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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

By Samin Nosrat
15-minute read
Audio available
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (2017) is not your run-of-the-mill cookbook. Rather than just providing recipes, it introduces some of the most important principles that can lead to truly delicious cooking, even when you’re not following any recipe at all.

  • Cooks and cooking apprentices
  • Cooking enthusiasts
  • Epicureans devoted to good living

Samin Nosrat is a writer and chef who worked for many years at the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in California. Celebrated by the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle for her ability to combine the right cooking techniques with the right ingredients, she now lives, cooks and tends to her garden in Berkeley, California.

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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

By Samin Nosrat
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
Synopsis

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (2017) is not your run-of-the-mill cookbook. Rather than just providing recipes, it introduces some of the most important principles that can lead to truly delicious cooking, even when you’re not following any recipe at all.

Key idea 1 of 9

Use plenty of salt in your cooking water and pick the right method of salting.

James Beard, the famous American cook, once asked, “Where would cooks be without salt?” Well, if you know how crucial salt is to enhancing flavor, you’ll know the answer: a very bland place. This is why you should learn how to harness the culinary power of salt.

To see why, imagine you spare the salt when boiling green beans. What would happen? Well, if the salt level of the water is low, then the mineral level of the water will be lower than the mineral level of the beans. To restore equilibrium, the minerals will drain out of the beans into the water, making the beans bland and limp.

In contrast, if the cooking water is amply salted, the beans will absorb some of the minerals from the water, thereby seasoning them from the inside. As an added bonus, the absorbed salt will help soften the beans, enabling them to cook faster. It will also help them hold onto the magnesium in their color-giving chlorophyll cells, allowing them to stay green.

This isn’t to say you should just always go hog wild with salt; different dishes call for different amounts of salt – and depending on how much salt you want to use, you’ll want to apply one of three different salting methods.

The first method is salting by the palmful. Here, you’re grabbing salt and adding large amounts of it with each release of your fist. This is the method to use when salting water to boil pasta and vegetables. The aim is to add enough salt to make the water taste like saltwater, so you want to be open-handed with the salt, both literally and figuratively.

For trays of roasted vegetables or meat, the aim is more of an even distribution of salt than a large quantity of it. To achieve this evenness, use the second method: the wrist wag. To do it, turn your salt-filled palm upward and gently shake it, allowing the salt to fall evenly over the tray. Repeat this process until the whole tray is evenly salted.

If you’re salting small appetizers, such as sliced hard-boiled eggs, you’ll want to use just a pinch of salt – and the third method is precisely that: simply pinch the salt between your fingers!

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