If you think salt is a one-trick pony, you’re not thinking outside the box. In fact, we’re more apt to ask, “What can’t salt do?” This kitchen building block is pretty much magic — it brightens dishes like sauteed chicken, mellows the bite of stronger flavors and can even help with your post-meal cleanup. Here are nine unexpected ways this multitasker earns our endless respect.
Make an Everyday Brine
A brief soak in a salty brine will render chicken and pork chops moist and tender in time for a weeknight dinner. Combine water, a handful of kosher salt and some aromatics like rosemary, thyme, lemons or oranges in a bowl. Add your protein and refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking.
Dribble salad dressing on your shirt? Prevent a fresh grease stain from setting by covering it with salt, which will absorb the oils. Repeat as needed, and then wash as you regularly would. This trick also works on carpets: Mix kosher salt and rubbing alcohol together and blot the mixture into a grease stain to help lift it away.
When baked-on tomato sauce stubbornly lingers in your lasagna dish, salt can help loosen it. Soak the pan in heavily salted water for about 30 minutes, then wipe away the mess. If any remains, apply salt directly to the baking dish and gently scrub. Just don’t use this technique on nonstick pans and baking dishes; you’ll remove their coating.
It may sound counterintuitive, but a sprinkle of sea salt on a sugary cookie (like chocolate chip or gingerbread) will bring out the cookie’s sweetness while keeping it from cloying. Flaky salt also works wonders on juicy fruit — think sliced mango, watermelon and pineapple.
Cover Fish in a Crust
Try this Mediterranean method the next time you cook a whole fish: Mix egg whites with kosher salt to create a salt paste, and then pack it around the fish before baking (don’t be stingy; an even layer of salt will allow even cooking). Crack open and remove the crust for a deliciously moist and well-seasoned meal. Bonus: This technique is also great with root vegetables like potatoes.
Tame Sour Flavors
Salt counterbalances pucker-y acids perfectly. Try a pinch on a lemon pie or in a red wine vinaigrette. That salt-rimmed margarita makes sense now, right?
Clean a Cutting Board
A wooden board will retain off-putting food odors and ugly stains after many uses. The solution: Sprinkle the surface with kosher salt and use half a lemon to rub it into the board in a circular motion. It will leave your cutting surface free of stains and smelling fresh.
Extinguish a Grease Fire
Rule No. 1 when fighting a grease fire: NEVER use water. It will only spread the fire and make it worse. Instead, douse the flames with salt. Also effective: throwing on baking soda, covering the fire with a lid to cut off the oxygen and (of course) using a fire extinguisher.
Make an Oyster Bed
Try this caterer’s trick the next time you serve oysters: Arrange the freshly shucked shellfish on a chilled platter filled with coarse salt. It will keep the uneven shells from tipping over and preserve their natural briny liquor.