When should I salt my steak?
Salt steaks before grilling or not - expert tip on a much-discussed myth
A much-invoked principle when grilling is still that steaks should only be salted after they have been grilled. The reason given is usually that the steaks would otherwise dry out during grilling, as the salt removes water from the meat. But is that even true? We have researched and explain below whether the principle really applies and when you should salt your steak in order to get an ideal result.
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Does salt dehydrate meat?
The answer to this question is yes. But - and this is the bottom line - the salt won't work fast enough to dry out your steak if you salt it just before grilling.
The whole thing can be explained chemically as follows: Salt is a hygroscopic substance and therefore binds moisture from its surroundings. Between the salt and the water contained in the meat there is a membrane or cell wall that is only permeable to substances of a certain molecular size - a process also known as osmosis. Salt ions are small enough to penetrate the cell walls and thus balance the salt and water content on both sides - but if you salt your steak and then put it on the grill, there is usually not enough time to start this process To put in gear.
In the case of salt and steak, osmosis takes place, but it can be neglected. So it is a misconception that salting meat makes it dry. You can tell from the fact that not too much moisture escapes immediately when you sprinkle raw meat with salt.
Salting before grilling even has advantages
The experience of numerous barbecue experts shows that salting before grilling even has some advantages and can make your favorite steak even better. The results of a study by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna suggest that adding salt causes the proteins in meat to swell. Salting meat before grilling results in 40 percent less grill juice loss.
Another advantage speaks in favor of salting before grilling: when enclosed in the crust, salt gives meat a wonderful taste. Unfortunately, this does not happen if the meat is seasoned after roasting. A good comparison is cooking a good pasta: If you forget to add salt to the cooking water, the noodles taste bland and salting afterwards is just an unequal substitute.
It is the same with meat: If it is salted beforehand, the salty taste can penetrate deep into the crust and is bound there. In contrast, a fried steak that has a crispy crust often does not have enough moisture to bind the salt molecules. The only option in such a case is to cut the piece of meat and sprinkle the damp cut surfaces with salt - or to use the salt as a "dip". Both options should only serve as a last resort and should not be the norm when grilling.
Here's how to do it right - the perfect time to salt your steak
A delicious, crispy crust and a tender, juicy interior - that's how everyone wants a good steak. The right time for salting plays an important role so that a great crust is created on the outside, but the steak does not get dry on the inside. There are two times when you should reach for the salt shaker for the perfect grilling result.
At least 40 minutes before grilling
The best time to salt your steak is at least 40 minutes before grilling - but it can be more than that. If, on the other hand, you sprinkle your steak with salt and only let it steep for a short time, the osmosis process will pull the salt out of the meat and make it more difficult to get a continuous crust. Only after a steeping time of at least 10 minutes does the brine slowly break open the muscle fibers in the meat so that they can absorb more liquid and the salt can be drawn into the meat. At least 40 minutes are necessary for the meat juices that were pulled out of the meat by the salt to redistribute and make the taste even more intense.
Immediately before grilling
Another option is to sprinkle the steak with salt just before it goes on the grill or beefer. In this case, the salt lies on the surface of the meat and does not have time to dissolve. The meat juices contained in the muscle fibers make the meat nice and juicy. You will get a continuous, crispy crust if you grill the steak directly at a high temperature.
Another possible variant, which meat purists especially prefer, is not to salt the meat at all and not to leave any other spices near it. A good cut can dispense with spices entirely, because this is the only way you can fully enjoy the meat taste.
So when you season your steak is also a matter of personal taste. For a particularly intense taste experience, salt it at least 40 minutes before grilling.
Our recommendation for salting steak and other meat: Use a coarse natural salt, for example coarse-grain sea salt. Thanks to its smaller surface, this has a deliciously salty, but still subtle taste and also brings a certain crunch to the steak. Perfect!
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