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Salt meat before or after you cook?


ChefJB
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I had a great discussion and demo today with a fellow instructor regarding this, I am a proponent of sesoning meat after it gets cooked unless it it a large roast. I feel that the salt draws out moisture, and inhibits the carmelization that your looking for, as does he. He set up a demo to show the difference in finished product and the difference was very noticeable. My question is this, is this known in home cooking or away from the sometimes protective bubble that culinary school provides? Also please not that there are many who have the exact opposite opinion.

:biggrin:

JB

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I had a great discussion and demo today with a fellow instructor regarding this, I am a proponent of sesoning meat after it gets cooked unless it it a large roast. I feel that the salt draws out moisture, and inhibits the carmelization that your looking for, as does he. He set up a demo to show the difference in finished product and the difference was very noticeable. My question is this, is this known in home cooking or away from the sometimes protective bubble that culinary school provides? Also please not that there are many who have the exact opposite opinion.

:biggrin:

JB

Nah, before, I always season it before, unless it is something that having salt on it before cooking will cause it to lose moisture, veg/mushroom, etc., meat always gets seasoned before cooking, I feel the crust tastes better if it has salt in it, and what kind of salt sticks to a carmelized crust anyhow, some pretty funky sea salt maybe, but none i've ever cooked with.

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I like fire grilled meats salted just before serving. Everything else can be salted before cooking in my opinion. Heat will draw water out of the meat anyway. Sometimes I will salt a piece of meat and let it sit then just before searing pat it well with paper towels, this gives good results.

Kosher salt on cold leftover BBQ'd chicken is amazing. just hand-shred, sprinkle or dip, and enjoy.

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One of the more scientific books I've read on cooking lately, states that Meat will absorb water if left in a salt water lake for some time before roasting.

This is the opposite of what you are saying here right ?

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Judy Rogers in her book The Zuni Cafe is a major proponent of presalting meats before cooking. Some of the recipes call for salting 24 hours in advance.

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I salt before, unless am eating raw flesh, then I just salt! :laugh: Aslo, there is nothing as good to me, as a roasted kosher chicken, and they are salted LONG before cooking.

edited by me to say: roaseted! lol alos, aslo, what's up with THAT? I'm goofy.

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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That's what I'm saying, brine is a salty liquid. A brined chicken is so juicy and delicious- I think that the salt breaks down the fibers in the flesh somehow, and the the bird's interior is bathed in it's liquid. salt, it's good. Also, the crust of salted fat on cow meats or lamb is just so irresistible! I only cook meats rare to medium rare for roasts, though, so my results may differ from other peoples'.

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Rebecca,

Brining works basically by differing osmotic pressures. Alton Brown has probably done 3 or 4 different cute scenarios explaining this -- which will be far more insightful than my attempt.

When you take off in an airplane, your ears pop -- this is because you have to normalize the pressure between outside your ears and inside. Brining is sort of the same. The salty brine is of a different pressure than the water inside your chicken/turkey/pork/etc. So by placing the meat in the brine, the meat releases its own water and takes on the delicious flavorful brine in its place. This works from the outside in, so a piece of pork might only brine 2 hours while a whole turkey, overnight (if you really want to get into it, you can inject the brine into the meat so that it evenly permeates the meat).

Anyway, I just felt the urge to expound on brining -- the end result is delicious :)

As far as salting meat before or after -- moisture is the enemy of browning. Taking that piece of meat to a paper towel right before you throw it in is going to have a big impact on the kind of crust you get. This goes along with having a super hot, heavy pan (that will keep that heat high once the meat goes in), having the meat close® to room temp (to lessen the temperature difference between meat and pan), and not crowding the pan (so you get a beautiful brown crisp meat and not a steamed White Castle patty).

Edit: So I gave my browning speech and didnt actually address salt! :blink: I like to completely dry my piece of meat, and then salt and then go right to the pan.. the quicker the better (without looking silly, of course). For those recipes that salt a day before, I think that has more to do with pulling out moisture and intensifying flavor, like a super quick dry aging, or prosciutto effect?

Edited by turkeybone (log)

Rico

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While, historically, I salted after cooking, I read somewhere, recently, that salting about 5 minutes before cooking was desirable, giving the salt time to permeate the meat. I started salting before, and haven't really found much difference.

Also, I brine beef all the time, when I'm thinking far enough ahead. It does for beef the same things it does for chicken and turkey.

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Sorry about not contributing earlier to this discussion, had to work my second job today(taking care of an 8 month old :biggrin: ).

