Brian's Photo Blog — Article 475
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Cooking on a Himalayan Salt Block
Friday 25 September 2015   —   Category: Cooking & Food
Isn’t it interesting how often one thing leads to another?

As I was reading through the Pretzel Making at Home cookbook by Portland-based food writer and instructor, Andrea Slonecker, preparing for my first attempt to make pretzels at home, I came to the page where Andrea discussed what kind of salt to sprinkle on top of homemade pretzels. She wrote:
No one knows salt better than Mark Bitterman, the owner of The Meadow salt shops in Portland, Oregon, and New York City, and author of the book Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. I consulted Mark at his Portland shop one afternoon, determined to find the perfect artisan pretzel salt.
Intrigued by this reference to The Meadow, I went to their Web site and took some time to explore its vast contents. It was there that I first heard about Himalayan salt blocks. After reading their page about how to cook steak on a Himalayan salt block, I knew that this was something I just had to try for myself!

Before we continue, let me take a moment to connect the dots. As I shared in the above-linked article about my first attempt to make pretzels at home, what got me started on this track was a casual encounter in a restaurant with a soft pretzel and some spicy pub mustard.

That led me to searching for where I could buy such pretzels in Portland. Which led me to Andrea’s pretzel cookbook. Which led me to The Meadow. Which led me to cooking on Himalayan salt blocks. All this because I decided to eat a pretzel one day!

After pondering the various sizes of Himalayan salt blocks they have for sale, I decided that their 8x4x2-​inch brick for $16 provided the most bang for the buck — so I ordered two! They had a sale going on, so I got free shipping ... what a deal!

The instructions said that if you have a glass-top electric stove, you shouldn’t set the salt block directly on the burner. So I placed it on the stainless steel griddle we use to cook pancakes every Saturday morning.

The instructions also said to heat the salt block slowly until it reaches an optimal cooking temperature of 500°F. With all that in mind, let’s take a step-by-step look at my first attempt at cooking on a Himalayan salt block.
Homegrown green beans, French cut, and sautéed in a cast-iron skillet with diced fresh garlic and butter. This was the veggie to accompany the other food I was going to cook on the salt block.
As I mentioned above, I placed the Himalayan salt block on a stainless steel griddle on a glass-top electric stove. On the side, ready to grill, was some beef filet, shiitake mushrooms, and red onion.
With an infrared thermometer I bought specifically for this purpose, I could determine that the salt block was slowly but surely getting hotter.
The very first food I tried cooking on a Himalayan salt block. It was not as hot as it should have been, but it was taking a long time to heat up (an hour, so far) and I was growing impatient — and hungry. On the block is a slice of beef filet, two pieces of red onion, and some pieces of shiitake mushrooms.
The thermometer shows the salt block to be at a temperature of 260°F — about half of the target temperature specified in the instructions. Cooking at too low a temperature increasing the cooking time, which causes the food being cooked to absorb more salt from the block — perhaps too much salt.
The first round of salt-block-grilled food was so delicious that I eagerly and immediately started a second round! The salt and other minerals in the Himalayan salt block give the food a wonderful taste without any additional seasoning.
Near the end of the final round of cooking, the temperature finally reached an adequate level of around 350°F. However, the salt block instructions said to heat it to 500°F! I was afraid that if I were to go that high, it would melt the plastic handle of the griddle the salt block was sitting on — it was already starting to smoke a bit!
All in all, my first try at cooking on a Himalayan salt block was a great success — both for the delicious food as well as the lessons I learned so that I can have an even better experience the next time. Here is what I gleaned:
  1. I took the advice to heat the salt block slowly to an extreme. It shouldn’t take an hour or more to bring the block up to a sufficient temperature of 400°F. Next time I can turn the stove up higher, sooner.
  2. The stainless steel griddle with a plastic handle was not heavy-duty enough for the task. I’ll need to find a better solution.
  3. Although the meat was wonderful, I don’t think the onions or mushrooms worked very well, at least at the lower temperatures I was using. Both contain too much water, which extends the cooking time as well as the amount of salt they absorb.
  4. I love the infrared thermometer — it worked great! I imagine I will be using it in the kitchen to measure the temperature of other cooking surfaces as well.
  5. Although I bought my salt blocks online from The Meadow, sells them as well, for what might be, in some cases, a better price. If I were to order them again, I think I would try the Amazon route.
I’m so excited about cooking on a Himalayan salt block that I’m sure I’ll be trying it again soon — but probably with different foods. Until then, bon appétit!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 475
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