As the name speaks for itself, smoked salt is a salt that is smoked with any bark-free woods. The salt used is either kosher or sea salt. Among the popular woods include mesquite, alder wood, applewood, hickory, and oakwood. Salt can be either cold or hot smoked. Regardless of which method, the taste will be the same. In fact, the most important contributing factor for its smokiness is the time you spend smoking the salt, which can be from four hours to two weeks. And this process isn’t really quite new to the cookery. As a matter of fact, smoking is the second-oldest cooking method; it was next to roasting or grilling with fire.
It’s earliest mention dates back to the Paleolithic Era, where the technique was initially used to preserve food. Soon, people discovered the absence of bacterial contamination and the unique smoky flavor it brings on the table. Ancient Greeks and Romans became patrons, and so was George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Eventually, the European meat-smoking routine was brought to Central Texas in the mid-19th century. Thanks to the Czech and German settlers, Texas has been noted for smoked barbecue, sausages, briskets, and of course, smoked salts!
Smoked Salt Trivia
- Smoked salt is a vegan and vegetarian favorite; it provides a grilled-meat flavor to dishes without even using animal products.
- Smoked salt is especially recommended with salmon and barbecue.
- Back in the middle ages, smoking was a big tradition.
- Thomas Jefferson had been frequently sending smoked hams to Paris when he was still the economic attaché.
Smoked Salt Buying Guide
Smoked salt is easy to find in the state of Texas. Almost all the spice vendors sell them, from local artisans that sell online and the farmers market to large supermarkets like H-E-B and Natural Grocers. When buying one, always check the ingredients list and see if there are preservatives or other additives that may affect the flavor of smoked salt. Some smoked salts are also labeled salt-free, low sodium, or reduced-sodium. Just remember that the RDA for salt is 2,300 mg per day. Then, choose the ones that aren’t lumpy, as this is an indication that moisture has already penetrated the product which leads to a shorter shelf life. Following all these basic tips, all you’re left to do is select which variety of flavors or woods you wanted to go for. Thus, here are some guidelines that might help:
- Mesquite Smoked Salt – A certified true Texan. This variety is made by naturally cold-smoking salt with mesquite wood. It provides a unique sweet flavor that is native to the state of Texas. In fact, mesquite smoked salt is the administrator of Texan BBQ. Thus, this variety works perfectly on red meats, poultry, shrimp, or just about anything that is grilled.
- Hickory Smoked Salt – This variety is made by cold-smoking salt with hickory wood. It provides both sweet and savory flavors with a powerful smoky taste. Hickory smoked salt is the epitome of Southern-style cooking. It works perfectly on red meat, ribs, turkey, chicken, and burgers. It also pairs well on prawns, honey, maple, ham, and bacon.
- Extra Bold or Smokehouse Smoked Salt – This variety is the powerhouse of a hearty smokehouse. Salt is naturally smoked with a combination of seven different woods for more than two weeks. Therefore, it provides a rich, intense, and rugged taste that works perfectly on marinades, stews, soups, sauces, and chilis. You can also use this as a finishing salt on steaks, chicken, pork, and salmon for that char-grilled flavor – even if you don’t grill the meat.
- Alderwood Smoked Salt – This variety is made by slowly smoking salt with red Alder wood, the smoking wood choice of North American Indians. It is robust and versatile, and you can use it to flavor a wide range of delicacies.
- Chardonnay Oak Smoked Salt – This variety is made by cold-smoking salt with pieces of old oak barrels that were used to age French chardonnay. It provides a subtle smoky flavor with a hint of wine. Thus, it works perfectly on delicate dishes like seafood, light sauces and soups, and intricate confections and desserts.
- Applewood Smoked Salt – This variety is made by cold-smoking salt with sweet applewood. It is the most delicate variety among all the smoked salts. Thus, it works perfectly on fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, and roasted vegetables, where it provides a delectable sweetness with fruity and woody flavor notes.