For the demonstration we had students cook sirloin steaks, one salted before it was seared, one not salted until it was seared and resting. The difference was noticable in both the quality of the sear, and the flavor of the rested sliced beef.

If you try the same thing with scallops you get a nice contrast as well. There is a big split in all of us chefs at school as to when to season, I prefer after some prefer before unless it is a roast. Then I am roasting at such a low temperature that I want a good seasoned crust because a 180*-200* oven doesnt do much browning, but you get such a better yield and juicier meat, it is worth not having the nice crispy snacks on the outside of the roast.

In the case of brining or a marinade it is a totally different ballgame, and in the case of any moist heat or combonation cooking methods it is not the same. I am only refering to dry heat cooking methods, ie; saute, grill, frying, and really were are splitting hairs here, the difference is minor. It is however those little things that keep people coming back to eat our food, and for me a perfect sear is a beautiful thing.

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FoodZealot, it has to, because you have more chemical building blocks to choose from if you salt.

For myself, I generally try to salt my steaks 15 minutes in advance of cooking, more if possible. Given sufficient time, most of the liquid evolved from salting will be reabsorbed by the meat, as it will travel with the salt.

Also, if you're talking about steaks, a rocket-hot grill or pan should have the thermal load to take the cooler steaks, surface liquid or not. If it can't, you've overloaded your cooking surface.

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I'll have to look this up, but doesn't adding salt before cooking make more complex compounds in the crust itself?

yup. exactly. this is one of those cases where only looking at a little of the science gives you a false picture. yes, salting does draw moisture, which you might think would inhibit browning. but the moisture it does draw is loaded with "stuff" (too lazy to look it up) that encourages browning. it's very simple to test. salt a pork chop a couple of hours in advance and then cook it side-by-side with one that hasn't been salted. after testing judy's theory, i now do just what she suggests--when i get meat home from the store, i salt it on both sides. right before cooking, i pat it with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Then i cook it. makes abig differences in teh browning.

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yes, salting does draw moisture, which you might think would inhibit browning. but the moisture it does draw is loaded with "stuff" (too lazy to look it up)

I believe that "stuff" is called "extracellular and intracellular fluid". Essentially anything in the meat that is currently dissolved is in it.

Also, the amount of moisture we're talking about is really miniscule. A few tens of grams for a large piece of meat. Also, recall that before the meat was butchered, it stayed healthy and wholesome by being permeable to fluids, so even post-butchering, the meat is going to maintain this permeability. This means that fluids will shift rather easily from one area of the meat to another, especially when you're not talking about whole muscles.

So, I advocate salting meat before, but give the salt some time to penetrate. 5 minutes is good, 15 is better. When grilling, I generally start the charcoal in the chimney, come in, and salt the meat. That gives me 20-45 minutes at the bare minimum of salt contact... and yummy steaks/chops/burgers.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Salt before cooking. If you salt a minute or two before it goes into the pan then it won't have time to draw out any moisture. The flavour of salt in the crust is a beautiful thing, salt sprinkled on afterwards isn't the same, although I also like to sprinkle a little fleur de sel on the meat afterwards as well. As for the amount of browning, I haven't noticed much ill-effects from the salting, the other factors in building a good crust are more important than the salt. Plenty of barbeque rubs contain sugar in them to add that caramel flavour, I don't see why you couldn't experiment with this when it comes to grilling/searing either...

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actually, i just remembered that bruce aidells did a demonstration on this at an iacp conference a couple of years ago--i believe it was pork chops salted and unsalted. huge difference, not in saltiness but in depth and richness of flavor. yet another reason to love that big sausage boy.

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Until I read the Zuni book I never salted before cooking. Now I do it all the time and to our taste it makes a big difference.

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I'll have to look this up, but doesn't adding salt before cooking make more complex compounds in the crust itself?

yup. exactly. this is one of those cases where only looking at a little of the science gives you a false picture. yes, salting does draw moisture, which you might think would inhibit browning. but the moisture it does draw is loaded with "stuff" (too lazy to look it up) that encourages browning. it's very simple to test. salt a pork chop a couple of hours in advance and then cook it side-by-side with one that hasn't been salted. after testing judy's theory, i now do just what she suggests--when i get meat home from the store, i salt it on both sides. right before cooking, i pat it with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Then i cook it. makes abig differences in teh browning.

I agree, lots of the stuff that gets pulled to the surface are proteins that get nice and browned (not caramalized) via the "maillard reaction". This makes for a much better piece of meat like Russ said and like Alton Brown always says. So, I salt a good 30 minutes to an hour before cooking, sometimes more.

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