Pantry Basics Begin With Salt

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of having a well-stocked pantry. It is something that comes up again and again when talking about food. Just as there are essentials you need to cook a meal, there are basics you need to have in your stores.

With a well-stocked pantry, you have the ingredients you need to put together a good meal at any time. In order to get that kind of pantry, it will take many months of small additions as you need them. But there are some items that are essential to have and keep in stock.

I have always maintained that any well-stocked kitchen should have at least three kinds of salt, three kinds of oil and three kinds of vinegar. That’s nine items right there and doesn’t include can goods, spices and other basic ingredients that I think every kitchen needs.

Salt Is An Essential For Living And Eating

Salt is basic for nearly all cooking. Now I know we’ve talked about people overeating salt. But nearly all of that extra salt comes from processed, prepared, or convenience foods. If you’re starting from scratch, you must have just a little salt or the food will taste bland. If it tastes bland you won’t eat it. Then you’ll reach for the bad food because it tastes good and you’re hungry.

Even if your doctor has told you to cut out the salt, you still need just a little for your body to function properly. What doctors mean when they say that is cut out the EXTRA salt. Have you ever seen someone add salt to food without even tasting it? That’s a problem. It means their taste buds have been so overloaded with salt, possibly due to overexposure to bland, dull, overcooked food, that without that extra salt, they don’t think it tastes good. These people need to undergo behavioral therapy and a major detox diet. Trust me, if you stay away from that extra salt for a week or two, things with salt in them will seem too salty to you.

The Many Colors Of Salt

The question now is: what kind of salt? As I mentioned earlier, I think you need three kinds of salt. But I understand that’s not something you might be able to do right now. So, if I had to choose just one kind in my kitchen, it would be kosher salt. Why? It has to do with shape. Kosher salt is flaked. The flat shape helps it to stick to food, which is why it’s used in Koshering, preparing meat for human consumption under the Jewish dietary laws. The law says meat must be free of impurities, which are in the blood and other fluids. The salt helps pull those fluids out of the meat. Kosher salt is the cooks’ and chefs’ choice because its shape makes it easier to control and it sticks to the food. Regular table salt, seen under a magnifying glass, looks like a rounded ice cube. That means it rolls off the food and is less precise.

Another good salt choice is finely ground sea salt. This is a slightly stronger-tasting salt that’s rich in minerals because it is made from evaporated seawater. The fine grind means it dissolves well in liquids. You can usually use a little less sea salt in cooking than you would other kinds of salt.

Other kinds of salt that might be useful are popcorn and rock varieties. I like popcorn, so my choice for my third salt is the powdery popcorn salt. Just a pinch in my oil in the pot is enough for a big mixing bowl of the stuff. Rock-style salts and I’m not talking about the stuff you put on your sidewalk in the winter, are used mostly for cocktails and garnishing. They also are used in meat crusts and rubs because they add a crunchy quality to the outside of the food without making it too salty.

There are many salt varieties, but they are all basically the same. Some people say they can taste the difference between different types of salt from different parts of the world. But it’s a very subtle difference. Some salts have colors resulting from the other minerals dissolved in them, like Himalayan Pink salt.