My latest fun fad, is salt block cooking. These are also called salt block ‘plates’.
Can I say FUN, FAB, FANTASTIC?
I got my blocks from SaltWorks which is carried by Cooks of Crocus Hill located (conveniently I might add) in my local gourmet grocery store.
I bought one that is larger 8×12 for hot cooking, and 2 small plates – 5×10 – for ‘wet’ cooking and presentation.
In the photo above you see the 8×12 which I have on my burners ‘curing’. If you wish to cook on your salt block, you really should cure it. I gained my knowledge from the Salt Block Cooking Cookbook by Mark Bitterman. He recommends curing the block initially to rid it of the excess water, which if not done, can lead to the block breaking or absolute worse case, kinda sorta exploding. Well, exploding sounds rather extreme, but let’s just say we avoid any potential damage and cure it first! He also recommends separate blocks for ‘heat’ and for ‘wet’ purposes. That way, you eliminate any excess water being absorbed by the block. And nothing ruins a meal like an ‘incident’.
I put mine on my burner and started it on the lowest possible flame. I waited about 15 minutes and then increased the temp. I continued this process until all the water had rendered out of the block.
As you can see, from those little bubbles appearing 45 minutes after being heated, a block can contain a lot of water!
Once you have done this, you are ready to cook on it. Put it on the grill, or in the oven, always starting off with a cold grill/oven and bringing up to temp with the device. For more information, I highly recommend Bitterman’s book, it not only has great recipes but tips, advice and purchasing info.
For cold/brining/curing you don’t need to do anything other than a quick rinse of the block. I started with a recipe from the cookbook and did ‘cured’ strawberries.
Which I served along side of fresh chocolate covered Cannolis:
Then I played with a quick cucumber salad:
Which I served with my dinner meal.
A note of caution when using salt blocks: The more water the food contains, the less time it needs on the block. With cucumbers, unless you rinse them thoroughly, a minute is more than enough to season your entire salad. If your desire is to rid the food of water (like eggplant) rinse thoroughly after the cure. When starting out, take the advice of the recipe author, since this technique is entirely different than regular salting.
My next adventure in cooking will be hot cooking with my block. I’m thinking, scallops or shrimp would be awfully yummy!
One last note: This is GREAT for empty nesting cooking. Because of the size of the block, which if were much bigger would be HEAVY and cumbersome to store, you fit enough for 1-2 people. If you were cooking for a family or a group, I would recommend investing in additional blocks so that you can accommodate the increased amounts.
I have a feeling I will be investing in more of these for amazing and entertaining summertime grilling.
Feel free to share your favorite dishes, tips and techniques in the comment section below, I’d love to read them!