What is salt crusting?
Salt crusting is an ancient cooking technique whereby meat, fish or even vegetables are encased in a salt shell before cooking. A basic salt crust is made by mixing salt with water to form a thick paste, which is smothered around your food before baking in an oven.
What are the benefits of salt crusting?
- Salt crust paste can be shaped to fit any food easily. When applied correctly the crust acts a seal around your meat or fish, trapping the natural flavours inside by creating an oven within an oven.
- Salt is a poor conductor of heat. This means it allows slow heat penetration inside of the crust. Your salt crust oven is naturally “low and slow”.
- Maintaining slow heat penetration to meats and fish means less damage to the meat through cooking, and it maintains more of it’s natural juices.
- Herbs and spices can be mixed with the salt to create more flavour.
- You can rest meat for longer once cooked by leaving it in the salt crust. The salt insulates the heat while you get the added benefits of resting. Tenderness and the meat holds more of it’s natural juices and flavour.
- The result is more tender and flavourful food!
There are two main types of salt crust
The traditional salt crust is made from salt and water which is mixed into a paste and applied to your meat and fish. A more modern alternative is to mix flour and egg whites to form a salt dough, which can then be wrapped to form a seal.
Does salt crusting make my food taste really salty? Is it unhealthy?
The short answer is no.
Once cooked and rested, the salt crust has completed it’s job. You remove the crust before you serve the food. There isn’t an overly salty taste to your food whatsoever. What you do have is nicely seasoned food, but no more salty than a standard seasoning.
As for health matters, I wouldn’t eat salt crusted food everyday. As always with food, moderation is best. What I will say is the most important thing to do is purchase a good quality salt which does not contain any additives. Good choices are Himalayan Rock Salt, Celtic Sea Salt or Kosher salt. They even come with the added benefit of healthy minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
Is it difficult to salt crust?
No. It’s insanely easy, and the best part is your dinner guests will be hugely impressed!
Ideas for extra flavour
- Add chopped fresh rosemary to a salt crust for beef
- Add parsley, lime or lemon zest for fish
- Add thyme for chicken or vegetables
- Experiment with varieties of salt including smoked, garlic or with spices such as chilli or cayenne