There is a lot of interest in using Himalayan salt blocks for cooking these days. But it important to know that most salt blocks, even the biggest and most expensive, are not worth the investment. We order hundreds of Himalayan salt blocks and only about 10% are candidates for cooking. That's because most blocks have substantial cracks or mineral deposits that will cause the block to shatter when subjected to high heat. Usually the poor quality block will self-destruct during its initial burn in although it may last a couple of outings.
At the Salt Cellar we've decided that each tile we sell for cooking needs to be broken-in, or 'cured', by us. We do this for for a number of reasons. First, the procedure involves a couple of hours to do it right. We need to heat the tiles gradually up to a temperature of 500 degrees and then let it cool down. This this takes several hours and it makes sense of us to do a whole batch of them at once. Second, sometimes even good-looking blocks are really flawed and they break apart during burn-in. Last, it is possible that a block contains a small amount of water. If this is the case the block may literally explode (as one did in my oven last week!). Interesting. So as a safety issue we'll take some of the 'excitement' out of the process for you.
Once the block has been successfully cured it can be heated to operating temperature much more quickly. Still, it is a good idea to start on a low temperature to get the tile warmed up. Then you can turn up the throttle. Wait until the block is fully heated before tossing on the fish or meat.
Four blocks awaiting curing process (gradual heating to 500 degrees).
KA-BOOM! One of the best looking blocks must have had water inside. This one blew up about 10 minutes at 500 degrees.
Salt is a pretty basic thing in our lives that most of us don't think about too much. We take it for granted that all salt is pretty much the same and plays a limited role in helping improve the taste of food or keeping ice off the pavement. So when Judit and I launched the Salt Cellar in Portsmouth last November (2011) we had a big job to do: educate our visitors about the fantastic possibilites of salt in all of its forms. To explore the many ways salt is used in other cultures and find new, fun uses for this fastinating mineral.
The purpose of this blog is to answer the many questions that people ask us in the Salt Cellar every day. We'll talk about Himalayan cooking blocks, international artisan finishing salts, flavor infused sea salts, recipes, pairings and health. We'll also discuss the many uses of salt for the care of our skin and our airways. We'll also talk about the great places in the world that salt is celebrated, its storied history and fun facts.
We encourage you to join the discussion, ask your questions, question our answers and add your comments and corrections.
Don & Judit