Guide to Pink Himalayan Salt Blocks
A boulder of Himalayan rock salt emerges from darkness of a 16th century mineshaft in Pakistan and explodes into light, catching and refracting the sun in hues ranging springwater clear to hibiscus pink to venison red. Stonemasons in a neighboring town then hand cut the great rock into a variety of shapes, providing the foundation for extraordinary new ways to prepare and serve food.
The Meadow's Himalayan salt blocks, plates, bricks, and platters can be used for sauteeing, grilling, chilling, curing, baking, presenting, salting, bathing, building, and contemplating.
There are as many uses for The Meadow's heavy slabs of Himalayan Pink Salt blocks as there are foods, cooking styles, whims, acts of folly, and shows of bravado. Serve moist food on it, such as mozzarella and sliced apples, and the food will pick up a delicate saltiness that sets it off perfectly. Heat a salt block on the stove, then set the hot block on a trivet at the table to sear scallops or thinly sliced hanger steak while seated with your guests.
Cooking on a Salt Block Instructions
The crystal lattice of our Himalayan Pink Salt Blocks has a high specific energy (energy per unit of mass), so they hold any temperature you bring it to for a good while. Likewise, this makes for excellent heat distribution, making grandma's heavy old cast iron skillet seem like tinfoil by comparison.
Because Himalayan Salt Blocks generally have an extremely low amount of porosity, and virtually no residual moisture (.026%), the salt plates can be safely heated or chilled to great extremes. We have tested them from 0°F up to 700°F (-18°C to 370°C). Salt melts at 1473.4°F (800.8°C).
Two other considerations come into play when working with our Himalayan salt blocks. First, their lack of porosity means that the surface area touching your food is minimal, so these large blocks of salt will impart only a very moderate saltiness. Second, the high quantity of trace minerals (1.2% sulfur, .4% calcium, .35% potassium, .16% magnesium, and 80 other trace minerals) impart a more mild and full taste to the salt, and by extension, more flavor complexity to your food.
Selecting Your Block - When cooking, its important to use only Himalayan salt blocks that are at least 1.5 inches thick. The Meadow’s Cookware grade salt blocks are selected for structural integrity so they can withstand the stress of being heated up much more reliably and for a greater number of uses.
I like to use one Himalayan salt block for cooking, and keep a separate salt plate for room temperature uses such as curing, serving, and otherwise presenting food. That way, your cooking salt block benefits from the patina and structural changes inherent to cooking, much as a cast iron skillet benefits from careful use and cleaning. At the same time, the purity and simplicity of the unheated Himalayan salt block can be emphasized when used for presentation at the table.
Heating Your Block - Be sure the block is completely dry. If used previously, the block should have rested for at least 24 hours. Himalayan salt blocks like to be pampered, especially at first. So, as a rule, be especially careful the first few times you heat up your salt plate. The first few times you heat up your salt block, fissures and cracks will appear, and the color may change from its original pink to a whiter color. This is normal. However, after successive uses, you may find that the salt block regains some of its original hue, largely as a result of washing.
For a Gas Range: Put the your salt block on the stove top. Set heat to low, give the block at least 15 minutes to heat up. You may notice moisture accumulating at the edges. As the salt block heats, this will evaporate off. The slower you do this, the better. Allow more time for larger plates, especially 9x9x2in and larger. Increase the heat slowly – low-medium for 15 minutes, and then medium-high for 15 minutes. If extremely hot sauté temperatures are desired, increase flame to full high for another 5 to 10 minutes.
How do you know when your block is ready to use? If you have a laser thermometer, the block should be at least 500 degrees F. If you don’t, simply sprinkle a few drops of water on the block. If they sizzle away instantly, the block should be hot enough.
For an Electric Range: If heating on the stovetop, select a circular ring of metal, such as a tart pan with a pop out bottom, pastry ring, or wok ring, and place it on the burner. Place the salt block on top of the ring. Place a circular ring of metal such as a tart pan with a pop-out bottom to create a small air gap between the heating element and the block. Once set up, heat similarly to a gas range.
For a Grill: Place your salt block on the grate. If using a charcoal grill, keep the coals to one side and place the block on the other side, to expose it to less direct heat. If using a gas grill, start the heat on low as you would with a gas range. Increase heat slowly until the block is ready to use, as described in the gas range instructions.
For an Oven: We do NOT RECOMMEND using an oven to heat your salt block, as damage to your salt block and/or your oven may result. If you would like to bake on your salt plate, heat it as described above to at least three hundred degrees, and then move it into a hot oven.
Cooking on Your Block - Every type of food will react uniquely to your salt block. The effect of the salt on the food will depend on a variety of factors - moisture, fat content, thickness, and the temperature of the block. Moister in the food will pick up salt faster, while fat will repel the salt. If your food is too salty, apply a thin layer of oil to the block.
Foods that cook quickly usually work best, so make sure pieces are cut to an appropriate thickness and that the block is hot enough. Cooking on a salt block that hasn’t been heated high enough will not only over-salt your food, but it will also degrade your block much faster.
Salt blocks turn opaque when heated, and may develop fissures or even large cracks. They may also take on color from the proteins cooked on it. Don’t get upset by the behavior of your salt block. Salt is a complicated, wily, unpredictable substance. That is what gives it much of its charm.
Keep the block’s ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ the same each use so that you sear food on the same side for the life of the block. When you flip it, fissures that have formed can become more pronounced.
