Sure, steak is savory staple of the carnivore diet. But meat lovers haven’t truly tasted steak until they’ve infused it with the briny flavors of a 600 million year-old salt slab dug up and imported from a subterranean Pakistani mine. We don’t want to be the only ones to experience this prehistoric flavor, so we’re going to serve up some tips how to cook with a salt block—and how to do it well.
These magical little chunks of earth are known for their ability to hold temperature and give off a distinct flavor, making them endlessly useful in the kitchen. An enterprising chef can sear meat tableside, prep some chilled, market-fresh fish to slowly cure, or even flavor freezing ice cream, all with one block. Attempting to karate chop through a salt block Bruce Lee-style is another use, though it is not recommended. Here are some other things you should do and not do when cooking with a salt block.
Khwera Salt Mine--where the magic happens.
Have a temper
Salt blocks need a little love before they’re ready for culinary glory, but they will last for years if you put them through a little process called tempering. Heat the oven to 150°, put the block in for 30 minutes, then raise it 50° more every 30 minutes until the oven gets to 500°. Then turn it off and leave the block to cool to room temperature. It might crackle more than a bowl of Rice Krispies—that’s normal. The beautiful pink hue may also fade away at first, but it will come back.
Once the block is tempered, the stove top and the grill are two great places to put it to use. On both surfaces, give it about 30 minutes at low and medium heat before cranking it up to high. To tell if it’s ready, splash on a few drops of water. If they sizzle and evaporate immediately, it’s time to cook.
PRO TIP: Throw the block in the freezer and use it for serving cold foods, like sashimi (pictured) and ice cream, while infusing them with a bit of flavor.
Thin is in
Once the salt block is piping hot, toss some meat on there. Thinner cuts such as flank steak or butterflied chicken are ideal. Also, the resident chef can heat the block on the stove, transport it to the table and wow guests by cooking in front of their eyes. Those cooking alone, DO still get style points for this technique.
Soap = nope
It’s the salty flavor we’re after, not the crisp tang of Palmolive. Once the salt block has cooled, use a damp rag or sponge to clear the surface of any food residue and then let it air dry.
The one-sided argument
When you get a salt block, use the same side for cooking each time. You can “season” a salt block the same way you can “season” a time-tested cast iron pan, and you don’t want to waste your progress. It also helps the block’s durability.
The Man Crates team believes in going the extra mile, so we don’t just offer one-of-a-kind gifts for men, we provide recipes for men, too.
Mark Bitterman, resident salt block expert, opened up a store called The Meadow in Portland in 2006. He manages to dole out cooking tips regularly on his website. Here’s a great primer for your first attempt at steak on the salt block. Additionally, Sur la Table has a simple recipe for searing scallops with a honey cracked pepper glaze.
Lastly, if you’re looking to give the gift of salt but don’t have the time to travel to Himalayas, Man Crates has you covered with our Everest Grill Crate. It includes the block, along with other essentials like a holder, grilling glove and thermometers. Bonus: It includes a book of recipes from Mark Bitterman, the aforementioned king of salt.