• Gary Corcoran

How to cook on a Himalayan salt block

About 5 or 6 years ago, I started experimenting with salt block cooking. I focused mostly on seafood (scallops and shrimp) in the beginning, then graduated to vegetables and thinly- sliced meats. The pink salt blocks are mined from ancient sea salt deposits in the Himalayan Mountain range. The block's makeup is similar to table salt but it contains slightly higher amount of minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Himalayan salt blocks are widely available in kitchen shops. I prefer a block 2” thick and about 8” square or larger.

Salt block cooking is great way to add an interesting depth of flavour to your food and it has been said to help protect against foodborne illnesses and increase the nutrient content of your food. But it can be tricky, so if you are going to try it, take it slow and start simple.

One big advantage to salt block cooking is that once you have heated your salt block, it maintains its heat for a long time, which lets you cook most foods that you would normally grill. The main rule of thumb is to keep your food sliced thin. If you don’t want to use your block for cooking, it also makes a very nice serving platter, that creates good conversation with your guests at any gathering.

There are two ways to heat up a salt block. One is on the BBQ and the other is on a gas stovetop. It is not recommended that you heat your salt block in the oven, as there is a higher chance it will break, causing both damage to your block and to your oven if it breaks apart. You can also heat your salt block on an electric stove but you need the proper rack to put it on before heating.

Before you start heating your Himalayan salt block, make sure it is completely dry. Heating while wet can result in it breaking and shorten its lifespan. Once you use your salt block, always cook on the same side and always heat the same side.

Here is a recommended approach for the gas stove top, since BBQ grilling is limited right now in the depth of winter. Your goal is to get the salt block to about 500 degrees or higher, but you need to get it there slowly.

Heat your salt block on your gas range on low heat for about 15 - 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium and continue heating for another 15 - 20 minutes. Increase heat again to high and continue heating for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Check the temperature of your block using an infrared thermometer. It should read about 500 - 600 degrees now. If you don’t own an infrared thermometer (a tool I highly recommend you buy as a kitchen essential), you can flick water on the block and if the water evaporates immediately, you are good to go.

What can you cook on a salt block? You'd be surprised. Seafood (scallops and shrimp) are delicious. You could try thinly-sliced lamb, beef or pork tenderloin: all work wonderfully on the block. Firm fish like swordfish, halibut, and tuna works equally well too: just brush your fish with a little oil first. You can cook almost any vegetable using a salt block, like asparagus, peppers, zucchini slices, sugar snap peas and green or yellow beans. Season with a little pepper as well. Always use a metal spatula or tongs to remove your food from the extremely hot salt block.

I've posted a simple recipe on my website to get you started: Salt-Block Scallops (with shrimp and asparagus). If you do it right, you will end up with a perfect, golden-brown crusted scallop with a delicious tender interior. Hopefully, it will inspire you to try different recipes. Remember you are cooking on a salt block, so please don’t use additional salt as a flavour enhancer.

Let your salt block cool completely before cleaning. Wipe with a damp cloth or brush away any stuck-on food particles. Let dry completely before storing.

If I have piqued your interest in salt block cooking and you don’t already own one, I was able to buy them, in a variety of sizes, from Homesense. You can also buy them online at Amazon and other retailers. They come in different thickness and sizes. I prefer a block 2” thick and about 8” square or larger.

Happy salt block cooking!

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