ones fit perfectly over the grate of a gas stove.
Since salt blocks work just as well at low temperatures, you can also chill your block and use it to serve dishes like sushi or watermelon feta salad.
Cam Snyder, owner of Chubby Trout in Elkhart, uses Himalayan salt blocks in his restaurant’s kitchen, most often for searing fresh fish.
Snyder says it’s most important to bring the salt block up to the proper heat, 400-450 degrees, before throwing on the fish (the heating process should take about 20-30 minutes). If the fish cooks too slowly, juices from the meat will soak in and you’ll end up with a more salty flavor.
Why cook on salt?
Cooking on a salt block is a natural way of flavoring your food, and Himalayan salts are among the healthiest salts you can find to do it — pure, unrefined and packed with minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc and manganese.
The heated salt surface cooks food quickly and evenly, Snyder says, and imparts just enough unique flavor and texture without adding too much saltiness. Aside from fish, he has also used the salt block for grilling bison and other meats.
To get the full effect, it’s best to keep your other seasonings simple. Snyder recommends sprinkling fish with smoked black pepper before searing it.
One resource for recipes and techniques is the book “Salt Block Cooking” by Mark Bitterman. He was interviewed last fall on The Splendid Table (American Public Media).
Is it a pain to maintain?
As Snyder put it, caring for a Himalayan salt block is a lot like working with a cast iron skillet. When you get a brand new block, you condition it by heating it gradually in an oven to cure it, then season the surface with a little olive oil.
Never wash it with water — it is salt, after all — rather, give it a good scrape after cooking. If you must, you can moisten it slightly with a sponge and scrub it clean, then pat dry. There is no need for soap, because salt is naturally antimicrobial.
Where can I buy one?
You may have to do some hunting to find Himalayan salt blocks locally. DC Meats in Osceola (1711 Lincolnway West, 574-674-2333) carries 8”x16” blocks for $55. Himalayan Salt Creations in Warsaw (123 W. Center St., 574-376-4120) stocks a variety of sizes, ranging from 8”x8” for $50 to 8”x16” for $90. Call ahead to check availability or to order a specific size for no extra charge. If you’re willing to drive or order online, Williams-Sonoma (locations in Fort Wayne and Michigan City) sells a 8”x12” block for $35.
This article is brought to you by The Chubby Trout (2730 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, 574.264.5700).