The Frontal Cortex

Roasting in Salt

It really is one of the great culinary techniques, and yet it’s almost never used. I’m talking about salt roasting, and Russ Parsons has put together a lovely introduction to the subject. Basically, you bury a piece of protein in a mound of kosher salt. Put the dish in a hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or so. Then you just crack open the saline shell and peel away the salty skin. The resulting flesh is incredibly succulent and flavorful. The kitchen chemistry behind the technique is rather simple:

The salt melts and forms a crust, making a kind of “oven within an oven”. The effect is quite like steaming, but because salt is hygroscopic — meaning it absorbs any moisture — the surface of the food stays dry, giving a texture that is closer to roasted.

This is the recipe I want to try.


  1. #1 quisp
    October 31, 2007

    my wife and I were introduced to this technique 15 years ago while staying with a woman in Bonnieux, France who had spent years cooking with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. What tripped us up, when we tried to duplicate what we’d experienced, was we couldn’t find a cast iron pan/pot big enough. The woman had this giant old cast iron “boat” in which she dropped the chicken and buried it in salt. The cast iron was necessary as the recipe called for heating the oven to the equivalent of the temp at the surface of the sun. Actually something like 600 degrees (she also had an ancient oven she special ordered from Krypton). Anyway, the ultra high heat was enough to destroy normal pans, as it was explained to me. I’m inspired to find one of those pans again. Maybe now that ebay as been invented…

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