Hello BBQ world! Today, we are talking salt! Now, we won’t bore you with the academic science behind salt and meats, but rather just give you all the meat and salt of it all.
Today we take salt and BBQ as a forgone conclusion that they go together, but, here is a little history of why we use salts in our meats and BBQ.
Salt has been used in food for thousands of years dating all the way back to 5,000 years. It was originally a preservative used to dry and cure meats for long storage before refrigeration. Salt draws moisture out (and bacteria!) that causes meats to rot, preserving them for a longer shelf life, all while adding flavor.
Way back in the day, Americans used salt for cooking and preserving meats as it was readily available, easy to store and added flavor when cooking.
Of course, we all know about salt pork, the original bacon! But what about beef?
Beef is one of the American culinary icons, in fact, it is this creature that has given America it’s only real cultural identity worldwide in the American Cowboy! Beef cattle are simply a bag of leather wrapped around the purely delicious and nutritious BEEF!
This is an awesome protein that needs little seasonings added to bring out its best, and salt, is the best way to do it.
Yes, salt alone is all you need! Here are just few ways we still enjoy a salt steak today.
One the oldest steak recipes that has recently resurfaced as a cooking craze is the Salt Steak. This is a steak that is seared hard in a cast iron skillet on a bed of salt. Today’s salt steaks are much more complex with butters, flavored oils, herbs, and seasoning added to the mix. But the original salt steak was simply salt in a heavy bed on a cast iron skillet and the steak thrown down on high heat, seared hard on both sides and served up hot, yet still rare in the center.
This was easy quick and simple for both cooks serving large amounts of people. You could find a salt steak in cook houses on a ranch, restaurants and at home. Salt steaks were cheap, easy, fast and of course delicious.
As a child, this was one of our main course meals during the winter when the barbecue was not as fun to hover over in the cold and wet weather. My father’s family was a long-time ranching family with origins out in the Arizona country and this meal was quite popular back in the day. Of course, my children have grown up with it and we have passed the old-time tradition on too many friends who have had never experienced a salt steak.
The salt allows for a high temperature without burning and yet giving of that golden brown crust that tastes oh so delicious. Once on the salt draws out the moisture crusting the steak and allowing for a barrier that holds in juices and natural caramelized fats in the marbling. Once the salt builds this barrier, it then flavors the beef to give us one of the best natural flavor profiles in beef we enjoy today.
Salt can have a similar effect in BBQ; however, the technique is much different as the salt should be applied to the beef an hour to 10 hours prior to BBQ’ing. This allows the salt to tenderize and flavor the meat as the barbecue doesn’t have the hard surface to trap the salt. So, by adding the salt to the beef directly, letting soak in, it draws out the moisture and then pulls in the salt which allows the beef time to tenderize and lock in the flavor. Finish the steak with a hot sear, on the coals or your favorite wood, and it is some of the best steak one can have!
When using one your favorite pellet grills like a Trager, Pit Boss, Memphis, Green Mountain, or a Yoder to name a few, be sure to add a sear plate if offered or pull the defused plate and sear on high over the burn pot for direct high heat.
And as for gas, well, we simply don’t talk about gas here for BBQ...Unless it is the kind that make your friends cringe and run away as you laugh and bask in glory of your flatulence.
So don’t over think or over season your beef, sometimes less is more, or in this case, keep it simply salty!