BBQ Ingredients: Salt
Salt. What can I say about salt? Humans and other animals have an inherent taste for this essential nutrient. Salt is the world's oldest known food additive. Wars have been fought over salt. It's said that Napoleon's army was defeated over a lack of salt. In the American civil war, in the Confederacy, you were exempt from fighting if you produced salt. It's that important.
But what does this have to do with barbeque? Not much except barbecue wouldn't be bbq without salt. Take a minute and give a quick read to the relationship between salt and food. (Thanks to our friends at Saltworks for the great info)
Salt serves many purposes in relation to food. People use many types of sodium chloride in food processing, cooking or at the table, both at home or in restaurants. Besides contributing a basic "salty" taste, salt brings out natural flavors and makes foods acceptable, protects food safety by retarding the growth of spoilage microorganisms, gives proper texture to processed foods, serves as a control agent to regulate the rate of fermentation in food processing strengthens gluten in bread, provides the color, aroma and appearance consumers expect and is used to create the gel necessary to process meats and sausages. As a result, more heavily processed foods usually contain more sodium and salt. Many countries' food labeling regulations include sodium. The world's great chefs appreciate salt's many culinary benefits, including surprising applications like salt in desserts. Salt should be part of every family's food storage program.
Beyond nutrition, people use sodium chloride for several necessary functions in food processing and cooking, including:
Salt preserves foods by creating a hostile environment for certain microorganisms. Within foods, salt brine dehydrates bacterial cells, alters osmotic pressure and inhibits bacterial growth and subsequent spoilage. Salting fish made long-range explorations possible in the age of sailing ships.
Salt strengthens gluten in bread dough, providing uniform grain, texture and dough strength. With salt present, gluten holds more water and carbon dioxide, allowing the dough to expand without tearing. Salt improves the tenderness in cured meats such as ham by promoting the binding of water by protein. It also gives a smooth, firm texture to processed meats. Salt develops the characteristic rind hardness in cheese and helps produce the desirable, even consistency in cheese and other foods such as sauerkraut.
Salt helps extract the proteins in processed and formed meats, providing binding strength between adjacent pieces of meat. Water binding properties are increased and, as a result, cooking losses are reduced. Salt increases the solubility of muscle proteins in water. In sausage making, stable emulsions are formed when the salt-soluble protein solutions coat the finely-formed globules of fat, providing a binding gel consisting of meat, fat and moisture.
In baked products, salt controls fermentation by retarding and controlling the rate of fermentation, important in making a uniform product. During pickle making, salt brine is gradually increased in concentration, reducing the fermentation rate as the process proceeds to completion. Salt is also used to control fermentation in making cheese, sauerkraut and summer sausage.
Salt promotes the development of color in ham, bacon, hotdogs and sauerkraut. Used with sugar and nitrate or nitrite, salt produces a color in processed meats which consumers find appealing. Salt enhances the golden color in bread crust by reducing sugar destruction in the dough and increasing carmelization.