Himalayan Salt Blocks – Are they worth the buzz!?
If you’re plugged into the grilling community, you’ve probably heard a little buzz about an emerging trend: Himalayan Salt Blocks. For those of you who are unfamiliar, these tablets consist of 100% pure salt quarried from salt mines in the Himalayas.
The idea is that you simply apply your food directly to the preheated salt block, and the salt will cook directly into the meal that you prepare. Once your meal is ready, you can simply place the salt tablet on a trivet at your table and let your guests eat directly off the block.
These tablets don’t have to be Himalayan, by the way… there are a wide variety of tablets available from salt mines all over the world. Connoisseurs claim that they can taste a distinct difference in the salt based on where they originate. Whether or not that is actually true…I’m yet to confirm…but they do differ in appearance. As you can see from the picture above, Himalayan salt tends to have a peach/pink hue.
So, I know what you’re thinking… “That’s great… but does it work? Is it worth it? How does it compare to the thousands of other grilling widgets that Williams Sonoma is trying to sell me!?”
Well here you go:
Ease of Use: 10/10
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Simply preheat your tablet on your grill, range, or in the oven. The tablet can handle temperatures up to 420, so make sure that your grill or oven does not exceed that temperature. Once it is hot (and it will be hot all the way through), apply your meat and let it bake. When finished, pull the tablet out, place it on a trivet, and enjoy!
You can also serve food on a cold tablet for an extra salty punch. Cheese, crackers, and salami work wonders on the tablet…just make sure that you do not cut up your tablet too much with your cheese knives!
Care and Maintenance: 4/10
This is probably my biggest knock on the salt block. Because it consists of pure salt, and salt is delicate by nature…you need to be on your A-Game as far as maintenance goes. After cooking, you must let the block cool over night. Once it returns to room temperature, you must hand-scrub the block with a damp paper towel. It is important not to use soap or a drenched towel…because the salt will break down and erode.
Once you have cleaned your block, you must let it dry for over 24 hours before your next cook. If the block is damp when you heat it up… it will crumble (or even explode).
As far as storage, you must keep the salt block in a dark, cool, dry place to ensure that the block doesn’t fall apart. I told you these things require some TLC!
Flavor Influence: 9/10
When first trying this product, I wasn’t expecting much… but I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Meat seems to absorb a rich salty flavor from the salt tablet that trumps traditional table salt. I can’t really explain it… other than it is less of a “metallic” taste, and more of a hearty, natural, almost cured meat type of salt (think beef jerky). This flavor can be strong, so I have a few recommendations for you.
DRY YOUR MEAT! Simply put… the wetter your meat is, the more the salt will break down and ultimately absorb into your food. With that said, dab your meat with a paper towel before applying it to the salt tablet if you prefer less salt. It will take some practice to determine how dry you want your meat, so don’t get frustrated.
DO NOT SEASON THE MEAT YOU’RE USING! This tablet will give you all the flavor you need. I know it sounds crazy…but if you add a rub, and then apply it to the salt tablet…you will be overwhelmed with salt. Just add the unseasoned meat to the tablet…and the tablet will add the salt flavor for you…while keeping your meat juicy and tender. I promise.
OK… I admit that this is a dumb category… but it really is a great conversation piece at a party or cook-out. If you have a table that can resist a little heat… placing your tablet (on a trivet) in the middle of the dinner table will absolutely wow your guests. I’m serious. You could be the worst cook in America…but if you throw some shrimp down on a tablet with some appetizer forks… your friends will think that you’re the next Iron Chef.
So now you’re thinking… “OK, you’ve sold me… but what does it cost!?” Well these tablets don’t come cheap. In the range of $30-50, this is quite an investment for something that has limited use. Here’s what I do like about the product, though.
It’s true that the tablet dissolves a little with each use. So let’s say that you get 30-50 meals out of a single tablet. That’s about $1 per meal which may seem a little expensive as far as seasoning goes.
Here’s the beauty, though. Once the tablet is dissolved enough that it is unusable, you can grind up the remainder of the tablet and use it just like table salt. The smoke of your grill will give this salt a unique flavor that could be used as an excellent rub on some of your low-and-slows. See… not all is lost!
Overall Score: 78
Here’s the skinny. If this tablet were free, I would use it for a large majority of my meals (especially appetizers). The big knock is that the tablet is so pricey, that you must be diligent in care and maintenance to get your money’s worth out of it. Some people may not want to take the time to maintain a tablet… but in my opinion, the result makes it all worth while. 39/50