Caring for Your Salt Block
Cleaning - If hot, allow your block to cool completely first. Moisten the salt block with a damp sponge (do not use soap). Scrub with a soft brush or green scouring pad to remove any stuck matter, and wipe clean with the sponge. Try to keep the block as dry as possible – the less water the better. Repeat until the block is free of any cooked on food. Tamp dry with a paper towel or clean cloth, and set on a drying rack. This process removes only a very thin layer of the salt and preserves a relatively smooth surface.
Treated with care, a large salt block can provide dozens of uses. The powerful antimicrobial properties of the salt insure that it is always proper and ready for future use, with no need for detergents. Additional care and use information, as well as cooking ideas, are available at saltnews.com.
Storing - Store in any location where humidity is at a minimum. I keep many of mine on the windowsill. If you live in a humid climate, wrap the block in a towel and put in the cupboard.
The Meadow Disclaimer: If you wish to cook on your salt block, please understand that you assume all responsibility. The Meadow or its staff is not responsible for damages, injury, or loss due to the use of our Himalayan Salt products. This includes any that may result from the heating of Himalayan Salt blocks or similar products.
Recipe Ideas for Your Salt Block
- Arrange thinly sliced Carpaccio or sashimi on a cool salt platter and serve. Watch as the food literally salt-cures while at the table, gently cooking the edges and bringing on just a smidge of mineral-rich saltiness.
- Place a large Himalayan Salt Block on the grill and sear a fennel-and-lemon stuffed monkfish, a lime-and-ginger marinated flank steak, or a balsamic and garlic rubbed Portobello mushroom.
- Freeze a Himalayan salt plate for two hours. Scoop cream or sorbet atop.
- More fun yet, freeze a Himalayan salt plate for two hours. Then, over medium heat, warm lightly whipped sweet heavy cream, egg, honey, and aged bitters, and refrigerate. Remove the salt slab from freezer, pour mixture on it, slowly lufting with spatula, for a salt-tinged ice custard you will not soon forget.
- Impress your Jewish grandma with Gravlax. Thaw a filet of commercially frozen (for health reasons) salmon, roll in sugar and minced dill, arrange on a 6x9x2in block, cover with another block, wrap in paper bag and refrigerate for between one and three days. Slice, serve with creme fraiche, capers, and melba toast or just eat plain. Full Gravlax Recipe.
- Getting back to basics, use it as a serving platter for cheeses, dried meats, or your daily dose of pickled ginger and wasabi. When used as a plate for moist food such as apple slices and mozzarella, the food acquires an enhanced salt and mineral flavoring.
- Rid yourself of unbutter butter forever! Buy unsalted sweet cream butter and keep it on a beautiful 4x8x3/4in Himalayan Salt plate as a butter dish. The butter does not have enough moisture to pick up much saltiness, but the glowing pink salt block will remind you to salt your buttered food to taste. Why let a mass-manufacturer you have never met choose the quality and quantity your salt?
- Cut your prettiest Himalayan Salt block into jewelry, set in the precious metal of your choice, and nibble it as nibble jewelry from the lobes and fingers of your loved-one.
Ogling Your Pink Salt Plate
Let your mind drift overland, off the path, and into the wilds of the Hindu Kush, where wildflowers scatter under the tessellated fingerprint of a mild spring breeze. We take up with the torrents of the Amu Darya river, and just keep climbing, along the ancient path where recorded history began, back in the 6th century BC, under the Achaemenid Empire. Weeks later, in the rarified air of northern Punjab's Himalaya mountain range, we find a quarry where men pull massive boulders of luminescent pink ore from the earth, glowing like freshly harvested meteorites. Gaze into the deep ferrite light of a massive block of Himalayan salt, and glimpse the unfathomed history of our planet.
Pakistani pink Himalayan salt was formed in the Precambrian era, about 600 million years ago, as a great inland sea evaporated. The salt is rich in iron, calcium, and 82 other trace minerals in a remarkably similar balance as that of the human body. Volcanic and other geological activity then sealed the salt in a hermetic vault where, over eons, it was subjected to the intense pressure and heat of the deep earth. Over countless ages the land rose to become the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, the scattering of Eukaryotic cells that comprised all life on earth evolved into shellfish and trilobites. Fish began to swim in the sea, great fern forests emerged, and then came the reptiles. Still the salt glowed darkly in the depths of the earth. Dinosaurs grew to towering heights, mammals peeked from beneath the leaves, and birds took flight. Grazing and carnivorous mammals, and then primates took hold, and still the salt remained in darkness.
Man appeared, gawking at the heavens and whittling spears, then scattering across Asia and beyond. 1.8 million years later, one lovely evening in 326 BC, Alexander the Great gave his troops a rest in the Khewra area of what is now Pakistan. An observant fellow noted in his diary that the horses were taken with licking the rocks and lo, salt was discovered. Some eighteen centuries later, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was born. At the age of thirteen, the boy's father fell to his death from the library stairs, and Akbar ascended to rule, eventually becoming the Mughal empires greatest ruler. Akbar's two lasting contributions were the vast accessioning of art from around the world into the Mughal collections, and the introduction of standardized salt mining at Khewra.
Our Himalayan Salt is harvested in the same way it was under Akbar. The choice boulders from the harvest sometimes weighing in excess of 500 pounds are sliced into cubes and platters and planks and chunks for use on your table.