Take away everything else in my kitchen but the salt. Just leave the kosher salt; you can have the table and sea salts. Sure, I love my herbes de provence but I don’t use them in every meal. Have the store-bought stock. I’ll just make my own.
You can take my bulbs of garlic (begrudgingly). I don’t need them, necessarily. I’ll even give you the butter, though I would rather not.
Salt can adjust any flavor, fix any culinary problem (short of overcooking and burning), and enhance the natural flavors of any meat, fish, grain or vegetable (Have you ever met someone from Syracuse that doesn’t drone on and on about salt potatoes? Those people don’t exist.). Better than all of that, though, is how salt can penetrate a piece of meat and totally change its flavor profile and makeup.
Let’s take a ribeye roast. You don’t just run out on Christmas morning and buy an 8-pound hunk of beef. No, you shop for it about 5 to 7 days in advance. And when you get it home? Salt it! Why? Unless you are going to dry age it, letting it chill in cellophane is nothing more than wasted time. I’ll steal from the genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats:
Because of a phenomenon known as osmosis, the salt will initially draw liquid out of the meat and onto the surface. By the 25 minute mark, those juices form distinct droplets on the meat’s surface. Meat cooked at this stage will end up with a leathery crust. Eventually, as we hit the 40-minute mark, the salty meat juices have begun to react with the muscle fibers themselves, dissolving some of their proteins, and causing the structure of the meat to open up, like a sponge. The extracted meat juices soon get reabsorbed, and the salt goes along for the ride. The result is better, more deeply-seasoned beef.
Salt actually improves the flavor and texture of the meat. Or, more simply stated, salt make meat more better.
Our 7.99 lb. ribeye roast came home from Costco on a styrofoam tray wrapped in cellophane. It came out of its store-provided home and received a full-body massage of kosher salt, before standing for 90 minutes. I put another layer of salt on it, wrapped it in three layers of plastic wrap and stuck it in the basement fridge for four days.
Before it went into the oven, it got a light sprinkling of salt and coating of black pepper.
WHAT WORKED: There were three ingredients. Meat, salt and pepper. What worked? Science and the harmony of simple ingredients.
WHAT DIDN’T: I made a gravy that was more of an au jus. It worked out better that way, but I wanted a thicker gravy.
EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy. It isn’t genius work. All you need is an instant-read thermometer.
BEST FOR: Holidays or an elegant evening of entertaining.
SERVE WITH: Some roasted veg, a starch and a sturdy red wine.
By Jared Paventi
- 7 to 10 lb. ribeye roast
- 5 cups kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Remove the roast from its packaging and wipe it down with paper towels. Set it on a large baking sheet and rub the entire roast with 2 cups of salt, using your hands to press it in the skin and fatcap. Let it stand for 90 minutes to absorb the salt. Apply another 2 cups of salt to the roast, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap, using multiple layers of plastic to wrap the roast. Refrigerate 2 to 4 days.
About 60 to 90 minutes before you are ready to cook, take the roast out of the refrigerator and let it stand on the counter. Remove the plastic wrap and set it on a rack inside of a shallow roasting pan, fat side up. Rub the roast with 1 cup of salt and crack enough black pepper with a grinder to coat the top side of the roast.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the roast in the oven and sear in the high heat for 15 minutes. Drop the heat to 350 degrees and cook 18 minutes per pound, or until the temperature at the deepest part of the roast reaches 135 degrees.
Once the meat reaches temperature, remove it from the oven and transfer it to your cutting board. Tent with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving in 1/2- to 1-inch thick slices.