Smoked Salt Production & Farming in Texas
Traditionally, a smoked salt is produced using a smoker for a long time – a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 2 weeks. However, due to time restrictions, some people find it easier to just blend a smoke liquid seasoning with either kosher or sea salt. But with this process, the salt provides lower smokiness that we Texans don’t prefer. Fortunately, the state of Texas is home to local manufacturers and artisan food vendors who craft such an amazing smoked salt. They are the ones who risk their time smoking to provide the best flavor and potency. Our Texas Real Food website is home to these producers. Thus, feel free to search for the nearest ones at your convenience.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
If the smoked salt is made from either kosher or sea salt, it does not contain iodine. However, besides the natural elements like clay or algae, an anti-caking agent and/or natural flavorings are usually mixed with the product. As we scrutinized each brand, we found the following additives:
- Sodium Ferrocyanide – This additive is also known as the Yellow Prussiate of Soda. It is a chemical compound that is used as an anti-caking agent in food products to prevent clumping and sticking. And although it contains the toxin cyanide, this additive is generally classified as safe to consume and it has no proven side effects.
- Natural flavorings – These are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For smoked salt, some natural flavorings include garlic powder, onion powder or granulated onion paprika, sugar, and other spices and herbs.
Smoked salt can either be a sea salt or a kosher salt. Some even herbs and spices added to it. Regardless, smoked salts are usually packaged in glass jars, salt mills, resealable pouches, single-use packets, pet bottles, and canisters.
Enjoying Smoked Salt
Smoked salt is best enjoyed as a dry rub and a seasoning for oil-based marinades. It pairs perfectly on steaks and fish, but you can also use it on other meats. In addition, it also makes a good finishing salt on roasted or grilled items, whether it’d be meat or vegetables. Smoked salt makes the perfect rimmer on cocktails like Bloody Mary or margarita too!
Smoked salt is best kept in a sealable air-tight container, preferably a glass one. You can also keep them in shakers with the lid on, as well as in a salt cellar or a wooden box. It should be then stored in a cool and dry area far from humid and hot zones like stoves, grills, and ovens to prolong their shelf life. Although smoked salt virtually lasts forever if properly stored, its flavor weakens over time and it might absorb some moisture, which can make it lumpy. But, rest assured that you can use it for at least 5 years.
Make your own Smoked Salt:
As mentioned above, salts can either be cold or hot smoked. Regardless of which method you choose, it would taste the same. It is actually the time you smoke the salt that matters the most. But today, we’re going to show you how to make smoked salt using the hot smoking method. And while smoking salt on your own takes time, it is yet so simple to make. Not to mention that it can easily transform any dish into a whole nother level of complexity and depth. There are just a few things to keep in mind though. First, it is important to use pure, bark-free, and resin-free wood chips or chunks. Any of the following wood makes the smoked salt flavorful; thus, these are definitely a must-try: hickory, applewood, or mesquite. Second, lump charcoal is best to use because the wood chips or chunks burn hotter yet cleaner than briquettes. But, you can also use the non-self-lighting briquettes or regular charcoal. The key here is that, for as long as it doesn’t contain any sort of lighter fluid, it will work. Lighter fluid spoils the flavor of the salt dreadfully! Third, if you don’t have a splatter screen, you can use an aluminum pan or a heat-resistant sheet tray lined with aluminum foil. Just make sure that you keep the salt moist, through basting, to prevent it from drying out and eventually burning. A salt smoked using a splatter screen tends to have a darker color and smokier flavor. And lastly, if you don’t have a smoker, you can use the grill. Or, you may also opt to just mix a liquid smoke seasoning to a finer sea salt or kosher salt. But, here is a traditional recipe for a slow and sure smoked salt:
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 lb kosher salt or 0.8 lb coarse sea salt
- Wood chips or chunks, as needed Notes: Any of the following is a must-try: hickory, applewood, mesquite)
- Lump charcoal
- Metal splatter screen
- Soak the wood chips for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, set up your smoker to 250ºF. Add the soaked wood chips and lay the splatter screen on top of the cooking grate.
- Pour the salt on the splatter screen, spreading evenly to cover the entire screen. Close the smoker cover.
- For light smoke flavor, smoke the salt for about 12 hours. Otherwise, if you prefer a bolder smoke flavor, smoke the salt for about 24 hours. Still, regardless of which one you prefer, it is important to stir the salt every hour or two and break up any chunks that might be sticking together. Also, keep on adding wood chips or charcoal if necessary.
- When the desired smokiness is achieved, cool the salt down to room temperature and store accordingly.