Picture this, you’re at a family dinner, your Aunt has been working away in the kitchen for hours preparing a beautiful home cooked meal. You all gather around the table, excited to divulge in the bounty placed before you. You excitedly take your first bite with anticipation of it being the best meal of your life. But no, you are met with the utter disappointment of just plain, bland food. Ok, so that may have been a tad dramatic, but does it sound familiar? How can something that looks so good taste so – blah? Chances are, your sweet Aunt skipped the salt. It turns out that skipping the salt while preparing a meal is a literal act of sabotage to your food. Salt immensely enhances the flavor of a meal. There is even some science behind it!
Remember back in school when we tested our taste buds? We have receptors on our tongue that detect sweet, sour, bitter and salty. There is also a 5th receptor that wasn’t included in science class that is referred to as “umami”. Technically umami is glutamate, a type of amino acid that is naturally occurring in many foods like some meats, dairy and certain vegetables. Umami is also the fundamental component of Monosodium Glutamate, commonly know as MSG. The flavor profile for umami is best described as “savory”.
Okay, so we have sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty. So why is it so important to include salt in cooking and baking? Basically it comes down to the fact that in small quantities salt will actually enhance the sweet and savory flavors while suppressing any bitterness. Salt is literally a magic little mineral in the kitchen when used properly. Adding salt to food does not make it taste salty unless you add too much. Simply put, salt just makes food better.
Poor little ‘ol salt has gotten a bad rap over the years for causing high blood pressure. But the fact is that the high sodium intake has primarily been caused by the overly-processed, prepackaged foods that unfortunately make up a considerable amount of the average American’s diet. So throw that microwave dinner in the trash because your excessive sodium intake is not from your salt shaker!
Salt is an essential ingredient when cooking and baking. Without it you won’t be able to achieve that full-bodied flavor that can tantalize the tongue. When used proportionately it will bring your dish to life, transforming it to deliver its greatest potential. So in short, don’t skip the salt! I promise you won’t regret it.