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  • Writer's pictureJerry

It's (mostly) about the salt

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

It's the most important seasoning we use, and sodium level is a moving target.

I say that it's the most important seasoning because using too little results in what the typical diner calls "bland" food. Add too much, and you've ruined the dish, and it's almost impossible to fix. No pressure....

The reason I call salt level a "moving target" is because our perception of the salt we add changes with time, primarily due to the process called osmosis. This is when a solution, in this case a salt solution, moves from an area of high concentration (around the food) to an area of low concentration (inside the food). In other words the salt moves from the outside of the food particles to the inside, making it less available to our taste buds.

If we prepare something a day before service and salt it to the desired level, it will usually taste less salty the next day. The amount of sodium didn't change overnight, but our palate perceives less of it. Since freshly added salt hasn't had time to be absorbed into the particles, it goes directly onto our taste buds as we sample the food. The same salt is there later, but to "unlock it" so that we perceive it would require chewing the food completely, something we don't normally do. Depending on the food, this migration might only take a few hours or even less.

I carry salt (and black pepper) in my backpack to every catering event I'm involved in. Not to do so would be negligent in my opinion.

It may not be the case that consuming sodium is as risky as we believe. For a contrarian perspective I recommend the video below. The author has a few more about salt, and other health related topics as well:

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