On Salting Meats

salt.jpgFood & Wine Magazine has an article in its latest issue on the question of whether meats should be salted before they are cooked. There are few issues that are as controversial in the area of cooking. Some cooks are convinced that if you pre-salt meat, it will dry out. Others think that pre-salting greatly enhances the flavor. Harold McGee, the food scientist author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, for his part, states that while lots of salt will dry meat, “the small amount of salt used to season food has a hydrating effect: Salt helps the cells hold on to water”
But that’s all theory. What’s actually the truth when you hit the skillet? Food writer Oliver Schwaner-Albright set to find out. He got some meat, salted some a day ahead, and the other right before cooking. Then he roasted chicken and pork ribs, seared steak and braised lamb shanks. The results? Inconclusive.
The pre-salted chicken was more flavorful and moist while the pre-salted ribs were awfully dry. There was no consensus on which steak was better, but the pre-seasoned lamb was definitely more delicious than the other one. So no golden rules, it seems that what works best will depend on the type of meat and preparation. Oh well, I’ll have to continue salting by instinct (or recipe) 🙂

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