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How Do You Cook With Rock Salt?


Dear Jamie:

At a recent dinner party, the hostess took out a fish cooked in rock salt. It looked so interesting and tasted delicious! How do you cook with rock salt?

Sarah, Bridgeport, CT

Okay Sarah, quite honestly, I have never cooked anything in rock salt, and have no official Quick & Kosher tips & tricks to share with you. But since you ask, I researched it and did come up with a fascinating procedure.

You will need a roasting pan, water in a spray bottle, food-safe rock salt (not what you throw on your driveway after a snowfall), fish of your choice, and a hammer. Yes, you read right. I said a hammer. Maybe you should keep one in your kitchen next to your whisk, spatula, and wooden spoon. (Ask your local rabbi if a hammer used on food should be toveled.)

Be very careful when you buy the rock salt. Unless it’s labeled as edible, you can’t use it as an ingredient in food. Rock salt contains impurities, mostly minerals that are removed from salt that we use in our everyday cooking.

The idea of cooking with rock salt is that you completely cover the food (such as whole potatoes, meat, or fish) with it while it cooks. The salt forms a crust which will hold in moisture as the food cooks. It will also impart an evenly distributed salty taste.

This cooking method is about as unusual as they come. First, pre-heat your oven to 400˚ F. Next, line the entire bottom of a roasting pan with rock salt. Spray the salt with just enough water to moisten all of it. Then, lay the food you want to cook on top of the rock salt. Pour more rock salt around the sides and on top of the food. Make sure the food is completely covered with salt. Use the spray bottle to moisten the added rock salt thoroughly. Cook the food in the oven as you normally would.

Compact cuts of red meat, cooked to medium, take 18 to 20 minutes per pound, while whole fish will generally take between 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size.

Remove the food from the oven. Rest red meat for 20 to 40 minutes, and a whole fish for 10 minutes. Crack open the salt shell with a hammer (Ahhh! That’s when you get to use the hammer!) to remove and serve the food.

Sarah, if you try this, you must comment and let us know how it went. Send a picture if you can, because I’d love to see what that little fishy looks like after you have every so gingerly cracked its salt shell with a hammer.