If you’re a lover of salt like I am, you’re going to love cooking on a Himalayan salt block. Mined from salt deposits in Pakistan, these gorgeous pink slabs can withstand an enormous amount of heat and are great for grilling. They can also be used at room temperature to serve fruits, cheeses and tartars, and can even be frozen to serve ice cream.
Himalayan salt blocks impart a subtly salty and mineral-rich flavor to whatever food you place on them. Here’s how I cook on my salt block, in the form of 5 easy tips on purchasing and caring for your own Himalayan salt block!
# 1 - Finding A Himalayan Salt Block
A quick Google search for Himalayan salt blocks will give you blocks from $15 all the way up to $80. I got mine at Cost Plus/World Market for less than $30, which is a reasonable price for a 8"x12"x1.5" block. You can find another one here. Himalayan salt blocks will naturally have fine cracks running through them, but make sure your block doesn’t have any deep cracks. The surface should be smooth and resemble pink marble.
# 2 - Heating Your Salt Block
If you’re using a gas range, you can place the block on the stove top. For an electric range, use a metal ring to raise the block slightly above the heating element. The key word here is patience! Most Himalayan salt blocks will come with a set of instructions. It’s important to heat your salt block according to those instructions so that you don’t damage the block, which is quite fragile. My block is 1.5" thick, so I begin by heating it over a low flame on my gas range for 20 minutes. Then I raise the heat to medium for 20 more minutes. Keeping the flame at medium, I continue heating the block until a few drops of water on the surface sizzle immediately. You may hear some cracking while heating up your block for the first time - this is perfectly normal.
# 3 - No Salt Needed, But Oil Is A Must!
Since you’ll be cooking on a giant slab of salt, it goes without saying that you won’t need to salt your food before or after cooking. It’s important to remember that the more moist the food, the more salt it will absorb. When I prepared my shrimp, I patted them dry and did not add any seasoning. The flavor imparted by the salt block is rich enough that you don’t need any!
Food will invariably stick to the salt block while cooking, and this is normal. However, you will need to oil the block to prevent it from sticking too much. Most salt blocks will be flat, so be very careful that your oil doesn’t run down the sides of the block. (If oil hits the bottom of the block, it could drip onto your burner and start smoking or even cause a fire.) Just pour a small amount of oil in the very center of the block and carefully spread it out. I highly recommend rubbing any seafood with olive oil before placing it on the salt block.
# 4 - Cooking On Your Salt Block
Whether it be fish, shrimp, scallops or thinly sliced beef, place your meat onto the block and don’t move it. When it’s cooked on one side, gently flip. That’s it - it couldn’t be easier!
# 5 - Cleaning Your Salt Block
Allow your block to cool completely before cleaning. Salt blocks get very hot and can retain heat for hours. I let mine sit for at least 4 hours before handling it. Himalayan salt blocks are naturally antimicrobial, so no soap is needed! Simply wipe gently with a damp sponge. You’re effectively dissolving a thin layer of salt when you clean it, so your block will get thinner with use. You may also notice that your block will become discolored over time - this is part of the normal life of a Himalayan salt block, so no worries.
There’s so much you can do with a Himalayan salt block, and it definitely provides a “wow” factor at dinner parties. I highly recommend getting one and trying it out for yourself!