In most cases, we should salt meat hours before cooking it. The concept is simple enough. Yet pointers vary, both online and in kitchens. It wasn’t until my household switched to a pressure cooker after years of slow cooking that I noticed all the attention. I missed the sumptuously tender results of slow cooking meats at length, with time and heat enough for salt to make its impacts. With a pressure cooker commanding considerably less time, we were skipping the period of salt absorption and its effects.
Why salt meat hours before cooking?
I’ve since encountered numerous resources and personal experiences to form my own sense of this. Salting is a foremost topic for watershed publication Salt Fat Acid Heat chef writer/educator Samin Nosrat. In her major work, she explains salting as the very baseline of seasoning, upon which all other flavors may build. More than a dusting of this or that taste, let alone a finishing, Samin Nosrat extensively explores the scientific repercussions of salting, and not salting.
These rationales reinforce the seemingly unnatural durations required to effectively salt most meats long before adding heat. The book offers up major decision points and techniques that manage to trump its also captivating recipes. Salting is not its only prized takeaway (there are 3 other crucial components, right there in the book’s title.) However, if there is one kitchen memo many never get, we’re assured, it is to apply enough salt and salting time. A sanctity maybe even emerges about our salting preps, and a refinement about our cooking results in general, when we really know about salt.
What’s too tender?
Sometimes, dripping off the bone or falling off the fork can be too tender. We can vastly improve the juiciness and tender bite of most any form of meat by salting most meats for at least a few hours. By doing so, our favorite slow cooker results apply to more meals and with more variety. YouTube page Grill Top Experience gets very precise demonstrating double-blind tests of his chicken breast preps. He measures that chicken breasts he salted for 16 hours or more retain at least 25% more moisture. Further, he determines it takes at least 1 hour for any tenderness at all. Others also mention added brightness of flavor and heightening accompanying flavors.
More details that matter
Cooking Channel TV and The Wagyu Shop both delve into salting considerations they’ve come to develop. Highlights include making exception for ground meat and seafood. Others focus on quantities and varieties of salts. Yet others reflect (multitudes of) recommended time ranges.
I hope you come to savor this meal prep tip as much as we have.