In the realm of culinary excellence, chefs often seek that extra touch to elevate their dishes from good to extraordinary.
Enter "finishing salts" – the secret weapon used by seasoned chefs to add a burst of flavour and visual appeal to their creations.
In this blog, we'll dive into the fascinating world of finishing salts, exploring what they are and why they hold a special place in a chef's repertoire.
What are Finishing Salts?
Finishing salts, sometimes known as gourmet salts or artisan salts, are high-quality salts that are added to dishes just before serving to enhance their taste, texture, and presentation. Unlike regular table salt, which primarily serves as a seasoning during cooking, finishing salts are prized for their distinct flavours and unique textures, making them a valuable addition to any culinary masterpiece.
Types of Finishing Salts:
Fleur de Sel: This delicate "flower of salt" is hand-harvested from the top layer of sea salt ponds. It boasts a slightly moist texture and a mild, briny flavour that enriches both savoury and sweet dishes.
Maldon Salt: Hailing from the marshes of Essex, England, Maldon salt is known for its pyramid-shaped crystals and clean, pure taste. Its crunchy texture and clean finish make it a favourite among chefs and home cooks alike.
Himalayan Pink Salt: Mined from ancient salt deposits in the Himalayan mountains, this rosy-hued salt is celebrated for its rich mineral content and subtle earthy flavour, making it ideal for both cooking and finishing dishes.
Smoked Sea Salt: This alluring salt is cold-smoked over wood fires, infusing it with a smoky aroma that enhances the taste of grilled or roasted dishes, vegetables, and even desserts.
Black Lava Salt: Originating from Hawaii, black lava salt is mixed with activated charcoal, giving it a striking jet-black appearance and a unique salty taste with a hint of smokiness.
Why Chefs Use Finishing Salts:
Texture: Finishing salts offer a textural contrast that elevates the overall taste experience. The satisfying crunch or delicate dissolving of the salt crystals adds an exciting element to each bite.
Flavour Enhancement: Unlike table salt, finishing salts come in a range of flavours that can complement and accentuate the natural taste of the dish.From sea-infused brininess to earthy undertones, these salts add complexity and depth to the flavours.
Visual Appeal: The art of plating is crucial in the culinary world, and finishing salts can play a pivotal role in enhancing the aesthetics of a dish. Their vibrant colours and unique crystalline structures create eye-catching presentations that entice diners from the very first glance.
Creating your own flavoured salt is simple and allows you to customise the taste to suit your preferences. I often add cocoa nibs to sea salt.
we'll explore some essential tips and techniques for making finishing salts that will dazzle your taste buds.
1. Choose the Right Salt:
The size and shape of salt grains do make a difference in the final product. Opt for flaked or coarse salt, as they add a delightful crunch and visual appeal to your finishing salt. You don't need to buy the most expensive or colourful options since you'll be adding other seasonings to enhance the flavour.
2. Preserve the Texture of Salt:
When blending herbs and spices with the salt, be careful not to pulverize the salt. It's crucial to maintain those large crystals or flakes of salt to ensure a pleasing texture in your finishing salt. A mortar and pestle or gently crushing the ingredients together will help retain the salt's integrity.
3. Dry High Moisture Ingredients:
While you can incorporate fresh herbs and flavour ingredients directly into the salt.
It is better to dry or wilt high-moisture ingredients like citrus, hot peppers, ginger, garlic, flower blossoms, and dense herbs before blending them. This prevents clumping and ensures your finishing salt stays fresh and delicious.
4. Storage Containers:
To preserve the quality of your finishing salt, opt for ziplock bags or glass containers not metal. Salt can corrode metal over time, affecting the taste and quality of your salt blend. Glass containers will keep your finishing salt fresh and ready for culinary adventures.
5. Timing Matters
For the best results, add your flavoured salt just before serving. Using it as a finishing product allows the unique flavours and textures to shine through, enhancing your dishes without overpowering them.
Versatility of Finishing Salt:
The beauty of finishing salt lies in its versatility. Sprinkle it on grilled meats, fish, chicken, and vegetables to add an explosion of flavour.
Elevate simple dishes like baked or fried potatoes, eggs, pasta, and salads with a pinch of your homemade finishing salt. You can even mix it into salad dressings for an extra layer of excitement.
In the realm of culinary creativity, finishing salts have emerged as an indispensable tool for chefs seeking to infuse their dishes with an extra dash of brilliance.
From enhancing flavours to adding a visual flourish, these artisan salts play a vital role in elevating dishes to the heights of gastronomic delight. So, the next time you dine at a fine restaurant and notice the intricate flavours and textures on your plate, you'll know that the magic lies in the enchanting world of finishing salts.