With their ability to be used both hot and cold, salt blocks are a fantastic companion to summer cooking. But we recently learned on Facebook and Instagram that a lot of you have questions about Himalayan salt plates: How do you use them? Do you have to clean them? How long do they last?
We thought we’d set the record straight by sharing everything we know about using salt blocks with you here. Some of you had some really specific questions, so to get to the bottom of every query, we chef and salt block expert Nick Wellhausen to offer his suggestions and advice, too.
Let’s set the record straight on some of our most frequently-asked salt plate cooking questions.
What is a Himalayan salt plate, anyway?
A Himalayan salt plate is a solid plate made from natural salt deposits. It has a dense crystalline composition that lends a hint of saltiness to enhance the flavor to all types of foods.
Is it just for show?
No, it’s not just for show! “The salt plate does impart a salty flavor onto foods,” Nick clarifies. “People tend to think their foods will end up overly salty, but the reality is the level of saltiness will be affected by how long the food is in contact with the plate, the plate’s temperature, and the water content of the food you’re cooking,” he explains, adding, “Juicier ingredients like tomatoes or cucumbers will pick up more salt due to the moisture they contain.” Moreover, a hot salt plate will also impart less salt flavor than a cold salt plate.
How do you use it?
There are multiple ways—hot and cold, sweet and savory—that you can use the salt plate, because it retains hot and cold temperatures evenly. For hot preparations, Nick recommends a stovetop or gas grill. You can also use a salt plate for cold applications, but you’ll want to chill the plate first.
What do you do to prepare a salt plate for cold dishes?
Start by chilling the plate. “You’ll want to chill the plate in the refrigerator—or freezer for frozen desserts—for at least two hours, but up to 24 hours,” Nick explains. It’s really great for serving fruit, cheese, sushi and cold appetizers like beef tartare.
What’s the right way to use it for hot applications?
Nick suggests that you begin by preheating a completely dry plate over a stovetop or gas grill. “It’s always best to preheat salt plates slowly and in stages,” he says. Start over a low flame for 15 minutes or more, then move up to a medium flame for another 15 minutes and finishing on a high flame, if needed.
Is it just for one-time use?
Nope—that salt plate you bought is no paper plate! We promise that it’s not just a one-time deal.
How long does it last?
There’s no exact answer here. “We’ve seen some plates last a few months, and we’ve seen other salt plates last for years,” Nick says, adding, “The life cycle of your salt plate will be slightly impacted by how well you care for it. It’s good to keep in mind that since they are a natural product, they have a life cycle.” With time and use, the plate’s shape will get smaller and the color will change.
Do you have to clean a salt plate?
Salt is naturally antimicrobial, but that being said, it’s probably best to clean your salt plate after each use to avoid it imparting off-flavors onto the next dish you make with it.
What is the best way to clean a salt plate after use?
“The best way to clean a salt plate is with an unused damp sponge,” Nick says. You can also scrub it with a mildly abrasive brush, then wipe it down with a damp cloth. Tackle tough, burned-on bits of food with a brush with a metal scraper brush. What not to do? “It’s best to avoid soap, because the salt plate might absorb it, and this could possibly affect flavor,” he adds. And don’t leave the block under running water or immerse it in water—and be sure to dry it on a rack for at least 24 hours before using it again.
How should you store a salt plate?
Store you salt plank away from moisture in a dry area. Says Nick: “Salt plates are hydroscopic, which means if they’re left in a humid environment, they will draw moisture from the air and store it.”
Besides grilling and serving, what else can be done with a salt plank?
Himalayan salt plates are great for so many applications, from hot and savory to cold and sweet. Nick suggests using them to accelerate cooking or grilling: “Larger salt plates make excellent grill presses. When you grill a half chicken or beef roast, you can preheat the plate and set it on top of the meat to speed up the cooking process.” On the sweet side, he suggests freezing a plate, then using it to make chocolate bars in the same fashion you might use a cool marble surface to harden candy.
Intrigued by salt plate cooking? Check out our entire collection of salt plate products, including our classic Himalayan salt plate, Himalayan salt vertical chicken roaster, and the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen’s Salt Plate Cookbook.