Rock salt is widely associated with de-icing roads and driveways in the winter, but it is also a versatile culinary ingredient. Rock salt is dug out of the earth or washed out of salt deposits with water and then recrystallized. Like all mined salt, rock salt is the product of minerals left behind by large water bodies that have dried up. It is typically less refined than table salt, so it has more natural minerals, which can give it a slightly gray color. To get the benefits that rock salt has to offer, be sure to follow the rules below.
Do make sure that your rock salt is the food-grade variety.
Much of the rock salt that you will be able to find easily will be industrial grade, which is commonly used to make ice cream. It is not used in the ice cream mix itself but rather in the mixing apparatus. Rock salt is used to ensure the ultra-low temperatures needed to give ice cream its texture; the same properties that allow it to melt ice also help it to keep your ice cream smooth and creamy. Food-grade rock salt will work just as well as the industrial-grade type for making ice cream, and you can cook with it as well. Food-grade rock salt has a similar chemical composition to that of table salt.
Do use the technique of cooking animal proteins directly on top of rock salt crystals.
This is similar to the practice of cooking steaks on top of Himalayan salt blocks. In both cases, the salt helps to keep meat and fish juicy while also acting as a seasoning and preventing dryness.
Do use rock salt for encrusting meats.
The technique of using salt to encrust proteins is an ancient one and is used to keep meat and fish soft and moist while also adding a light salt flavor. The method involves creating a thick shell for the protein using salt. The juices stay within the shell as the meat or fish cooks so that it gets roasted and steamed at the same time. While you can do it with kosher salt and other salt types, food-grade rock salt is an excellent option because of its low cost.
Do use rock salt for surface seasoning.
Coarsely ground rock salt works better for sprinkling onto the surfaces of foods that you can’t stir. This includes cuts of meat like steaks as well as baked goods like pretzels. It is much easier to spread rock salt evenly onto these foods compared to finer salts that would clump up, which would make some parts of the surface saltier than others. The rock salt can also be an attractive finishing touch.
Do use rock salt as a finishing salt.
Rock salt can work like kosher salt in that it will stick around on the surface of foods without dissolving. The result is not only visually attractive, but you will also get a satisfying crunch from it. A related benefit: unlike table salt, it won’t draw moisture from the food leading to a wet surface and less moist interior.
Don’t consume rock salt in excess.
Like all the other kinds of culinary salts, consuming too much of it can cause high blood pressure and other ailments.
Don’t use rock salt for pickling.
The trace minerals it contains can darken the brine and affect the appearance of your pickles.